Fishing vessels from 11 EU countries will be allowed to fish in the waters of the Kingdom of Morocco in return for an annual EU payment of €30 million under a fisheries agreement approved by MEPs on Tuesday. This sum includes €14 million earmarked to support the development of the Moroccan fisheries sector.
"This is an excellent deal for both sides, which fulfils all the conditions requested by the European Parliament in its 2011 resolution, by ensuring both environmental sustainability and a proper return for the EU budget contribution. Morocco will have to prove that this money is invested in a way that benefits the Sahrawi population. On the other side, the fishing possibilities for 11 member states will allow 1,500 fishermen, 500 of whom are Moroccan, to go ahead and fish", said rapporteur Carmen Fraga Estévez (EPP, ES).
MEPs approved the new protocol by 310 votes to 204, with 49 abstentions.
The new agreement will apply for four years from its entry into force. The cost to the EU has been reduced compared to that of the previous one (€36.1 million) and fishing opportunities have been increased by a third, thus addressing Parliament’s concerns over the cost-benefit ratio.
In addition to the €30 million provided annually through the EU, an estimated €10 million will be paid to the Moroccan state in fees by ship-owners intending to fish under the agreement. The 11 EU member states with an interest in this agreement are Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland and the United Kingdom. Non-respect of any provision by Morocco could entail the suspension of the protocol.
New version, two years later
The previous agreement was negotiated in February 2011 and provisionally applied until December 2011, when the European Parliament rejected it. MEPs argued then that the cost-benefit ratio was too low and that the agreement was unsustainable, because it targeted some overexploited species, but the key issue was whether it complied with international law, since it was unclear whether the agreement benefited the population of the disputed Western Sahara region.
Today MEPs from several political groups again voted against the agreement on the grounds that "it does not respect international law provisions, as it does not exclude the waters of the Western Sahara coast", and underlined that the Sahrawi population had not been consulted.