Morocco announces interest in new fisheries agreement
Last Friday, Morocco announced its willingness to engage in a new fisheries agreement with the European Union. "The talks must respect international law, and should be immediately halted until the Saharawi have been consulted", stated WSRW.
After a meeting with the Moroccan vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Yousef Amrani, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki stated in a press conference that they had discussed “the possibilities of concluding a new agreement”, which in all events should “respect the environment, take into consideration the resources of Morocco and be beneficial to both parties”. Minister Amrani declared his country’s interest to explore new fishing opportunities that are to the benefit of both parties.
However, it seems that the talks are already taking place in violation of international law. Both the United Nations and the European Parliament have stated that the Saharawi people must be consulted in relation to such activities.
"The fact that the EU engages in talks with Morocco without first consulting with the Saharawi, show that they have not learnt from previous mistakes. We call on the EU to halt discussions with Morocco until the Saharawis’ voice has been heard" stated Sara Eyckmans, coordinator of WSRW.
The Parliament legal service stated clearly that international law does not prevent as such undertaking activities related to the natural resources in a Western Sahara, “but only insofar as those activities are carried out in disregard of the interests and of the wishes of the people of that territory”.
Damanaki’s visit to Morocco had not been officially announced in advance.
The official press release by the European Commission communicating the Commissioner’s trip, states that: "The European Commission considers Morocco to be a key partner, not only in the Mediterranean, but in general. I asked the Commission and the Council to give me a mandate to discuss the new fisheries agreement protocol and I obtained it: we are seeking a new agreement that, at the same time, respects environmental sustainability, is profitable for both sides and is in line with international law. I believe that today we have done a very good start and we should continue along this path. For the EU and Morocco, cooperation is not a choice: it is a must. We have to cooperate if we are to manage fish stocks effectively. I am glad to say that we started today our exploratory talks for a new fisheries agreement protocol with Morocco."
The one-year extension of the previous EU-Morocco fisheries deal was voted down by the European Parliament on 14 December 2012, causing wrath with both Morocco and the Spanish fishing industry – the primary beneficial of the fishing licenses under the agreement.
The majority of fishing practices under the agreement took place in the waters of Western Sahara, largely occupied by Morocco since 1975. An independent study on behalf of the European Commission in 2011, concluded that most stocks in Morocco and Western Sahara are either fully or over-exploited.
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.