Contested Statehood and Territorial (un)differentiation in EU Practices towards the Southern Neighbourhood: the Cases of Palestine and Western Sahara

Dimitris Bouris, Irene Fernández-Molina

The paper adopts a comparative approach and investigates the EU's involvement in two cases of contested statehood resulting from protracted conflicts in its southern neighbourhood, namely Palestine and Western Sahara. Building on the literature on the EU's engagement with contested states and the approach of international practices, the paper conceptualises practices of territorial (un)differentiation as a range of EU responses to contested statehood in the areas of EU foreign policy and external relations. These heterogeneous and often ad hoc policies (outcomes) can be seen as budding structures which result from different patterns of social interaction between EU and non-EU agents (processes).The comparison of the two cases addressed is twofold, involving both outcomes and processes. The paper will examine, in the first place, variation in terms of territorial (un)differentiation outcomes. While the EU recently adopted the so-called 'guidelines' in order to differentiate between the Israeli state and Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory and thus 'enforce' the 1967 Green Line, Western Sahara has been consistently neglected and undifferentiated in the context of bilateral relations between the EU and Morocco. However, contradictions between the latter undifferentiation practices and international law have led the Court of Justice of the EU to annul the agricultural trade agreement between the EU and Morocco as far as it implementation in Western Sahara is concerned in December 2015. Secondly, the variation between EU territorial (un)differentiation practices as outcomes vis-à-vis Palestine and Western Sahara is explained by tracing the processes behind them, i.e. patterns of social interaction between EU policymakers and non-EU state and non-state actors from the two parties of each of the conflicts.

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