Commission still awaits data from Morocco for renewal fisheries pact
Brussels, 8 September (EFE) – The European Commission has still not received the information it had requested from Morocco on the fisheries agreement, which will influence the renewal-negotiations. Meanwhile uncertainty continues, as the agreement will terminate in March 2011, community-sources told EFE today.
Before the summer, Brussels had indicated that the decision to renew the agreement or not depends on reports it had requested from Rabat. These reports should present the impact of the agreement on the populations living in the Sahara. But to this day “nothing has changed, the Commission still hasn’t received anything”, the sources say.
The Commission considers these data necessary to prepare the negotiations of a new agreement. But it is worrying to the Commission that time is running out: only five months remain before the current agreement expires, at the end of February 2011.
If Brussels and Rabat don’t succeed in signing a new pact before then, and if the current compromise expires, the Community’s vessels – of which the majority is Spanish – will have to leave the Moroccan waters.
In concrete terms, the Commission had asked the Moroccan authorities to provide information on the socio-economic effect and the benefits of the agreement for the populations of the Western Sahara – stemming from fisheries activities and from the financial compensation Morocco receives from the European treasury.
“If the Commission doesn’t have those data, it cannot prepare the basis for negotiating the agreement’s extension. Up to now, there are no new elements”, the sources state.
Brussels responded in this manner after complaints by European Parliamentarians and a legal opinion by the European Parliament, indicating illegalities in the agreement because it was not beneficial to the Saharawi population, while European vessels are fishing in Western Saharan waters.
The agreement between the European Union and Morocco, considered as the fisheries agreement with the highest political importance, offers licenses to 119 EU vessels – 100 of which are Spanish.
In return, the EU pays Morocco 36,1 million Euro. Part of this compensation is earmarked for the national fisheries sector, while the remainder is marked for development.
At present, there is no specific timetable for negotiations and even in the event that the discussions between the EU and Rabat will commence and prove succesful by March 2011, the new agreement would still have to be approved by Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
Unofficial translation of the EFE-article "La CE sigue sin recibir los datos de Marruecos para renovar el pacto pesquero" by Western Sahara Resource Watch. Read original here (in Spanish).
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.