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Procedure : 2005/0280(CNS)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0163/2006

Texts tabled :

A6-0163/2006

Debates :

PV 15/05/2006 - 18
CRE 15/05/2006 - 18

Votes :

PV 16/05/2006 - 8.16
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0201

Debates
Monday, 15 May 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

18. EC-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report by Daniel Varela Suanzes-Carpegna, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, on the proposal for a Council regulation on the conclusion of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco (COM(2005)0692 – C6-0040/2006 – 2005/0280(CNS)) (A6-0163/2006).

 
  
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  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I am very pleased to refer today to the Commission proposal for a Council regulation concerning the new Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the Community and Morocco. Before outlining the Commission’s position on this file, let me first thank the Committee on Fisheries and especially its chairman, Mr Morillon, for his excellent work, and the rapporteur, Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna, for his report.

As Members know, this agreement marks the renewal of our relations with the Kingdom of Morocco in the fisheries sector after the previous agreement came to an end in November 1999. The agreement also marks an important step forward towards strengthening our overall relations with Morocco. The agreement marks a new era in fisheries relations between the Union and Morocco. For the first time the Commission has negotiated a fisheries partnership with Morocco, following the principles laid down in the Council conclusions of July 2004. It prepares the ground for fruitful cooperation between the two parties with a view to achieving sustainable fishing and it will foster a favourable climate for further cooperation in all segments of the fisheries sector.

The new Fisheries Partnership Agreement establishes the basis for a political dialogue between the Community and Morocco in order to identify areas of common interest, thereby taking into account also the particular objectives, needs and opportunities of the Moroccan fishing sector. On this basis, the agreement will contribute to the development of a reasonable fisheries policy in the waters concerned. At the same time, I am convinced that the agreement with Morocco is a very balanced one, which responds to the interests of the Community fleet and in particular the small-scale fleet that was most affected by the terms of the previous agreement.

Six categories of fishing possibilities are covered by the agreement. Four of them are small-scale fisheries, small pelagic vessels in the north, bottom long-liners, small-scale vessels in the south, and pole-and-line tuna vessels. A category of demersal fisheries is also included, as well as industrial pelagic fisheries, which is limited to a quota of 60 000 tonnes of catches per year.

The protocol sets the financial contribution at EUR 36.1 million per year. A substantial part of this amount – EUR 13.5 million – is earmarked for support measures in view of the implementation of a sustainable and reasonable fisheries policy.

The agreement has been concluded for a period of four years and contains a number of elements on which the partnership approach is based. They include, amongst other things, an exclusivity clause which prohibits the existence of private licences or other private arrangements outside the scope of the agreement; scientific cooperation in order to promote responsible fishing in Moroccan fishing zones; the possibility of a review of the fishing opportunities on the basis of scientific evidence and within the limits required by the sustainable management of Morocco’s resources; vessel monitoring system requirements to reinforce checks on vessels operating in Moroccan fishing zones; and the social clause applicable to local seamen signed on by Community vessels.

I am confident that this agreement will be implemented in the best possible way and in the spirit of partnership, dialogue and remarkable mutual respect that has characterised our relations with the Kingdom of Morocco since the beginning of the negotiations.

At this point allow me to turn briefly to the amendments. Although the Commission can agree with the spirit of certain amendments, such as Amendments 2, 5, 7, 10 and 13, it does not consider them necessary. Similarly it does not consider Amendment 4 necessary, and it cannot accept Amendments 1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 11 or 12.

On Amendments 14 to 18, the question of the EC-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement and the related question of Western Sahara have been discussed at great length, in the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, as well as in the Committee on Development and the Committee on Budgets.

I would like to emphasise again that the agreement is fully in conformity with international law. This has also been confirmed by the opinion of the European Parliament’s Legal Service, and the legal services of the Commission and the Council. The content of the agreement does not contain any provision dealing with the legal status of the maritime waters pertaining to Western Sahara. It defines the Moroccan fishing zone as the waters falling within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco. This neither defines nor prejudges the legal status of the waters concerned. According to the provisions of the agreement, it is up to the Moroccan authorities as the contracting party concerned to define the fishing zones on the basis of which fishing licences will be issued.

