EU fighting al-Qa’eda through…fishing?

Recently I wrote to a number of MEPs about the European Union’s plans to grant “advanced status” to Morocco, making it a sort of associate member of the EU. This agreement includes Western Sahara as if it were a part of Morocco, presumably opening the way for the EU to steal natural resources from the Sahrawi people.

I have received two replies so far. One from UKIP, a fringe isolationist party that seeks more “independence” for the UK (from Europe), which simply directed me elsewhere. The other was from Andrew Duff, a Liberal Democrat, who has been to Morocco to discuss the process of bringing Morocco closer to Europe. I’ve pasted his response below.

Mr Duff mumbles about human rights but completely sidesteps the issue of the Western Sahara conflict, except to say, intriguingly, that the “Western Sahara Problem” is important for Morocco’s security. The poor chap appears to have swallowed all the “War on Terror” crap that Morocco is pushing to justify its occupation. Not sure what he means when he says that we “would be wise to recognise the growing presence of al-Qa’eda there [what, in Western Sahara?] and across the Maghreb.” I’m guessing he means that, in order to fight al-Qa’eda, the EU needs to be allowed to do lots of fishing in occupied Western Saharan waters (fishing, along with phosphates and oil, is a particularly contentious issue). Yes, I’m sure that will really put the frighteners on those barbarous beardies.

Of course I’ve replied. You can write to him too – I’ve included his details as contained in his reply. Or you can find him on the web (so I don’t think I’m guilty of giving out sensitive contact information).


Dear Mr Brooks,

Thank you very much for your letter of 22 October about the situation in the Western Sahara.

I have recently been to Morocco to speak to the government and human rights organisations about developments. In some ways I am much encouraged by the gradual democratisation process in Morocco, and by the political will to back structural reforms.

The Western Sahara problem poses a real security threat to Morocco, not least because of the growing presence of Al’Qaida there and across the Maghreb, and we would be wise to recognise this. By the way, I did not find anyone unwilling to discuss the problem.

But your general point about the need for respect for human rights is well made. The EU’s decision to give ‘advanced status’ to Morocco is taken in part to add to our leverage on Rabat with respect to human rights. I hope that in due time it will be possible for the EU to help the region resolve its longstanding conflicts. Certainly the situation in the Western Sahara is well-known and often rehearsed here in the Council, Commission and Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Duff

Andrew Duff MEP

Leader, UK Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party

Spokesman on Constitutional Affairs for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)

European Parliament
10 G 346
60, Rue Wiertz
B-1047 Brussels

Tel  + 32 (0) 2284 7998
Fax + 32 (0) 2284 9998


3 Responses to EU fighting al-Qa’eda through…fishing?

  1. Dear Nick,

    As the French says, you persist and you signs. You claim to be partial in Western Sahara issue but you aren’t. My question is : are you paid to do lobbying for the account of Polisario/Algeria? Well, you are paid somehow as your dodgy research project is financed by an algerian stokeholder oil company. You aren’t credible anymore. Let the UN decide a happy end to this absurd cold war conflict. You have nothing positive to say in order to move the issue forward.

    It’s pity, you are paid to waste your time on bla-bla-bla-ting while people in tindouf camps need maybe your reward to eat and drink. How bizarre is the life!!!

    Anyway, I hope that Internet lobbyists like you and others will stop their propaganda and think one day of people in Tindouf. It’s time for you to give up your lobbying contract !!

    Ahmed Salem

  2. nickbrooks says:

    Ahmed – welcome to the blog at last. I’ll respond for the record, although we’ve gone through all this at Global Voices.

    I claim to be partial? Yes, when it comes to politics I support the holding of referendum, and the independence aspirations of the Sahrawi. If they don’t aspire to independence, a referendum would reveal the fact.

    As for your question as to whether I am paid to do lobbying, they answer is an emphatic “no”. Any time spent blogging or lobbying is time that I am not spending earning a living, so if anything it costs me money in lost earnings.

    The project has been financed in part by Ophir Energy. It has also been financed by the British Academy, the University of Edinburgh, and the contributions of paying volunteers who want to contribute to the work and see a place they otherwise would not be able to see. None of these sources of funding provide me with a salary, so time spent in the field is, again, time spent not earning a living. I have just turned down five days of highly lucrative climate change consultancy work (for the World Bank) because I have a prior commitment to attend the cultural festival in Awserd camp. This could have kept me going for a month, so that’s quite a financial sacrifice. But one has to honour one’s obligations (I don’t expect your side to relate to that given the blocking of the referendum), and I need to represent the project. Actually Ophir have been holding out on us recently – their funding is very limited in scope. Whether there is an Algerian interest in Ophir I don’t know, but I do know that the majority stakeholder is South African, and that all the people I have dealt with are British, based in London and Perth (Australia).

    I’d love to let the UN decide an end to the conflict, by implementing the referendum that they are in Western Sahara to organise. But Morocco is not allowing this to happen and the UN are too ineffectual to perform their mission.

    Unfortunately I have no lobbying contract to give up. I am indeed thinking of the people in Tindouf, and the fact that they are being denied the right of self-determination. Whether or not they are free to leave the camps, it seems that Morocco would not welcome them back, as propagandists like yourself constantly underestimate their numbers and insist that most of them are not Sahrawi. That doesn’t sound like a very good recipe for the right of return. I assume this reflects the official Moroccan government position.

    I won’t give up my efforts to raise awareness of the plight of the Sahrawi, of Morocco’s unpleasant and illegal occupation of part of Western Sahara, and of Rabat’s campaign of misinformation (to which you are contributing) and blocking of the referendum.

    If you can’t differentiate between political activity and research (they are separate activities) then that just illustrates a misunderstanding of science and scientists on your part. Of course we operate in a political context, but politicization of archaeology is very, very bad. You might have noticed the distinct absence on my blog of material relating to the actual research we are doing – this can be found on the project website. Unlike the approach of some in Morocco, we don’t see archaeology as a means of justifying “ownership” over territory. Issues of ownership should be settled on ethical, legal and human rights grounds, and in this case through a referendum. If you think our research is dodgy I invite you to submit a detailed peer review of any of our publications. Scientists can have lives and political opinions you know (well, perhaps not in Morocco, but they certainly can in the UK).

    I’m off to the camps and the Free Zone (Tifariti, to be precise) now, so will be away for a while.



  3. […] the doubt, and we had a long exchange, which eventually fizzled out. He paid me the compliment of commenting on Sand and Dust at long last, under a recent post. Now, when people post on your blog you can see […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: