Morocco and the EU resume negotiations of new fisheries agreement

Maria Damanaki, EU Fisheries Commissioner

On July 18, the European Union (EU) and Morocco held a new round of negotiations in Rabat for the renewal of the protocol to the bilateral fishing agreement.

The fifth round of work, which was held in February, ended without reaching an agreement and with dates to be set for a new session.

A couple of months later, in April, the European Commission (EC) informed the EU fisheries ministers that the technical aspects and the financial compensation to be offered to Morocco for fishing in its waters were practically solved.

The EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki then announced that the main barriers were political because Morocco did not offer sufficient guarantees for the respect for human rights in Western Sahara.

In addition, the EU executive insists that the funds provided by fisheries should also benefit the people from the Western Sahara.

The European ships had to leave Moroccan waters in December 2011, when the EU Parliament objected to extending the fishing arrangements due to the doubts as to the economic profitability of environmental sustainability and as to the benefits for this population, who claim that their fishery resources should stay outside the bilateral agreement.

Spanish affected fishermen – operating aboard about 70 ships – received payments to compensate for the stoppage of the fishing activities until December 2012, but the EU rules do not make further extensions possible.

On Monday, the ship owners of Andalusia expressed deep concern about the long delay being occurred to reach the fishing agreement, reported Europa Sur.

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Andalusia, Luis Planas, assured them that there has been “progress” in negotiating the agreement and expressed hope that a “satisfactory result can be reached as soon as possible.”

The fishing activity requires a “positive agreement that serves the interests of the Andalusian and Spanish fleet,” he added, Andalucía Información reported.

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