Eurostat urged to correct map limiting borders of Western Sahara to liberated territories

Brussels, Jan 21, 2018 (SPS) - MEPs Bodil Valero and Florent Marcellesi urged the European Statistical Office (Eurostat) to correct a world map on its database on intra and extra-community trade (Comext) that limits the borders of Western Sahara to the territories liberated by the Polisario Front.

On this database (Comext), there is also a map of Morocco that presents a single territory ranging from the north of this country to the south of Western Sahara, relegated to the status of province of southern Morocco.

"We are writing about a misleading online representation of Morocco (...) and we hope you will take urgent corrective action," they wrote in a letter to Eurostat's Directorate-General, which is part of the European Commission.

Noting that this world map, currently accessible on Comext, represents Western Sahara as covering only the part of the territory controlled by the Polisario Front, MEPs pointed out that Western Sahara also encompasses the territories to the West, occupied by Morocco, according to the description adopted by the United Nations when it inscribed Western Sahara on its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

In this respect, Bodil Valero and Florent Marcellesi recalled that neither the EU and its member states nor any other country in the world has recognized Morocco's alleged sovereignty over Western Sahara.

For these MEPs, the map on the Eurostat site "does not comply" with the judgment of the European Court of Justice (CJEU) of 21 December 2016 which concluded that Western Sahara and Morocco are two "separate" territories and distinct "and that the EU-Morocco association and liberalization agreements do not apply to Western Sahara.

The MEPs said they were "very concerned" by this "manipulation" of the territorial borders of Morocco by Eurostat which, they said, could affect the collection of data on trade flows between Western Sahara and the EU and "mislead the economic operators".

In this regard, they recalled that the European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom acknowledged in a letter to the President of the INTA Committee of the European Parliament requesting statistical data on EU trade with Western Sahara, that products imported into the EU from Western Sahara before the judgment of the CJEU entered the Community market under the ISO MA code, thus benefiting from the preferential tariffs provided for in the EU-Morocco Association Agreement.

As a result of the fraudulent labeling of Western Sahara products, "the statistics collected by the EU Member States and compiled by Eurostat have underestimated the volume of trade between the EU and Western Sahara", argued the MEPs.

"This raises important doubts about the reliability of EU trade statistics with Morocco and Western Sahara, collected by Eurostat since the decision of the CJEU," they added.

Following the judgment of the CJEU, they continued, all products originating from Western Sahara must therefore bear the ISO EH code when they enter the European Community market.

"We urge you to make the necessary changes to ensure that the territory of Western Sahara includes the western part, currently under Moroccan occupation, the appropriate ISO code is applied to products originating in Western Sahara, and that your services are sensitized to this question in order to ensure reliable data collection on trade with Western Sahara, "they concluded. (SPS)