#EU – #Morocco Fisheries Agreement is beneficial for both sides, says human rights group

| February 16, 2018

 

Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), has said that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement has brought benefits for both sides, and the renewal of the agreement will provide good opportunities for the EU to promote human rights in Morocco.

“The Fisheries Agreement is one of the important mechanisms in which concerns about human rights can be voiced and mainstreamed,” he told EU Reporter.

The human rights situation in Morocco has seen substantial improvements in recent years, and the partnership gives the EU a leverage to raise human rights issues in the political dialogues between Brussels and Rabat, Fautré said.

The EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is due for renewal in July 2018. Since 2007, the agreement allows around 120 vessels from 11 EU member states to fish off shores of Morocco in exchange for a financial contribution from the EU of € 30 million per year, plus around € 10 million from ship owners.

Both the European Commission and the Moroccan government have expressed their willingness to renew the agreement. Last month in Brussels, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries held talks with Aziz Akhannouch, Moroccan Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Waters and Forests, and agreed that the Fisheries Agreement is “essential for both parties”.

Many member states, led by Spain and Denmark, have also showed support for the renewal of the Fisheries Agreement.

However, an opinion issued on 10 January by Melchoir Wathelet, Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, argued that the Fisheries Agreement is invalid because it applies to the Western Sahara and its adjacent waters. His words have since sparked debates in Brussels over the rights of people of Western Sahara, a disputed territory claimed by Morocco as its Southern Provinces.

The majority of Brussels-based senior legal experts in international laws rejected Wathelet’s opinion and said that the agreement is compatible with international law.

Fautré pointed out that Sahrawis have also benefited from the Fisheries Agreement between the EU and Morocco. “They have the right to come back to their region of origin and enjoy more job opportunities brought by the Fisheries Agreement,” he said.

Fautré has recently visited a fishing port and fish factory in Dakhla, a city in Western Sahara and currently administered by Morocco. “There were hundreds of people, mainly women, working there in the factory,” he recalled. “Fisheries are really a main source of employment for Morocco.”

Fishing industry represents 2,3 % of Morocco’s GDP and provides direct jobs to 170,000 people. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 3 million Moroccans depend their daily livelihoods on fisheries.

Fautré worries that the non-renewal of the Fisheries Agreement will aggravate unemployment rate in Morocco and lead to social instability. Tensions between Morocco and the EU will also be among the consequences that “nobody wants”, he said.

The Court of Justice of the European Union will review the issue on 27 February. The European Commission will not formally comment until the final ruling of the Luxemburg-based court.

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