Morocco’s illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources is being facilitated through contracts with EU-subsidised companies, according to a new study from The Left in the European Parliament.

The study – ‘European companies and violation of International Law in Western Sahara’ – finds that the EU allocates millions of euros in subsidies and aid to Morocco, and to a multitude of European companies (mostly from Spain, France, and Germany) that invest in Western Sahara. This makes the EU a financier and accomplice to an illegal occupation, in contravention of the founding principles of the Union and international law.

Systematic human rights abuses, police brutality, violations of fundamental rights, the Sahrawi people of Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara, have endured decades of repression at the hands of Moroccan occupying forces. Since 1975 Morocco has attempted to control a territory about the size of the UK using military force to suppress free speech and pro-independence protests. Europe has largely stood by watching a tragedy unfold on its doorstep.

Beyond that there is also the illegal border crossing at Guerguerat which is commonly used by European companies, and may constitute a violation of international law and international humanitarian law. This border crossing point is located on the border with Mauritania. It was opened by Morocco in 2001, even though the United Nations does not recognise any Moroccan sovereignty nor administrative jurisdiction on the territory. The border crossing contravenes the Military Agreement signed by MINURSO in 1997 and 1998 with the Polisario Front and Morocco respectively, as a complement to the peace and cease-fire agreement adopted by the UN Security Council Security Council in 1991.

MEP Miguel Urban will be presenting the report’s findings to the Saharawi Parliament on Sunday.

Speaking ahead of the presentation, Urban said: “The EU and these companies are in  flagrant violation of International Law and ‘crimes of colonisation’. The companies involved did not obtain the consent of either the people of Western Sahara or its sole representative, defined by the UN as the Polisario Front.”

“Meanwhile, the EU continues to ignore the constant violations of human rights and International Law that the Moroccan regime carries out on a daily basis.”

“The fate of the people of the Western Sahara are at stake. A people who endure, who just want to live their lives, enjoy basic rights free from violence, to be citizens of their own country. When will Europe stop ignoring these calls for fundamental rights and dignity? When will we stop facilitating repressive regimes and show some respect for the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination?” Urban concluded.

Key findings:


The research confirms the legal consequences of the qualification of Western Sahara as a ‘Non-Self-Governing Territory pending decolonization’: the inalienable right to self-determination. It highlights Morocco’s status as an ‘Occupying Power’, which has control over a territory that it intends to annex illegally by the use of force, as declared by the doctrine of the United Nations and International Law.


With reference to a 2019 report by the German Bundestag on Moroccan war crimes, the study sets out the case for the appropriation of the natural wealth of the occupied territory of Western Sahara, without the consent of the indigenous population and without the benefits going directly to them, to be treated as a war crime under Art. 47 of the IVth Geneva Convention.


The research details how the EU provision of millions of euros in subsidies to European companies that invest in Western Sahara violates international law.

For more information on the study and/or the delegation to Western Sahara, contact: Coline Laloy