Still no decision on renewal of EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement
Brussels, 21 Oct (EFE). – European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, and the Moroccan Minister for Fisheries, Aziz Akhannouch, have debated the fisheries agreement, set to expire in March 2011. But still no agenda has been set to negotiate its renewal, sources from within the Commission informed Efe.
Source: ABC 21 October 2010 Translated to English by Western Sahara Resource Watch
Damanaki and Akhannouch have met yesterday in Brussels to discuss the future of the EU-Moroccan agreement, that benefits about 100 Spanish vessels. Yet the agreement’s future grows ever more uncertain: only 5 months remain before the agreement expires and the European Commission has still not decided whether or not to negotiate its continuation.
Akhannouch has presented reports to the Commissioner, but at the time of writing, the Commission “could not dictate” if these are the data they had requested from Morocco in order to be able to discuss a time-table to negotiate this agreement, sources indicate.
The main difficulty is the matter of Western Sahara, as Damanaki has demanded the Moroccan authorities to demonstrate whether the current agreement is adequately benefitting the Saharawi population. This is a condition to sign a new agreement.
Today, “no decision was taken, further discussion is required for the Commission to take a decision on the continuation of the agreement”, the same source stated.
The European and Moroccan representatives have decided to hold a technical meeting “in the next couple of weeks”. But it is still unclear whether there will be negotiations and a new agreement.
Damanaki and Akhannouch “have discussed different approaches, all in line with international law”, sources say.
The Commissioner maintains that it is essential that Morocco demonstrates that the agreement benefits the Saharawi in a positive manner, and more specifically, that they receive some of the financial compensation that Morocco receives for allowing European vessels to fish in its waters.
The Commission insists that its position “is no political attitude”, but that its demands “are legal requirements that need to be fulfilled” in order to prolong the agreement.
According to sources, the Moroccan minister was open to these arguments. During the next couple of days, a date will be set for the technical meeting.
The agreement is of high political importance for the European Union and offers licenses to 119 European vessels – 100 out of which are Spanish.
In return, the EU pays Morocco an annual 36,1 million Euro: part of that amount is earmarked for the national fisheries sector and the remainder is marked for development purposes.
If Brussels and Rabat do not succeed in renewing the current agreement before February 2011, the European fleet will have to leave Moroccan waters, as was the case between 1999 and 2007 because there was no agreement in place.
The Spanish government has conveyed its interest in renewing the agreement on various occasions. Different MEPs – among whom the Spanish Raül Romeva (IC-Greens) - have recently demanded the exclusion of Saharawi waters from the agreement.
In addition, the European Parliament’s jurists have presented a legal opinion on the agreement, in which they conclude that it does not respect international law because it does not benefit the population of Western Sahara. EFE.
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