 
  
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  Daniel Varela Suanzes-Carpegna (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as promised, we are here today, just one part-session later, in a position to present plenary with a report by our Committee on Fisheries on the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Morocco.

We believed that our committee should not be deprived of the opportunity to debate this sensitive agreement, and it therefore had to be debated and approved by us first. I believe that this time has been extremely useful: it has been useful for the rapporteur, who now has more information than he had before, and it has been useful in that it has given us a more in-depth awareness of what has been agreed and of what has not yet been agreed. It has also made it possible for us to help the Commission to promote an Agreement in which certain very important issues are still subject to negotiation, entirely openly, as befits a Parliament.

We are in a position today, therefore, to ask the House to vote in favour of this Agreement, but with the reservations, the adjustments, the guarantees and improvements that we have introduced in the Committee on Fisheries and which are included in the report.

I believe that this report has improved the Agreement and Parliament’s institutional position and we have fully and responsibly carried out the duties for which we were elected. Our real objective was, and remains, to improve the guarantees for the fisheries sector, which is the beneficiary of the Agreement, to ensure compliance with its clauses and to make it operative and viable. We did not understand before, and we still do not understand, why some people were opposed to this exercise in responsibility and transparency.

In addition to the technical fisheries issues that I will comment on in a moment, the Agreement was politically sensitive because of the thorny issue of the Western Sahara, which we could not sidestep but which we could not get involved in either.

I have tried to remain neutral on this issue, acknowledging the problem but not speaking for any of the parties, in order to ensure that Parliament does not show any particular support for any one of them, though at all times respecting international law and the on-going dispute, and not ignoring it, including the United Nations’ doctrine regarding non autonomous territories.

The opinion of Parliament’s Legal Service has been extremely useful and has been incorporated into the report, as well as the amendments by Mrs Attwooll, whom I would like to thank for her sensitivity and understanding, and the only amendment approved by the Committee on Development relating to the Sahara.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Kindermann, coordinator of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, for the assistance he has given me and for his efforts to keep his group united – although he has not achieved this entirely, I am aware of the efforts he has made.

I therefore believe, as rapporteur, that the report is balanced and reasonable, although compromises mean giving some ground and not everybody can be one hundred per cent satisfied.

I would now like to make a few comments about the strictly fisheries-related aspects of the report. The European Parliament expresses its support for the Agreement but, as I have said, it reserves for itself the task of scrupulously monitoring its application, which is fully in accordance with our duties of control over the Commission, calling for an exhaustive annual report on its application and in particular demanding that we be kept informed of each and every modification introduced into the text; in particular, we ask to be made aware of any opinions the Commission issues with regard to the possible modification of the Agreement’s exclusivity clause. We want to be made aware of how fisheries resources develop, in particular those species excluded from the agreement and of high commercial value, such as cephalopods and crustaceans, since, with the current exclusion, the Galician fleet is marginalised. We also want to be informed of the measures adopted to allow the Andalusian fleet to fish with lamps, as it has been doing, and also to ensure that there is no discrimination in this fishing area or in the measures intended to ensure landing in local ports. We also want to be kept informed of the technical measures that have not yet been clarified in relation to longline fishing and of the agreements of the joint committee that relate to the way in which the European Union’s financial contribution will be invested.

The final distribution of fishing opportunities must be communicated to Parliament, since adjustments are still being made to them at the moment. To this end, we have approved the amendments by Mrs Fraga, so that distributions respect relative stability and the sector and Parliament can observe the application of these vital issues.

While it may appear irresponsible to prolong the parliamentary negotiation of this Agreement indefinitely, we believe that it would have been more irresponsible to approve it blindly and hence to approve it without these demands and guarantees.

Our wish has been to reassure all of the parties involved that the Agreement will be applied rigorously and seriously and in accordance with international rules. That was our difficult commitment and will continue to be so in the future, in order to ensure that the European Parliament conscientiously monitors its application once it has entered into force, in accordance with the amendments approved by the Committee on Fisheries and if the House adopts the report tomorrow, as I hope it will.

I would like to thank everybody for their understanding and cooperation.

 
  
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  Carmen Fraga Estévez, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, we are naturally pleased to have a new fisheries agreement with Morocco although, as the rapporteur has said, we do not yet know precisely what form it will take.

