sábado, 6 de junho de 2009
Why the Sahara undermines the Mediterranean Union
To achieve its goal of Mediterranean unity, the EU needs to be committed to the UN s goal of self-determination for Western Sahara.
The EU s attempt to create a union including nations on both sides of the Mediterranean has considerable merit. The trouble is that its idealism falters in the face of reality. This is most evident in the case of Western Sahara.
The challenge posed by reality is, in fact, captured in the subtle change of name of the body. Until July 2008, it was to have been the Mediterranean Union . Now we have the Union for the Mediterranean . This is no mere tweaking of semantics. It is recognition of the fact that the states along the Mediterranean s southern coast are a long way from anything like a union.
In recognition of this reality, the agenda has shifted away from more lofty goals. While the original trans-Mediterranean partnership process – the Barcelona Process – aimed to create “a common area of peace and stability underpinned by sustainable development, rule of law, democracy and human rights”, the agenda since 2008 has had a more prosaic focus, on trade and investment.
This political evolution is also an attempt to skirt around the fact that Africa s last remaining colony sits squarely within the proposed union.
That colony is, of course, Western Sahara, which was forcibly annexed and occupied by Morocco. Without a sustainable solution here, no union – whether of the Mediterranean or the Maghreb – will have a real impact.
The United Nations has set out what such a solution could be: a referendum on self-determination. It did so after the International Court of Justice said in 1975 that it could “not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco”. In short, the annexation is illegal.
The UN has advocated a referendum since the early 1960s. Morocco itself backed the idea in the early 1980s and accepted the UN s settlement plan of 1990. However, attempts to establish the basis for a vote on self-determination have been blocked by Morocco – now under a new monarch – and by supporters in the UN Security Council.
This stalemate is putting up political walls throughout the region, drawing battle-lines between expediency and justice. It is a major reason why intra-Maghreb trade and investment is both miniscule and complicated.
The continued, well-documented violation of the human rights of Sahrawis creates an ethical vacuum for any body, such as the Union for the Mediterranean, that seeks to create a trans-Mediterranean union.
Most European governments seem aware of this. So too is the European Parliament, which, in March, produced a report on human rights that voiced concern over continued abuses and recognised that abuses will continue until Sahrawis right to self-determination is recognised. That right is recognised by most members of the UN Security Council and the EU; those who are preventing recognition of that right are chiefly Morocco and France.
The current position of Morocco and France amounts to a disavowal of a process of organic self-determination in favour of a shoddy form of autonomy within Morocco. It ignores the basic human right to choose.
For any Mediterranean union to gain a foothold in reality, Morocco must be prepared to accept its own former proposal, a free and fair referendum.
Polisario, which represents Sahrawis who seek independence, has a vested interest in a Mediterranean union. It wants to see greater trade; it wants the southern Mediterranean region to have links – political, social and economic – with Europe that are stronger, but also free and fair. Such a union will remain merely an ideal as long as Western Sahara remains in its current state.
Mohammed Khadad is a member of the Polisario leadership and is its co-ordinator at the UN.