EU Commission and Morocco sign extension of controversial fish pact
After two days of talks, the European Commission and Rabat have signed a one-year extension of the EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement on Friday 25 February in Rabat. The original agreement, widely criticized for supporting Morocco’s claim over occupied Western Sahara, was set to expire on 27 February.
Having lobbied hard for the extension, the Spanish Minister for Fisheries Rosa Aguilar was quick to congratulate herself on the agreement reached between the European Commission and Morocco.
“We now have a year to reach a good EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement that safeguards the employment of our fishermen, and offers security and guarantees allowing our fleet to develop its professional activities" the Minister is quoted saying in an official press release.
Through the EU-Moroccan FPA, the European fleet receives 119 licenses to fish in Moroccan and occupied waters, in addition to quotas on species like anchovies, mackerel and herring. The Spanish fisheries industry lands no less than 100 licenses out of this fish deal, benefiting mainly Andalucian and Canary Islands fishermen.
In these times when the Arab world's outcry for democracy makes 'business as usual' less evident, Spain still puts its own hard-nosed economic interests before the fundamental human rights of a people it used to colonise.
“The financial aspect [of the Fisheries Agreement] is not necessarily the most important aspect of this agreement. The political aspect is just as important”, the Moroccan minister of fisheries has stated in regarding to the current deal. Through the agreement, Morocco receives EU tax money to fish in waters which are not Moroccan, but which is under Moroccan occupation.
According to the UN, no natural resource activity can take place in Western Sahara if the Sahrawi people disagree. But so far, the EU has - under Spanish pressure - relinquished its obligation to consult the people of Western Sahara, as the UN has prescribed. The European Commission has on numerous occasions misled the public about the true content of the UN´s opinion on the matter.
On 21 February 2011, the 27 EU Member States endorsed the European Commission to pursue its plan of negotiating a 12-month extension of the FPA. It was a close call however. The UK, Sweden and Denmark voted against the Commission’s sought mandate, insisting to see clear and adequate information proving that the Saharawi people had benefitted the FPA. Finland and Germany abstained for the same reason.
The European Commission has for a long time maintained that any renewal of the EU-Moroccan FPA depended entirely upon Rabat demonstrating that the implementation of that agreement was to the advantage of the Saharawi. It took the Moroccan authorities nearly a year to provide the requested data, and they had not presented any such data during the first three years of the agreement. The author of the UN opinion on the matter, finds it absurd that the EU asks Morocco for documentation as to how the agreement benefit the people of the territory they annexed, underlining it should be the people themselves that must be consulted according to international law.
The Commission’s initial reluctance to share the files with the Council triggered discontentment among the EU governments. In an attempt to avoid an imminent blocking minority, the Commission had promised to present an evaluation of the received reports upon presenting a draft agreement negotiated with Morocco.
The Commission’s suggested agreement still needs to be ratified by the European Council and the European Parliament.
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.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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