“I am not satisfied” Irish fisheries minister stated to Irish TV on the report that Morocco has provided to the EU. The information that the Moroccan government presented regarding the benefits that the Saharawi people gain from the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement mentions no word on the Saharawi people, nor Western Sahara.
During a vote in the European Council in June, the Irish government surprisingly voted in favour of a highly controversial fisheries agreement, in which Morocco is paid EU funds to allow Spanish fishermen to fish in waters which are not Moroccan.
Many had thought that Ireland, with its history of occupation, would join the other northern European governments in rejecting the EU agreement to illegally fish in Western Sahara, a territory occupied by Morocco since 1975.
Spain and France, however, pressed for the fisheries agreement that gives Spanish vessels access to fish in Western Saharan waters.
The agreement is furthermore controversial since it constitutes a financial loss for the European Union, according to a confidential evaluation by the Commission, and is considered both by Spain and Morocco to be mostly a political agreement supporting Morocco.
Ireland’s most watched current affairs programme Primetime on public service broadcaster RTE, 4 August 2011, confronted the Irish government on how they could vote in favour of the agreement.
"To be honest, I am not satisfied with the level of that information, and that is why I am only offering conditional support until next February for the extension of the agreement on the basis of making a very strong declaration with Germany and Slovenia which puts pressure on the Commission to actually gather their own information within Western Sahara on whether or not there is sufficient benefit for the Western Saharawi people", stated Simon Coveney, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
President of the Irish Labour Party, Michael D. Higgins, is highly critical.
"There is a very clear legal position as to the circumstances in which development can take place in contested, disputed and occupied areas, and I feel this was ignored. I am very convinced myself that the original decision of the European Union […] is without any kind of secure legal basis within the European Union itself", Mr. Higgins stated.
European Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, was also interviewed in the report.
"I have discussed this issue, and I have realised that there is widespread disagreement about the real benefits of this fisheries agreement for Western Sahara", stated Damanaki, who originally suggested that the EU fisheries would not take place in Western Sahara.
Morocco occupied Western Sahara in 1975 and forced a majority of the population into exile, while it sells its natural resources to foreign governments in violation of the advice from the UN.
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.