CLEER paper 2017/3 - Kassoti

The Legality under International Law of the EU’s Trade Agreements covering Occupied Territories: A Comparative Study of Palestine and Western Sahara

Eva Kassoti

The paper examines the legality under international law of the EU’s trade agreements covering occupied territories by focusing on two case-studies: Palestine and Western Sahara. Two main questions will be examined: first, is the EU’s practice in conformity with its obligations under international law? Secondly, has the EU adopted a consistent approach when it comes to trade agreements covering occupied territories? It will be shown that, in some cases, the EU has fallen foul of international law and more particularly of the obligation to promote the right to self-determination and of the corollary obligations of non-recognition and of the obligation not to render aid and assistance in the commission of an unlawful act. Moreover, it will be shown that the EU has adopted a largely inconstant approach in its economic dealings with the occupied territories in question (and more particularly when it comes to the labeling of products originating from the territories in question) - something that severely undermines the international credibility and legitimacy of its external action. Overall, this contribution argues that there is a growing gap between EU identity rhetoric as a promoter of global fundamental values and international law on the one hand and realpolitik on the other.

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