Western Sahara slows down EU-Morocco fish talks
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Money and Western Sahara - the two obstacles that hamper the EU-Morocco negotiations for a new fisheries agreement.
Published 27 February 2013

Picture: EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, and Irish Minister for Fisheries Simon Coveney, brief the media after the Council meeting. Ireland currently presides the Council of the European Union.

The EU-Morocco fisheries negotiations were the first item on the European Council's agenda yesterday. Behind closed doors, EU Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki briefed the EU Member States on the state-of-play in the bilateral talks.

Though positive that all technical issues had been resolved, the Commissioner indicated that two matters of contention remain - the financial chapter and Western Sahara.

While the European Union is allegedly willing to pay 25 to 28 million Euro for obtaining fishing rights from Morocco, the latter is soliciting at least 38 million Euro be paid in return, according to Europapress.

Rabat is also purportedly reluctant to accept the European Commission's demand for detailed reporting on the usage of funding received through the fisheries agreement and the Union's insistence on respect for human rights in Western Sahara.

In a letter to Commissioner Damanaki sent 10 days ago, WSRW commented that including a human rights component can be perceived as off-base "in the current situation, where the European Parliament denounces the human rights violations in Western Sahara and where representatives expressing the wishes of the Saharawi people are being sentenced to jail".

The Member States are divided on the matter. While Spain and France wish to reach a done deal as soon as possible, others such as Poland and Portugal - with similar interests in obtaining fishing opportunities - find Morocco's offered licenses to be too meager.

The Scandinavian countries, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands stress the importance of a human rights clause and reporting.

It's been over a year since the European Parliament rejected the previous EU-Morocco fisheries agreement as it doubted the deal's economic viability, sustainability and legality for including Western Sahara.

A date for a sixth round of discussions between Morocco and the European Commission has not yet been set.

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