EU Council still split over reference to Western Sahara
EU Member States are still divided as to whether an explicit reference to Western Sahara should be included in the European Commission’s sought mandate to negotiate a new fish deal with Morocco. The Commission requested the Council’s approval three weeks ago.
At yesterday’s meeting of Member States’ experts, Denmark – currently holding the EU Presidency – proposed that the Commission’s mandate should not expressly mention Western Sahara.
The Commission issued a draft mandate on 5 January, seeking the Council’s endorsement. This draft text states clearly that the fishing zones covered by the envisioned agreement will include those “off the waters of the Non-Self Governing Territory of Western Sahara, south of 27°40N”.
A second specific mention states that for the implementation of the fisheries agreement, the Commission expects Morocco to guarantee it will fulfil its obligations under international law which result from the de facto administration of Western Sahara. According to the Commission, Morocco should regularly report on the geographical distribution of the socio-economic impact stemming from the support given under the agreement.
These two references to Western Sahara have been stirring debates at the Council level for weeks. Spain and France, backed up by Portugal, Latvia and Lithuania, demand that any specific mention of Western Sahara be removed from the text, in order not to upset the Moroccan counterpart. On the other hand, countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany favour the clear references.
The Presidency has now decided to refer the matter to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), which is expected to discuss the issue next week.
Just one month ago, the European Parliament rejected the extension of the previous fisheries agreement with Morocco, over legal concerns on the inclusion of Western Saharan waters.
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.