The Western Sahara Time Bomb
US President Joe Biden has said that he wants to relaunch negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front, in order to resolve the long-running Western Sahara dispute. Given Europe's deep ties to the territory, the EU should take a leading role in this initiative.
MADRID – On February 27, the Polisario Front marked the 45th anniversary of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which it declared in 1976 to be the rightful government of the territory of Western Sahara. During the celebration – which took place in the refugee camps of Tindouf, in the Algerian desert, where the seat of the SADR government is located – the Polisario decried the continuing political impasse over the territory, which Morocco also claims. The deadlock must be broken – and the European Union should help.
The EU’s connections to Western Sahara are extensive. Beyond their geographical proximity, Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony with deeply rooted and often personal ties to Spain. For the thousands of Spaniards who have shared their homes with young Sahrawis summer after summer, the issue of Western Sahara is a heartbreaking family affair.
After Morocco took control of Western Sahara, the Sahrawis faced mass displacement, and many now languish in desert camps, with few options but to depend on humanitarian aid. Now, they may be about to become even more vulnerable. Although Western Sahara has been in limbo for decades, a series of recent developments raises the specter of a new wave of violence, which could hurt the Sahrawis above all.