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Council of the European Union v. Front Populaire pour la Libération de la Saguia-El-Hamra et Du Rio de Oro (Front Polisario)

  • Jed Odermatt (a1)
Abstract

On December 21, 2016, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) dismissed an action brought by the Front Polisario challenging a decision of the Council of the European Union (EU) approving the conclusion of an agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom Morocco on the reciprocal liberalization of certain agricultural products. The CJEU held, based on the relevant rules of international law applicable between the EU and Morocco, that the agreement did not apply to the territory of Western Sahara. Apart from its obvious political overtones, the judgment is significant in further developing the CJEU's approach to the law of treaties and the principle of self-determination in international law.

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1 Case C-104/16 P, Council of the European Union v. Front Populaire pour la Libération de la Saguia-El-Hamra et Du Rio de Oro (Front Polisario) (Eur. Ct. Justice Dec. 21, 2016) [hereinafter Judgment]. The subject of the challenge was the EU Council's Decision 2012/497/EU of March 8, 2012. Decisions and documents of the Court cited herein are available online at its website, http://eur-lex.europa.eu.

2 See, e.g., GA Res. 2072 (XX) (Dec. 16, 1965); GA Res. 34/37 (Nov. 21, 1979); GA Res. 35/19 (Nov. 11, 1980).

3 SC Res. 2351(April 28, 2017).

4 Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, 1975 ICJ Rep. 12, paras. 70, 162 (Oct. 16).

5 Euro-Mediterranean Agreement Establishing an Association Between the European Communities and Their Member States, of the One Part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the Other Part, entered into force March 1, 2000, 2000 O.J. (L70/2).

6 Agreement in the Form of an Exchange of Letters Between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco Concerning Reciprocal Liberalisation Measures on Agricultural and Products, Processes Agricultural Products, Fish and Fishery Products, the Replacement of Protocols 1, 2, and 3 of their Annexes and Amendments to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement Establishing an Association Between the European Communities and Their Member States of the One Part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the Other Part, entered into force October 1, 2012, 2012 O.J. (L241/4) [hereinafter Liberalisation Agreement].

7 Case T-512/12, Front Populaire pour la Libération de la Saguia-El-Hamra et du Rio de Oro (Front Polisario) v. Council of the European Union, Judgment (General Court Dec. 10, 2015) [hereinafter General Court Judgment].

8 Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Art. 263, para. 4, Dec. 13, 2007, 2012 O.J. (C 326) [hereinafter TFEU].

9 Case C-104/16 P, Council of the European Union v. Front Populaire pour la Libération de la Saguia-El-Hamra et du Rio de Oro (Front Polisario), Opinion of Advocate General Wathelet Delivered on 13 September 2016, Doc. No. 62016CC0104 [hereinafter AG Opinion].

10 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, May 23, 1969, 1155 UNTS 331 [hereinafter VCLT]. Morocco has been a party since 1972, but the European Union is not.

11 See Case C-386/08, Firma Brita GmbH v. Hauptzollamt Hamburg-Hafen, Grand Chamber Judgment, para. 42 (Eur. Ct. Justice Feb. 25, 2010) [hereinafter Brita].

12 Draft Articles on the Law of Treaties and Commentaries, Commentary to Art. 25, at 213, para 5, in Reports of the International Law Commission on the Second Part of Its Seventeenth Session and on Its Eighteenth Session, UN GAOR, 21st Sess., Supp. No. 9, UN Doc. A/6309/Rev.1 (1966) [hereinafter ILC Commentary on Final Draft Articles].

13 Brita, supra note 11.

14 See, e.g., Aust Helmut Philipp, Rodiles Alejandro & Staubach Peter, Unity or Uniformity? Domestic Courts and Treaty Interpretation , 27 Leiden J. Int'l L. 1 75, 103 (2014).

15 Emphasis added. Under Article 2(1)(h) of the VCLT, “Third State” is defined as “a State not a party to the treaty.”

16 ILC Commentary on Final Draft Articles, supra note 12, Commentary to Art. 30.

17 AG Opinion, supra note 9, para. 141.

18 See Hummelbrunner Sandra & Prickartz Anne-Carlijn, It's Not the Fish that Stinks! EU Trade Relations with Morocco Under the Scrutiny of the General Court of the European Union , 32(83) Utrecht J. Int'l & Eur. L. 19 (2016).

19 TFEU, supra note 8, Art. 3(5).

20 This would not be the first time. In Racke the Court applied the principle of rebus sic stantibus to avoid sensitive questions regarding the conflict in the Balkans. Case C-162/96, A. Racke GmbH & Co. v. Hauptzollamt Mainz, Judgment (Eur. Ct. Justice June 16, 1998).

21 Case C-432/92, The Queen v. Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, ex parte S. P. Anastasiou (Pissouri) Ltd., Judgment (Eur. Ct. Justice July 5, 1994).

22 Joined Cases C-402/05 P and C-415/05 P, Yassin Abdullah Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation v. Council of the European Union and Commission of the European Communities, Judgment, para. 291 (Eur. Ct. Justice Sept. 3, 2008).

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American Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 0002-9300
  • EISSN: 2161-7953
  • URL: /core/journals/american-journal-of-international-law
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