Fisheries partnership is crucial for #EU-Morocco relations, say MEPs

| February 21, 2018

While waiting for the ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 27 February, MEPs pointed out that the renewal of the EU-Morocco fisheries partnership agreement is essential for not only the mutual economic benefits, but also the EU-Morocco partnership concerning other important issues, such as migration and fighting against terrorism.

“This is a win-win fisheries agreement that has to be renewed.” MEP Gilles Pargneaux told EU Reporter.

 

He emphasized that the benefits are for both the EU and Morocco, including the local Saharwi people.

The EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is due for renewal on 14 July 2018. Both the European Commission and the Moroccan government have expressed their willingness to continue the agreement that is “essential for both parties”.

However, a non-binding opinion issued on 10 January by Melchoir Wathelet, Advocate General of the ECJ, argued that the Fisheries Agreement is invalid because it applies to the Western Sahara and its adjacent waters. The opinion has since sparked debates in Brussels over the rights of people of the Southern Provinces of Morocco (also known as the Western Sahara).

The ECJ will release its verdict on 27 February. The majority of Brussels-based senior legal experts in international laws have already rejected Wathelet’s opinion and said that the agreement is compatible with international law.

MEP Patricia Lalonde, INTA Standing rapporteur for trade relations with the Maghreb region, emphasized the strategic importance of Morocco, in particular the need for cooperation against extremism. “The EU-Morocco fisheries agreement is positive, and will be of benefits to both EU and Moroccan citizens,” she said

MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk said: “The agreement will help Moroccan society, and give strategic importance in Northern part of Africa for Europe as well.”

MEP Dominique Riquet added that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement has showed economic importance for European fishing industry and employment in Morocco.

 

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.

According to an assessment report released by the European Commission in September 2017, the Fisheries agreement is “effective” and “coherent with other EU initiatives”. Statistics show that each euro invested by the EU within the framework of the agreement, € 2.78 of added value are generated for the EU fishing sector.

The report indicates that Morocco has also greatly benefited from the agreement. Fishing industry represents 2 % of Morocco’s GDP and the exports of fisheries products account for 9% of its total national exports. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 3 million Moroccans depend their daily livelihoods on fisheries.

Pargneaux pointed out that the fisheries agreement is politically essential for the EU-Morocco relations. “A large majority, almost a unanimity, of the EU member states say that it is necessary to have a political solution to continue the fisheries agreement,” he said.

In 2008, Morocco became the first country in the Southern Mediterranean region to be given an advanced status by the EU. The two parties have since built partnership in a broad economic, financial and social section.

The MEPs talked with EU Reporter all stressed that the EU-Morocco partnership is crucial for the issues of migration, counter-terrorism, and fighting against radicalization.

“Many terrorist attacks were stopped in Europe thanks to the information that we received from the Moroccan Security Information Service,” said Pargneaux.

“the EU-Morocco agriculture agreement should exclude the disputed territory of Western Sahara”

The European Commission will not formally comment before the ruling, but the EU Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries has authorized on Monday (19 February) the European Commission to open talks with Morocco regarding the renewal of the Fisheries Agreement.

 

 

 

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