You can’t have your cake and eat it too: Portugal and the self-determination of Western Sahara


  • Francisco Pereira Coutinho Universidade Nova de Lisboa



access to documents, decolonization, international agreements, selfdetermination, Western Sahara


Western Sahara self-determination posits a conundrum to Portuguese foreign policy. Moral and legal imperatives which stem from the relentless efforts taken in the 80’s and the 90’s advocating in international fora the self-determination of East Timor impel the pursuit of an idealistic diplomacy of unconditional support for the akin self-determination of Western Sahara. Political, strategic, economic, historical and cultural ties dictate a realpolitik aimed at fostering diplomatic relations with Morocco without shunning Algeria, another key stakeholder in the Maghreb region. These constraints motivated the adoption of an impartial and equidistant position towards the Western Sahara conflict. This strategy was exposed after the Court of Justice ceased in Front Polisario, the de facto application of the EU/Morocco agreements in Western Sahara. Notwithstanding multiple pledges to the contrary, the Portuguese Government picked Morocco’s side in the conflict by lodging written interventions aimed at neutralizing the Court of Justice of the EU, and by approving Council decisions that expressly extend EU/Morocco agreements to Western Sahara in breach of EU and international law.


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How to Cite

Coutinho, F. P. (2019). You can’t have your cake and eat it too: Portugal and the self-determination of Western Sahara. UNIO – EU Law Journal, 5(2), 103-127.