European Voice - The European Parliament's fisheries committee has endorsed a controversial €36 million deal with Morocco that gives Spanish fishermen access to the country's waters and to waters off Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.
The committee today (22 November) voted 12 to eight in favour (with one abstention) of a one-year extension of the agreement. The entire Parliament is is expected to vote on the matter in December.
Carl Haglund, a Finnish Liberal MEP who prepared a report on the deal, had urged his fellow MEPs to reject the extension because of the financial, environmental and legal problems it raises. The Parliament's development and budget committees, which were asked to provide their opinion earlier this month, also recommended a ‘No' vote.
In his report, Haglund called the agreement “a waste of taxpayers' money,” saying its cost to the EU exceeds the benefit it provides to Spanish fishermen.
Haglund said after today's vote that the fisheries committee was “the toughest place to win the vote”, but that the committee was “not necessarily representative” of the entire Parliament.
“There is every chance that the plenary will follow the report and the vote in the budgets and development committees,” he said.
Raül Romeva, a Spanish Green MEP, said that a majority of MEPs on the committee had voted “to put the narrow interests of the Spanish and French fishing industries ahead of the respect of international law and the rights of the people of Western Sahara”. He described the agreement as “a blot on the EU's foreign policy”.
The EU does not recognise Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.
Maria Damanaki, the European commissioner for fisheries, is expected in the coming weeks to seek a mandate from the member states to negotiate a new fishing agreement with Morocco.
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.