EU Commission dead set on fishing in Western Sahara
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The EU Commission proposes to amend the EU-Morocco Fisheries Protocol ... but still wishes to apply it to the waters of Western Sahara, in spite of two EU Court judgments invalidating such practice.

Published 21 March 2018

The EU Commission today announced that it will seek support of the EU Member States to negotiate an amendment to the current EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement and a renewed Fisheries Protocol.

"The EU position is that it is possible to extend the bilateral agreements with Morocco to Western Sahara under certain conditions. However, it is understood that any arrangement will only be provisional for as long as the resolution of the conflict in the context of the United Nations and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions remains pending", the draft text reads, that still requires endorsement from the EU Council.

The text does not specify which "certain conditions" are to be met for including Western Sahara.

The Commission argues that the "EU fleets are firmly interested in continuing fishing in Morocco" and that "a renewal of the Protocol would also be beneficial for Morocco in view of the importance of the financial contribution paid under the Protocol as a contribution to the Moroccan 'Halieutis' strategy of development of the fisheries sector."

Morocco has spent most of the EU’s financial contribution on further developing the fishing industry in occupied Western Sahara – with the explicit approval of the Union, as Morocco's own reports to the EU demonstrate.

"It is incredible that the Commission considers the position of the EU fleet and Morocco with regard to the Fisheries Protocol, but not the views of the people who are the rightful owners of the waters where the EU fleet at present realises 91.5% of its catches under that Protocol: the people of Western Sahara", says Sara Eyckmans of Western Sahara Resource Watch. "The EU Court of Justice has now spelled out twice that Western Sahara is not part of Morocco, and that EU agreements with Morocco thus not apply to the territory. One would think that the Commission would respect the rulings of the Court, but alas. Apparently rule-of-law is only to be upheld when it coincides with economic interests."

On 27 February this year, the EU Court of Justice ruled that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is only legally valid if it is not applied to Western Sahara. The ruling was in line with the Court's previous ruling of December 2016, concluding that no EU trade or association agreement could be applied to Western Sahara - due to its "separate and distinct" status - without the consent of the people of that territory.

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