Ireland: "Unclear whether Western Sahara benefits from EU fisheries"
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There is no unequivocal proof that Western Sahara, let alone its people, has benefitted from the EU-Morocco fisheries partnership agreement (FPA), according to the Irish government.
Published: 02.06 - 2011 17:00Printer version    
The Irish government has stated that there is no adequate evidence that the EU-Morocco FPA has benefitted Western Sahara. This was noted by Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on 25 May 2011.  The Irish position thus reflects the concern from other EU states - as well as of the Legal Opinion from the European Parliament in 2009.

“Ireland has been clear that our final decision would be influenced by whether it can be persuasively shown that there is appropriate benefit deriving to the Saharawi people through implementation of the FPA. Therefore, our position on the ratification of the one year protocol remains reserved, as the Commission’s analysis of the information provided by the Moroccan side on the regional benefits has not been unequivocal. While citing that positive benefits were in evidence in the regional distribution of funds including to the Western Sahara, the level of those benefits remain uncertain”, the Minister stated.

“Ireland is also of the view that the FPA with Morocco should be implemented if it can be shown to be to the benefit of all the people concerned (including the Saharawi, in relation to the waters off Western Sahara) and in full accordance with the principles of international law. I am not convinced that this is the case at present and will consider very carefully Ireland’s final position on ratification of the one year protocol when a formal proposal comes from the Commission.”

The Minister's statement came in reply to a question by parliamentarian Gerry Adams (Sinn Féin); “To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will vote against the protocol related to the controversial EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement that will be tabled for the considerations of the Council on 27 April 2011 in Brussels.”

Furthermore, Minister Coveney told the Parliament that “no Irish fishing vessels have operated in Morocco under this FPA since 2007”. This in reply to a question by parliamentarian Peadar Tóibín (Sinn Féin);  “To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason Ireland continues to support several Irish fishing vessels that are currently operating in the over-exploited and disputed waters off the coast of western Sahara; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

In 2002, the UN legal counsel concluded that natural resource activity in Western Sahara is in violation of international law if the Saharawi’s wishes and benefits are not taken into account.  

The European Parliament's Legal Services, and the author of the UN Legal Opinion, have acknowledged EU fisheries is illegal, since the Saharawi have not been consulted on the FPA. The UK government also earlier in May stated that no documentation have been presented as to whether the Saharawi people have ever been consulted on the agreement.

More than 100 UN resolutions, and the International court of justice, have noted the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and, consequently, the right to sovereignty over their natural resources. In 2010, the Court reiterated the right of colonized (non-self-governing) peoples to self-determination, in its advisory opinion on Kosovo’s independence.

    


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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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