A European Parliament trade delegation goes to Western Sahara on 3-4 September to see if an extension of preferential trade tariffs to the territory enjoys local support.

The European Commission proposes extending the tariffs to the territory the legal status of which has been under consideration by the United Nations since 1988.

The 4-member delegation led by MEP Patricia Lalonde (ALDE, FR), the standing rapporteur for the region, is set to meet official representatives of the territory, but also several non-governmental organisations, some of which critical with the Kingdom of Morocco. The delegation is also set to visit agriculture fields, fishing sites, a phosphate factory, and the French Chamber of Commerce in Laayoune.

The members of the delegation are:

- Patricia Lalonde (ALDE, FR), head of delegation

- Heidi Hautala (Greens, DE), EP Vice President

- David Martin (S&D, UK)

- Tiziana Beghin (EFDD, IT)

The main goal of the delegation is to find out whether the agreement proposed by the European Commission, which would extend preferential tariff rates enjoyed by Morocco to the Western Saharan territory, fulfils the criteria set by a 2016 decision of the European Court of Justice. The decision stipulates that no trade agreement could cover Western Sahara unless the representatives of the territory had consented to it.

The trade committee recently discussed the proposal with Commissioner Pierre Moscovici where several MEPs questioned the existence of popular consent to the agreement, as well as to the method of verifying the Western Saharan origin of products.

Rapporteur's quote

“Prior to deciding whether it ratifies or not the agreement, it is crucial that the Parliament goes on the spot to observe and evaluate the situation on its own. We will be able to talk to key actors on the ground and have more information when it comes to taking the decision," said Patricia Lalonde (ALDE, FR).

Next steps

After Council takes its decision to approve the proposed agreement with Morocco and forwards it to the Parliament, the International Trade Committee and then the entire European Parliament will vote on whether to consent to the proposal.