Discussion on prolonging EU-Morocco fish pact adjourned
On Wednesday, the Ambassadors of the EU Member States could not agree on the one-year prolongation of the divisive EU-Morocco fisheries agreement. Several Member States have requested more time to consider the proposal and its impact on Western Sahara.
Countries appear divided on the proposed extension of the much contested fish pact. One particular concern sticks out: the agreement's impact on Western Sahara - a territory largely occupied by Morocco since 1975. Western Saharaís waters holds rich fish stocks that are fished under the agreement.
The one-year extension has to be adopted by the Member States before the end of August in order for fishing to continue.
But quite a few countries are still hesitant whether or not to endorse the proposal. Their principle concern is that there is not enough proof that the people of Western Sahara have benefitted from the agreement.
However, no consultation have ever been made with the Saharawi people, and no evidence have been given as to whether they benefit.
Precisely because it goes against the wishes and the interests of the Saharawi people, the EU fisheries in Western Sahara is considered in violation of international law. A UN Legal Opinion of 2002 sets prior consultation of and benefits to the Saharawi people as preconditions for exploiting the territoryís resources. This opinion was echoed by the Legal Services of the European Parliament, who in 2009 stated that the FPA needed to be amended or suspended straight away for violating international law.
In February 2011, the European Commissionís request to negotiate a one-year extension of the FPA was condoned by a narrow majority. Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom voted against the Commissionís sought mandate, while Germany and Finland abstained, due to the lack of proof of benefits to the people of Western Sahara.
Blatantly ignoring the lack of proof on the Saharawi's wishes or benefits concerning the FPA, Spain and France are pushing for a fast adoption of the one-year extension. They claim that Morocco has presented evidence that the fisheries agreement has contributed to creating employment in 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.