European Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki. (Photo: EC)
EC proposes new fishing agreement with Morocco to exclude Saharan waters
Friday, December 17, 2010, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
The European Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, is evaluating the possibility of negotiating a new fishing agreement with Morocco which excludes the waters of Western Sahara. If approved, more than a hundred EU vessels would have to withdraw from the Moroccan fisheries.
The current agreement lasts until late February and Rabat have not submitted the information required by Brussels for its renewal. Therefore, the fisheries commissioner began consultations with other members of the European Commission (EC) to agree on a new fisheries pact.
The EU pays Morocco EUR 36.1 million per year for EU vessels to fish in its waters.
This fisheries agreement is of great political importance to the community, as it includes 119 licenses for European vessels, of which 100 are granted to Spain.
But for months, problems with the Sahara has threatened it's renewal.
After a legal report by the European Parliament ruled that the agreement was not respecting international laws, as the Saharawi population was not receiving financial contributions from the EU, so they asked the Moroccan government to present evidence showing that the agreement benefits also those that live in towns.
In the draft submitted by the Fisheries Commissioner, they referred to the need to solve the problem created by lack of time for the extension of the agreement, as little more than two months remain before the expiry of the current pact.
As an option, the text also suggests the possibility of a temporary solution, establishing formal talks with Morocco, but to get a protocol that includes only those waters north of "27° 40' N", the latitude that marks the border of the Western Sahara, reports Agrocope.
In addition, the EU authorities seek to include a "human rights clause", which takes into account scientific advice and that there is "dialogue" and control to ensure that fishing is "responsible" and environmentally friendly.
The EC commissioners that are surveying have until February to issue the project.
If they give their approval, the EU executive will approve a recommendation to the Council of EU ministers to formally negotiate a settlement with Rabat so that they would not enter the Saharan coast.
Failure to obtain the necessary support, Damanaki will once again ask Morocco for the required information.
By Silvina Corniola
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member European Commission - Fisheries and Maritime Affairs