EU Council formally adopts one-year extension of EU-Morocco fish deal
Yesterday, the EU Member States formally adopted the one-year extension of the controversial fisheries agreement with Morocco. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, the UK, Cyprus and Austria did not give their green light, as they fail to see how the agreement benefits the people of Western Sahara.
The decision to renew the EU-Morocco fish pact for another 12 months was already agreed upon at last week’s meeting of the Member States’ Ambassadors to the EU. The Council of Ministers formalised that decision yesterday.
The prolongation of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement has been topic of debate for months. The main obstacle for renewal was the inclusion of Western Sahara, a non-self governing territory or colony, occupied by Morocco since 1975.
A UN Legal Opinion of 2002 lists prior consultation of and benefits to the people as legal requirements for economic activities in the territory. Since there was no proof that either condition had been fulfilled, the European Parliament’s legal services called for the immediate termination of the agreement with Morocco in 2009.
In spite of legal concerns, and an external evaluation report classifying the agreement as both an economic loss and a contributing factor to over-fishing, a slim majority of Member States could be persuaded to favour the extension. They seem to accept Morocco’s word that the fisheries agreement is indeed beneficial to the Saharawi people. The European Union has not consulted the Saharawi themselves.
But the internal support for the fish pact appears to have been eroded. In 2005, only Sweden opposed the agreement. Today, no less than seven countries have declined to support the one-year extension. In addition, several others countries who supported the deal expressed their concern at the way it had been handled.
The provisional protocol now has to pass through the European Parliament, which is not expected to express its opinion before October. In a Resolution of 25 November 2010, the European Parliament called “on the EU to demand that the Kingdom of Morocco abide by international law regarding the exploitation of the natural resources of 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.