The European Court of Justice on Wednesday annulled an agreement on trade and a fisheries deal between the EU and Morocco from the Western Sahara, citing the region's right to self-determination.
The Polisario Front, a liberation movement seeking independence from Morocco in the Western Sahara, brought the case to the court in 2019 arguing that the preferential tariff and fisheries agreements allowed Rabat to export goods from the region without their approval.
In a move recognizing the Polisario Front's right to represent Western Sahara internationally, the court upheld the group's position, concluding that "the consent of the people of Western Sahara, as a third party to the agreements at issue ... has not been respected."
"The agreements at issue are not intended to confer rights on the people of Western Sahara, but to impose obligations on them," the ruling said, pointing out that the EU Council, representing member states "did not sufficiently take into account all the relevant factors relating to the situation in Western Sahara."
However, the decision suspended the decision's implementation "over a certain period since annulling them with immediate effect could have serious consequences on the European Union's external action and call into doubt legal certainty in respect of the international commitments."
The EU is Morocco's most important trade partner and the largest investor in the North African country.
Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony Western Sahara in 1975 and fought a war with the Polisario Front until 1991.