EU Commission and MEPs deem future EU-Moroccan FPA uncertain
European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has met with a group of euro-parliamentarians regarding the difficulties in renewing the current fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco. This agreement is set to expire in March 2011 and its ending may lead to the withdrawal of the European fleet from Moroccan waters. EFE, 13 July 2010.
Damanaki met with the euro-parliamentarians to discuss “all matters related” to the agreement with Morocco, especially the problems arising from the approaching expiry date, and the absence of indications pointing to negotiations on renewal, an EU source confirmed to the Spanish news service EFE.
The criticism connected to the agreement’s impact on the populations of Western Sahara was also discussed.
Members of different political groups participated in the meeting, among them the Spanish MEPs Izascun Bilbao and Raül Romeva.
The Commissioner was categorical that if no new fisheries protocol is agreed before the end of February 2011, the agreement will not be extended. Sources indicate that the European fleet, the majority of which is Spanish, will then have to leave the Moroccan waters.
The agreement with Morocco, which is politically the most important fisheries agreement, offers licences to 119 European Community vessels, out of which 100 are Spanish.
In return, the EU pays Morocco an annual 36,1 million Euros: part of that amount goes to the sector, and the rest is earmarked for development.
Concerning the negotiations between Brussels and Rabat, the European Commission has stated over a month ago that the decision to renew the agreement or not will be influenced by a report which Morocco is to present on the impact of the deal on the population of Western Sahara.
To date, the Moroccan authorities have not submitted any such data.
On the other hand, the European Parliament’s legal services have stated in a report that the agreement did not respect international law because it did not sufficiently benefit the Saharawi people.
The euro-parliamentarians have different positions on the issue; some favour treating fisheries and human rights as separate fora.
But others, for example the Greens, believe that Rabat breaches the agreement and request that a future agreement either excludes Saharawi waters or that a tripartite negotiation including the Frente Polisario be established.
In the event that negotiations between the EU and Rabat are channeled and lead to a new agreement by March 2011, the protocol would still need to be approved by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
According to a different source, the positions of some political groups within the EP are changing in relation to the previous term, when the actual agreement was approved.
The Spanish fleet returned to Moroccan waters in 2007, after an absence from these waters of 8 years.
The EU considers to pay Morocco to fish in occupied Western Sahara. An EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement from 2013 would be both politically controversial and in violation of international law.
The international Fish Elsewhere! campaign demands the EU to avoid such unethical operations, and go fishing somewhere else. No fishing in Western Sahara should take place until the conflict is solved.