EU-Morocco fisheries agreement rejected
By Steven Hedlund, SeafoodSource editor
15 December, 2011
The European Parliament on Wednesday rejected a proposed extension of the “controversial” EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, calling on the European Commission to negotiate a new, more environmentally and economically beneficial deal that takes into account the interests of Western Sahara.
Following the 326-296 vote, Morocco ordered foreign vessels fishing in its waters to leave immediately, and its foreign ministry called the decision “a regrettable development with serious consequences” for cooperation between Moroccan and EU fishing interests.
Then Spain said it would demand compensation from the EU after Parliament blocked the agreement’s renewal, which gave its trawlers access to Moroccan waters.
The legal status of Western Sahara is a major sticking point. Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1976 but its claims of sovereignty are not internationally recognized. The European Parliament said a new deal should be negotiated that does more to take Western Sahara into account.
Reportedly, the EU, Morocco’s No. 1 trading partner, had been paying EUR 36 million a year to fish in Moroccan waters, primarily off the coast of Western Sahara.
“This should not be seen as a hostile move towards our partners; it should rather be seen as us taking ourselves seriously on a very important issue,” said MEP Carl Haglund of Finland, who crafted the report recommending that the agreement not be extended. Haglund emphasized that he is in favor of a future agreement with Morocco, but that it must be a better one. “There is no doubt that we all want a good agreement,” he said.
Parliament said it expects the EC to advance negotiations on a new agreement to avoid any provisional application in the future.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Marina Damanaki responded the decision: “Further to the European Parliament vote yesterday, the provisional application of the Protocol comes to an end and the EU vessels will stop fishing. This will be done in full accordance with international law and by applying the speediest procedures at our disposal. I remain committed to continue dialogue with Morocco on fisheries issues and have taken good note of the European Parliament’s request to the commission to move negotiations on a new protocol forward.”
15 December, 2011