Fifth round of EU-Moroccan fish talks stranded

Negotiations between the European Commission and Morocco in Rabat were aborted yesterday. New talks are to take place before the end of February.

Published 12 February 2013

The financial chapter of the deal remains an obstacle, as the gap between what the EU is willing to pay and what Morocco will settle for, has still not been bridged. Morocco finds the annual € 36,1 million it was accorded under the previous agreement unacceptable, and demands € 38 million. Meanwhile, the European Commission is offering € 25 million, and is allegedly not willing to go above € 28 million.

Western Sahara Resource Watch underlines that it is problematic that occupied Western Sahara seems not to be excluded from the agreement. The European Union would thus violate of international law, connotering that economic activities in the disputed territory can only take place in accordance with the wishes and the interests of the Saharawi people - part of whom live under the yoke of the Moroccan occupation, while an estimated 160.000 Saharawi live as refugees in inhospitable Algerian refugee camps.

All calls from Saharawi groups to not fish in their territory have not been taken into account by the EU. 

Sources close to the Commission also claim a new human rights clause, which the Commission wishes to insert in the agreement at the insistence of several EU Member States, is irritating Morocco.

"A reference to Human Rights in the agreement would not mean much even if it were to be accepted. If included, Morocco would be violating the terms from day one. Morocco clearly does not respect human rights in Western Sahara in the first place", said Sara Eyckmans, Coordinator of Western Sahara Resource Watch. 

Earlier in February, the European Parliament denounced Moroccan human rights violations in the territory. The Parliament "expresses its concern at the continued violation of human rights in Western Sahara;... ; stresses the need for international monitoring of the human rights situation in Western Sahara; supports a fair and lasting settlement of the conflict on the basis of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions". Read the full statement here, in paragraph 22.

From what WSRW understands, the European Commission is also supposed to oblige Morocco to report on the geographical distribution of sectoral aid given under the agreement, as a means to assess whether the "local populations" are benefiting from the agreement. 

"Can Morocco really be trusted to present a fair account on the benefits to the area it has brutally occupied for decades? It has never done so in the past, neither with regards to the Saharawis living under occupation, nor to those that fled the country upon the illegal Moroccan invasion", stated Eyckmans.

The parties agreed to meet again before the end of the month but have not yet set a date. 

In December 2011, the European Parliament voted against the fisheries agreement with Morocco, for being an economic loss to the Union, an ecological disaster, and in violation of international law as it failed to exclude Western Sahara.

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