AN MEP today voiced his reservations over the outcome of a controversial Euro vote.
Responding to today's vote in the European Parliament to approve a fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco, Scottish National Party President and MEP Ian Hudghton expressed his disappointment with the outcome and called for strict monitoring to ensure Morocco complies with its obligations.
Mr Hudghton joined other MEPs who voted to reject the inclusion of Western Saharan waters in the agreement. Western Sahara is under Moroccan occupation and there are fears that the fisheries agreement could undermine moves to reach a negotiated settlement to the decades long dispute. Under the terms of the agreement the European Union will make an annual contribution of some twenty five million pounds to Morocco in return for access to its waters.
Speaking from Strasbourg following the vote, Mr Hudghton - a member of the Parliament's Fisheries Committee - said:
"Whilst I'm disappointed with the outcome of this vote, it doesn't let the EU off the hook in terms of its duty to the people of Western Sahara. We were at least able to include a clause which allows the agreement to be suspended if international obligations are contravened and I call upon the European Commission to stringently monitor the agreement's implementation.
"My major concern remains the potential for exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources - resources that rightly belong to a long oppressed people who deserve our help and support. We must back international efforts to enable the Saharawi people to determine their own future and it should be up to them to decide how best to harness their natural resources."
Speaking during the debate in Parliament, Mr Hudghton said:
"Over the years I have become increasingly sceptical about the value of fisheries agreements between the EU and Third Countries. Usually only a few member states benefit, while all EU taxpayers foot the bill - and I am not confident that EU authorities can adequately monitor fishing activity or can guarantee that the money we pay ends up where it should.
"This particular agreement has an added dimension. The absolute right of a people to self-determination. The right of the Saharawi people to control their own resources. We should not be signing up to any deal with Morocco which leaves in any doubt whether Western Sahara waters can be controlled by the Moroccan government."
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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