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.
Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro
Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.
President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”
The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi.
European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.
Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.
European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case
The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.
In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.
The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.
The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.
Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.
For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.
The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.
Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.
A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.
Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation
On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.
At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.
The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.
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