EU Council and Morocco sign extension illegal fish pact
Today, the European Council and Morocco signed the extension of the controversial fisheries agreement, which allows Community vessels to fish in Moroccan and Western Saharan waters until February 2012. In theory, that is, as the European Parliament still has to endorse the deal.
At noon, the two parties gathered at the EU Council’s building in Brussels for the signing ceremony of what is officially dubbed the "Protocol between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco setting out the fishing opportunities and financial compensation provided for in the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco".
Signing for Morocco was the country’s Minister for Agriculture, Aziz Akhannouch. Holding the pen for the European Council was Marek Sawicky, Minister of Agriculture and rural Development of Poland, currently holding Council’s presidency.
The paragraphed text sets the fishing opportunities for the European fleet until February 2012. These opportunities can be reviewed based upon scientific data on the state of the fish stocks. In return, the Union will pay 36.1 million euro, out of which 13.5 million euro is earmarked for development and the implementation of a policy to make Morocco’s own fleet more sustainable and responsible.
The European Commission claims it will put the one-year extension to good use - thoroughly researching the impact of the agreement on the population of Western Sahara and the sustainability of the EU’s fisheries in the involved waters - before considering proposing a negotiation-mandate for a post-2012 agreement.
Council was far from unanimous on extending the contentious fisheries agreement. Some EU Member States insisted that information on the deal’s benefits to the people of Western Sahara should have been available already, and therefore couldn’t agree to the proposal. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Cyprus, the UK, the Netherlands and Austria withheld their approval. A blocking minority was barely avoided.
Before signing the text, Moroccan fisheries Minister Akhannouch, mentioned that “as everyone surely knows, Morocco has a clear vision on its fisheries strategy, with objectives to reach sustainable and responsible fishing-practices that preserve the ecosystems, are competitive and valorise the Moroccan fisheries patrimony, in order to turn the sector into a true growth-engine for the Moroccan economy”.
However, the majority of EU fisheries does not take place in Moroccan waters, but in the waters of Western Sahara - considered a colony by the United Nations, and largely occupied by Morocco since 1975. The EU-Morocco fish deal is considered a violation of international law, for failing to take into account the wishes and the interests of the people of Western Sahara, which have been stipulated by the UN as the legal requirements for economic activities in the territory. Due to the lack of evidence that the Saharawi people had been consulted on the agreement, had agreed to it and had subsequently benefitted from its implementation, the European Parliament’s legal services in 2009 called for the immediate termination of all EU fishing under the deal with Morocco.
So far, neither the European Union nor Morocco, have been capable of presenting one clear shred of evidence that the Saharawi benefit from the agreement. The Saharawi have protested the agreement on numerous occasions, but the European Commission prefers Morocco as its sole discussion partner.
An independent evaluation of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement labelled the pact as the worst of all ongoing bilateral agreements in terms of cost-benefits. Not only is the EU losing tax payers’ money, it is also contributing to the over-exploitation of fish stocks, the report stated.
13.07 - 2011EU Council and Morocco sign extension illegal fish pact
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.