Morocco now demands twice the money for EU fishing in Western Sahara
€84 million in return for fishing licenses - is what Rabat threw on the table in the EU-Morocco negotiations for a new Fisheries Protocol. Earlier this year, the EU Court of Justice invalidated the application of the EU-Morocco fish arrangement to Western Sahara - where 91.5% of the EU's fishing activities under the deal take place.
According to Moroccan media, the Moroccan government is upping the ante in the current negotiations between Rabat and Brussels to reach a new Fisheries Protocol. Morocco now demands 800 million Moroccan Dirham - or €84 million - in exchange for fishing licences for EU vessels.
Under the current protocol, which expires in two weeks, Morocco receives around €40 million annually. Out of that amount, €30 million is paid by the EU, while the remaining €10 million is coughed up by the European fish sector.
The EU paid Morocco an annual €36 million under the previous Protocol, which ran from 2007-2010. That Protocol had a negative turnover: the European Commission’s own evaluation of that Protocol showed that "each euro spent by the EU only generated 83 cents turnover and 65 cents direct and indirect value added accruing to the EU". "These are the lowest cost-benefit ratios of support to the European fleet across all ongoing bilateral agreements", the evaluation report stated. The financial loss to the Union was a key argument as the European Parliament rejected the Commission's new proposed Protocol in 2011. As a result of the weak cost-benefit ratio, the EU's contribution was lowered to €30 million under the current Protocol that entered into force in 2014.
"It would be hard to imagine that Morocco's demand of doubling the EU's contribution would be acceptable for Brussels", says Sara Eyckmans from Western Sahara Resource Watch, "unless the Union is now willing to not only violate EU-law, but also to squander tax payers' money".
The EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement has been in place since 2006, but is implemented through Protocols which are up for renegotiation every four years.
In spite of the CJEU judgment, the EU Commission sought a mandate from the EU Member States to open talks with Morocco for both a new Agreement and a new Protocol that would explicitly apply to Western Sahara and its maritime zone. The Member States in Council agreed on 16 April this year that the EU Commission ought to negotiate an amendment to the Agreement so as to include the waters of Western Sahara in its territorial scope, and a new Protocol as the current one is close to expiring.
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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.
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.