From November 2012, the EU has been negotiating a fisheries agreement with Morocco. Such an Agreement would be highly unethical, since it opens for EU fisheries in the waters offshore occupied Western Sahara. It is planned to enter into force at one point in 2013.
It is not the first time that the EU fishing fleet would enter Western Sahara - a territory occupied by Morocco. From March 2007, a 4 year Fisheries Partnership Agreement was in effect between Morocco and the European Union.
Under that agreement, the EU was paying Morocco money to fish in waters under occupation. The FishElsewhere! campaign believes that this is both unethical and in violation of international law. The same model of paying the occupier is envisaged for the coming agreement from 2013.
The 2007-2010 EU-Moroccan Fisheries Agreement was from the very beginning considered highly problematic since the southern coordinates of the Agreement were not stipulated, leaving to Morocco how to interpret where the European vessels could fish.
According to the Agreement, fishing can take place in “the waters under the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco”. The same would probably happen now.
Download the controversial EU-Moroccan Fisheries Partnership Agreement here [700 Mb].Morocco still illegally occupies Western Sahara, a territory stretching from the 27º 40’ N southwards. Western Sahara contains fish rich waters, and warnings that the EU-Moroccan agreement could be applied to waters within Western Sahara territory, were ignored. Upon signing the agreement, the EU refused to clearly demarcate the area of its application.
This has de facto opened for European fishing in Western Sahara waters – an area that is under Moroccan occupation.
The Fish Elsewhere! campaign believes that in such a politically sensitive case, the European Union could and should have explicitly precluded Western Sahara from the agreement; indeed this was the route taken by the United States government when signing the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement in 2004 [Download]. Similar precisions have also been made by other governments in trade agreements. Not precluding Western Sahara has proven a serious mistake.
The fishing in Western Sahara is taking place in violation of international law, and clearly hindering the UN efforts to find a solution to the 30 year long occupation. The conflict is Africa’s longest-running, and is treated in the UN as an issue of decolonisation. The people of Western Sahara are either living under brutal suppression by Morocco, or in refugee camps in the Algerian desert.
Morocco is not recognised by the United Nations as the Administrative Power of this territory that it illegally controls, and is therefore not in the position to sell Western Sahara fish resources or give licences to the EU. Such an agreement further offers a sign of legitimisation to the untenable Moroccan occupation, and contributing to prolonging this conflict.
The lack of precision in the Agreement text was therefore highly criticised before the Agreement was ratified. The Swedish government voted against it, saying it was in violation of international law. 200 members of the European Parliament also voted against it.
The EU claims the agreement is perfectly legal, and chooses to look away from the clear ethical and political dilemmas of the deal. The EU bases its claims of legality on an opinion from the former UN Secretary General for Legal Affairs, ambassador Hans Corell.
The same former UN representative, however, says in a response that it would be in violation of international law to fish in Western Sahara under the current conditions, and that he does not understand how the EU can have misinterpreted his legal advice in this matter.
When the 2007-2010 fisheries ended, it was prolonged by the Council of Ministers for a year under considerable doubt. However, when it reached the European Parliament on 14 December 2011, it was rejected. This was the first time in European history that the European Parliament stopped a trade agreement. The reasons were of legal, financial, ecological concerns.
The FishElsewhere! campaign demands an immediate halt to the EU’s plans to sign a fisheries agreement with Morocco if it includes Western Sahara.
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.