The validity and scope of EU-Morocco trade agreements with respect to Western Sahara – a territory occupied by Morocco – has kept the Court of the Justice of the EU (CJEU) rather busy lately. In 2016, in a case brought by the Front Polisario, a movement fighting for the national liberation of the people of Western Sahara (the Sahrawi), the CJEU ruled that the territorial scope of the EU-Morocco Liberalization Agreement, which liberalizes trade in mainly agricultural products, did not extend to Western Sahara (see for a comment on this blog here, and for other comments here, here and here). Currently, a request for a preliminary ruling, referred by a UK court, concerning the validity of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is pending before the CJEU. This Agreement gives EU vessels access to fisheries in Moroccan fishing zones, in return for which the EU provides Morocco with financial contributions. On its face, this Agreement appears to apply not only to the waters off the coast of Morocco proper, but also those off the coast of Western Sahara. The case raises issues of self-determination of the Sahrawi in respect of the exploitation of ‘their’ natural resources, and the role of the EU in this respect. In January 2018, Advocate-General (A-G) Wathelet of the CJEU delivered his opinion in the case, proposing that the Fisheries Agreement should be considered invalid on the ground that it violates the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people. This post commends the opinion for its detailed, although not always accurate, engagement with international law, and highlights the political salience of the case.
In late 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) made headlines, reaching a long-awaited multilateral agreement on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to regulate carbon emissions from civil aviation. This was hailed as a ‘historic achievement’, with 65 countries responsible for 85% of emissions working together to protect the global climate. Importantly, the speed of negotiations was greatly catalysed by the European Union, which was set to reinstate its own unilateral aviation emissions trading scheme on 1 January 2017 should the ICAO fail to reach an agreement by the end of the previous year (Regulation 421/2014). In the nick of time, at its 39th meeting, ICAO reached an agreement on a global MBM, known as the ‘Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation – ‘CORSIA’. It was clearly hoped that this would prevent the Union from proceeding with its unilateral approach. However, in its recent Proposal for a regulation amending the EU ETS, the Commission appears reluctant to immediately relinquish its leverage, raising political tensions and important legal questions regarding the compatibility of the two schemes.
Just before Christmas, with the objective of further enabling Member States to deprive criminals of their illicit gain, the EU Commission proposed the adoption of an(other) instrument in the field of freezing and confiscation of assets deriving from criminal offences.
Due also to obligations under international and EU law, asset recovery laws and strategies – in particular against organised crime – have been increasingly adopted by contemporary criminal justice systems. Attacking criminal wealth has, indeed, a strong preventive and strategic dimension: focusing on the property of criminal organisations, for example, helps law enforcement authorities reach through their top, and it gives more tools to neutralise and dismantle them. The idea that asset recovery is essential to tackle these organisations has been lately coupled with the conviction that it is helpful against terrorism, too. The Commission proposal was indeed announced at the beginning of 2016 with the ‘Action Plan for strengthening the fight against terrorist financing’. Continue reading
On 21 December 2016, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) gave its appeals judgment in the politically contentious Polisario Front case. The Court overruled an earlier decision of the General Court (GC, 2015) and decided that the EU-Morocco trade agreement does not apply to the territory of Western Sahara, which is claimed by Morocco as its own (see Sandra Hummelbrunner and Anne-Carlijn Prickartz’s analysis). The Court then went on to dismiss the action for annulment brought against the EU Council decision endorsing the agreement by the Polisario Front, a national liberation movement representing the Saharawi population indigenous to Western Sahara. In so doing, the Court largely followed Advocate General Wathelet’s advisory opinion, at least its first part (see on this Katharine Fortin’s analysis over at the UCall blog). The dismissal of the Polisario Front’s action may appear to be a victory for the EU Council and Morocco. However, in a manner reminiscent of Pyrrhus’s battles with the Romans in the 3rd century BC, it may well turn out to be a loss, and in fact a boon for the Saharawi. Although the CJEU held that the Front did not have standing to dispute the EU Council decision, this determination precisely followed from the Court’s recognition of the people of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination and the attendant exclusion of the territory from the trade agreement. Henceforth, the EU Council and Morocco have no other choice than to exclude products from Western Sahara from their trade agreements. Continue reading
The Court of Justice of the EU has recently rendered an important judgment that will please animal welfare activists, especially those concerned about the welfare of animals outside the EU. Less pleased will be road transporters and foreign nations.
In Zuchtvieh-Export GmbH v Stadt Kempten, Case C-424/13, 23 April 2015, the Court held that the application of an EU Regulation concerning the welfare of animals during transport does not limit itself to road transports within the EU. According to the Court, it also applies to such transports between an EU place of departure and a non-EU place of destination. This means that, in the case, a cattle transport leaving from Kempten in Germany and arriving in Uzbekistan had to comply with EU law also after crossing the external EU border, notably on the territory of the Russian Federation. The exporter will now have to ensure that after 14 hours of travel, a rest period of at least one hour should be organized, during which the animals must be given liquid and if necessary fed. Subsequently, the animals may be transported for a further period of up to 14 hours, at the end of which animals must be unloaded, fed and watered and be rested for at least 24 hours. These rules are far stricter than what the exporter had planned to enter into his journey log: he had planned only two rest periods, one upon crossing the external EU border and another in Kazakhstan. The journey between those points was expected to take 146 hours (entirely in accordance with local legislation). Continue reading