Split EU Council decides to renew EU-Morocco fish pact
Despite an unseen division on the issue, a slim majority in the Council assured the one-year prolongation of the controversial EU-Morocco fisheries agreement. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, the UK, Cyprus and Austria could not agree to the proposal.
After continuous delays due to concerns on the agreement’s impact on occupied Western Sahara, the final decision to adopt the one-year extension of the EU’s most criticised fisheries agreement was made today by the Member States' ambassadors.
In a surprising last minute turn-around, and in spite of previous reservations, Germany decided to agree to the proposal – tipping the final turn-out in favour of the French-Spanish advocated prolongation. Rationalising their stance, Germany claims that Morocco has sufficiently proven that the local population of Western Sahara benefits from the agreement.
7 other EU Member States were less convinced of the Moroccan reports. Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands voted against, while the UK, Austria, Finland and Cyprus abstained. Their position is backed-up by a legal opinion issued by the European Parliament in 2009, stating that the EU-Morocco fish deal was in violation of international law for failing to take into account the wishes and interests of the Saharawi people.
The provisional agreement suits the interests of Spain, which holds no less than 100 out of the 119 fishing licences available under the FPA. The former colonial power of Western Sahara was eager to underscore that the agreement is not just important in terms of fishing opportunities, but also has a political importance, referring to Morocco’s ongoing cosmetic constitutional reforms.
As far as WSRW understands, some other countries, which ended up supporting the extension, did issue statements that their endorsement is conditional upon the Commission providing “concrete” information on the impact of the investments made through the agreement.
Today's decision will be formally adopted by the European Council of Ministers in the coming weeks. The provisional protocol now has to pass through the European Parliament, which is not expected to express its opinion before October.
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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.