Front Polisario and the Exploitation of Natural Resources by the Administrative Power

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Table of Contents: I. The EU judiciary faced with the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara. – II. Administrative powers and the exploitation of natural resources in non-self-governing territories. – III. “Grey areas” and unsettled issues. – IV. Of the uncertainty principle and of Voelkerrecthsfreundlichkeit.

Abstract: Drawing from the recent Front Polisario judgments of the General Court (judgment of 10 December 2015, case T-512/12, Front Polisario v. Council of the European Union) and the Court of Justice (judgment of 21 December 2016, case C-104/16 P, Council of the European Union v. Front Polisario [GC]), the present Dialogue questions whether and to what extent international law limits the power of a State administering a non-self-governing territory to dispose of the latter’s natural resources. While in recent times we have seen a distinctive consolidation of international practice backed by a widespread expression of opinio juris pointing to the emergence of a customary rule substantially limiting the powers and rights over natural resources of States exercising authority over non-self-governing territories, elements of uncertainty remain as to the precise content of such rule and its coordination with concurring and potentially applicable legal regimes. It is also submitted that the recent judgment of the Court of Justice, while avoiding to rule on the matter in point, has reinforced the view that exploitation of natural resources in NSGTs shall be conducted with a full and substantial involvement of the representatives of the people.

Keywords: non-self-governing territories – exploitation of natural resources – powers and obligations of administrative power – Western Sahara – consultation – CJEU. 

European Papers, Vol. 2, 2017, No 3, pp. 953-966
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/182

* Associate Professor of International Law, University of Verona,


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