Commission and Morocco discuss fisheries agreement tomorrow
Brussels, 19 October (EFE) – The European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, and the Moroccan Minister for Fisheries, Aziz Akhannouch, will meet tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the continuation of the Fisheries Agreement, sources from within the Commission revealed to EFE today.
EFE (ABC) 19 October 2010 Translated to English by Western Sahara Resource Watch
Damanaki has invited the Moroccan Minister to debate the future of this agreement, which benefits 100 Spanish vessels and which is set to expire in March 2011. Yet to this day, no formal date to negotiate a new agreement has been set.
It is likely that the Commissioner will bring up the request the European Commission had made to Morocco, to provide information on how the agreement is benefitting the population of Western Sahara. Damanaki considers this data “indispensable” in order to renew the agreement.
“We cannot renew the current protocol, if the Moroccan authorities do not share this information”, she declared this week in a meeting with European deputies in the European Parliament.
“If we do not receive any report from Morocco, we will reconsider and explore other ways to our bilateral fisheries relation”, Damanaki remarked.
The agreement is considered to be of very high political importance to the European Union and offers licenses to 119 vessels: 100 out of which are Spanish.
In return, the EU pays Morocco an annual 36,1 million Euro: part of that amount is earmarked for the national fisheries sector and the remainder is marked for development purposes.
If Brussels and Rabat do not succeed in renewing the current agreement before February 2011, the European fleet will have to leave Moroccan waters, as was the case between 1999 and 2007 because there was no agreement in place.
“We have asked our Moroccan counterparts to cooperate with us to resolve this issue (the information about the agreement’s effects in the Sahara)”, says Damanaki, who recognises the great “opportunities” the agreement offers European vessels.
In addition, the EC has highlighted the value of fees paid by European vessel-owners as a source of revenue for Morocco, while the country is less dependent on such funds in comparison to other partners with whom the EU has fishing agreements.
The Spanish government has conveyed its interest in renewing the agreement on various occasions.
The European Commission insists that Morocco presents information based on “solid” facts on the effects of the fisheries agreement on the local populations, including the Saharawi.
Different MEPs – among whom the Spanish Raül Romeva (IC-Greens) - have recently demanded the exclusion of Saharawi waters from the agreement.
In addition, the European Parliament’s jurists have presented a legal opinion on the agreement, in which they establish that it does not respect international law because it does not adequately benefit the population of Western Sahara. EFE.
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.