Vote in favour of the agreement in the Committee on International Trade at the European Parliament. The French Green is preparing a response for the plenary session of the European Parliament in February: “My position is absolutely not directed against Morocco.”
It did not come as a surprise that the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament (INTA) voted in favour of the EU-Moroccan Agriculture Agreement on the 26th of January (23 votes in favour, 5 votes against, one abstention). By voting overwhelmingly in favour of the agreement, the members of the Committee have clearly rejected the report by the French Green, José Bové. From his point of view, the agreement does not bring any good, neither for Morocco nor for Europe, in the sense that it only serves to reinforce an “export-based industrial agriculture at the expense of family farms and small-scale farming on both sides of the Mediterranean.” The former farmer from Larzac promises to fight hard in order to ensure that the agreement is rejected during the plenary session of the European Parliament in mid-February. Following the vote of the Committee, L’Economiste met with José Bové.
- L’Economiste: Contrary to the recommendations in your report on the agriculture agreement, the INTA Committee voted in favour of this agreement. How do you react? Are you disappointed by this failure? - José Bové: I don’t think we can speak of failure. In fact, I was expecting this decision, I’m not naïve, I know very well that there are numerous advocates of free trade in the Committee on International Trade at the European Parliament. Free trade is a disaster for agriculture. It has been a failure for ten years already with the World Trade Organization, and we know that free trade and agriculture do not go well together, it does not work. Those who really understand agricultural issues are the members of the Committee on Agriculture at the Parliament, who clearly voted against the agreement with Morocco in July 2011. In this case, the Committee on International Trade, which is there to create free trade all over the world, and which mocks people’s interests, systematically vote in favour of all free trade agreements. I’m certainly not amazed by the outcome of this vote, it’s rather the opposite that would have surprised me.
- This agriculture agreement has known ups and downs in debates among Members of the European Parliament and in the European Commission. Do you have a specific explanation on this topic? - Personally, I’m in favour of a substantive debate on this agriculture agreement, and the problem for the Members of the European Parliament with this type of agreement is that they cannot introduce amendments. In my opinion, the only way to renegotiate, with the interests of producers on both sides of the Mediterranean in mind, is to vote “no” to this agreement in order to subsequently discuss in depth the ins and outs of the agreement. At the moment the Parliament does not participate in the negotiation of agreements with third parties, only the European Commission is doing that, and each time we are only presented with the final product. There are many things that can be improved as part of this agreement with Morocco, and for this to happen it is necessary that the Parliament is more involved in the negotiations.
- Why do you tenaciously oppose this agreement with Morocco? - Because it is a very bad agreement for small Moroccan farmers who are looted by large companies, and for French, Spanish and Italian farmers who see the imports increase, destroying their ability to sell and live off their produce within Europe. This agreement is a disaster for agriculture, a disaster for employment on both sides of the Mediterranean, and it is also an ecological disaster, because we know it requires ten times more water to grow tomatoes in Morocco compared with Europe. My position is absolutely not directed against Morocco, my position is “small Moroccan producers and European farmers hand in hand against the free trade logic of the multinational corporations” which will systematically crush them.
- What will you do until the plenary session in February that should lead to a final vote on the agreement? - We will now run a campaign at the parliamentary level in Strasbourg until mid-February in order to have this agreement rejected. It is effectively the plenary session that will make the final decision, and there I hope we will have a real, substantive debate and then we will see how people vote. On the 7th of February, I will meet Spanish agricultural organisations in Madrid and hold a press conference rallying people against the agreement. - What are your chances for reversing the trend next month? - It certainly won’t be easy, because we have all the European governments against us. Everyone is moving in this direction, and personally I’ve been under pressure from all sides. It doesn’t matter, I’m used to it. I’m not overly surprised. We will give them a fair fight and then we’ll see. In any case, this is only a part of the story, the story continues.
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.