The European Union's controversial fisheries agreement with Morocco is the least cost-effective of all the EU's existing fishing deals with third countries, according to a confidential study submitted to the European Commission in December.
An evaluation requested and paid for by the Commission's department for maritime affairs and fisheries describes the results of the agreement as “rather disappointing” and says that they could have been achieved at lower cost. The report, with several passages omitted, was obtained by European Voice through a request for public access.
Under the terms of the agreement, which began in 2007, the EU pays €36 million a year to Morocco in return for licences to fish in Moroccan waters.
The agreement expired in February but continues to apply provisionally as the Commission is seeking a one-year extension while it prepares negotiations for a successor agreement. National experts from the EU's member states will hold a first discussion of the extension request today (9 June), after the Commission submitted its proposal last Friday (3 June). The extension will require the support of MEPs, but they are not expected to vote on it before September.
Carl Haglund, a Finnish Liberal MEP who is drafting the Parliament's report on the extension of the fisheries agreement, said that the matter had been “badly handled” by the Commission. “I am not happy that we had this sudden extension after asking for the Commission's views for a year,” he said. Haglund also said that he had not yet received a translation of the evaluation report from the French original and that this had delayed the drafting of his report. He said that an English translation was expected this week or next week.
Maria Damanaki, the European commissioner for fisheries, is keen on reforming the “fundamentals” of all fisheries agreements with non-member states, according to a spokesman. But several EU member states on the Mediterranean want to preserve their fishermen's access to foreign waters even where the overall cost to the Union is higher than the profit from such access, as is the case in Morocco.
The evaluation report found that 80% of Morocco's public revenue in fisheries comes from the EU agreement, which accounts for just 5% of the total catch in Morocco's economic exclusion zone, and describes this as a “good deal for the Moroccan side”. The report calculated that every euro invested under the agreement generated just €0.65 in added value. The agreement with Morocco accounts for one-quarter of spending on bilateral agreements by the Commission's department for maritime affairs and fisheries.
The strongest criticism of the fisheries deal with Morocco comes from representatives of Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco in 1978. The European Parliament's legal service has backed their claims and found that the deal breaches international law by ignoring the rights of the population of Western Sahara. Damanaki has said that the agreement will only be renewed if the Moroccan government demonstrates that revenue from the fisheries deal reaches the territory. The Commission is currently assessing information received from Morocco on the issue.
The evaluation was conducted by Océanic Developpement, a French consulting firm.
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.