EU and Morocco to continue fish talks mid-January
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The European Commission and the Moroccan government will continue their talks on a new fisheries agreement on 15 and 16 January in Rabat. Meanwhile the Spanish government insists on sealing the deal as soon as possible.
Published 02 January 2013

The European Union and Morocco will meet again on January 15 and 16 in Rabat, to try to reach an agreement that will allow the EU fleet to return to the waters under control of the Alawite kingdom. The last round of talks in Brussels, on 20 December, ended without consensus.

EU Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, who negotiates the terms of the agreement on behalf of the 27 EU Member States, has not given details on the pace of negotiations.

But Spain's Minister for Fisheries, Miguel Arias Cañete, has insisted the Commissioner to speed up the talks to allow the Spanish fleet to return to "the region". He fails, however, to specify which region he refers to, nor does he say anything on the need to exclude the waters of Western Sahara from the scope of the agreement. This was one of the reasons why the European Parliament rejected the extension of the previous fisheries agreement in December 2011 – prompting the Spanish fleet, the main beneficiary of the fish licenses granted through the agreement, to return home.

Ever since, Spain has been drawing money from the European Fisheries Fund, which allows for financial compensation in case of cessation of fishing activities. Arias Cañete mentions the EU aid received by the Spanish fleet, stating that “aid for cessation can be obtained for a period of 6 months, and is renewable for another 6 months with no more possibilities to extend.” With no more money coming in, Spain’s hunger for a new fish accord seems to have increased.

“The EU and its member states, including Spain, should work within the framework of international peace, and support the UN’s efforts to negotiate a solution to the conflict”, says Javier Garcia Lachica, President of WSRW Spain. “Therefore, any movement of the Spanish Ministry to push for a quick accord without considering the wishes and the interests of the Saharawi people, directly undermines the UN’s peace efforts and lends support to Morocco’s claims over Western Sahara”.

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