We do know, however, that, after six years without an agreement, during which contacts have been constant, in the end, the two fleets that made fisheries relations with Morocco so very important have been left out: the cephalopod fleet and the crustacean fleet. That is one of the reasons why our feelings about the new agreement are bitter-sweet. Unfortunately there are other problems, however.

We regret the pressure that has been put on us by the other institutions, even to violate the established procedures. This pressure has complicated the work of our Committee and the rapporteur very much, when our only intention is to ensure that this new agreement does not cause as many problems as the last one, and to obtain legal guarantees that the content sent to Parliament truly corresponds to what our fleet is going to face.

We regret that doubts remain about this, since what the Commission considers to be technical negotiating errors of minor importance may mean, for example, that the seiner fleet cannot fish.

Furthermore, the possibility of modifying the technical datasheets remains too open and we would therefore ask that all possible information be communicated and that Members of this Parliament be able to attend the joint committees as observers.

Finally, we must thank the rapporteur for the balance he has achieved in relation to the political issues that have arisen. Like him, we believe that the Committee on Fisheries is not the place to resolve extremely important and complex international political problems. His report is scrupulous in terms of international law and, as has been said, it is in line with the legal reports of the Community institutions, and we would therefore ask once again for the new amendments presented to be rejected and instead we would ask all of the groups to support the report by the rapporteur.

I would like finally to ask the Commissioner what stage the approval of this proposal by the Moroccan Parliament is at. According to what we have been told, that Parliament was going to meet on 15 April with this as one of its first subjects for debate. We would like to know whether it is in the process of being approved by the Moroccan Parliament.

 
  
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  María Isabel Salinas García, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (ES) Mr President, I believe that the EC/Morocco fisheries partnership agreement is of crucial importance in two respects: on the one hand, from a social and economic point of view, many fishermen have been waiting for six years, and are still waiting, with their vessels in harbour, to see a firm political will to treat the signature of a fisheries agreement with Morocco as a priority.

On the other hand, this Agreement is also of great political importance because it contributes to the normalising of relations between the European Union and Morocco, a neighbouring country.

It is not a merely economic agreement, since it is intended to provide for collaboration in terms of the sustainable management of resources and enhanced cooperation. The Agreement reflects a new partnership dynamic between the European Union and third countries in the field of fisheries.

I would also like to stress that this is the best possible agreement. I would like to state clearly that I believe this to be a good agreement for the European fisheries sector, both in terms of the number of licences it will allow and in terms of industrial fishing capacity.

To those people who are welcoming the Agreement, but are critical of it at the same time, I would like to point out above all that we must bear in mind that it will allow an activity which has been halted for too long to resume, with a number of licences and a fishing capacity that have not existed for the last six years. I believe that the Agreement is born of a will for permanence, and provides for the mechanisms necessary to resolve any dispute that may arise and the possibility of improving the figure when resources allow.

This Agreement reached Parliament a few months ago, during a consultation procedure. The fishermen, the sector and with them the majority of the citizens hoped that the Agreement, which has required a lot of time, work and negotiation, would receive Parliament’s support and would enter into force, thereby allowing the fishermen to begin their activities as soon as possible. However much the rapporteur may insist, therefore, we still cannot see any justification for the delay, which we believe to be unnecessary.

This unnecessary delay reached its peak with the refusal to deal with the report by means of the urgency procedure, which would have allowed it to enter into force this May. All of this delay and the resulting harm suffered by the fishermen have resulted in the presentation of a report the text of which I believe has not been changed in any significant way and whose delay has merely led to debates which have nothing to do with the fisheries sector.

I believe that the time has come to look to the future. I am entirely happy with the Agreement and believe it to be positive that it has been reached. I would therefore ask this Parliament to support it, thereby sending the message to the fishermen and the sector that their Parliament unreservedly supports their immediate return to work and that it intends it to be lasting this time.

 
  
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  Elspeth Attwooll, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, Commissioner, the ALDE Group has continuing difficulties with the whole range of third country fisheries agreements, although we acknowledge that the new partnership model is an improvement on what went before. The agreement with Morocco creates particular problems, given the situation of the people of Western Sahara.

Whilst the prevailing legal advice is that the agreement is not, on the face of it, in contravention of international law, there is a clear risk of the breach of peremptory norms in its implementation. That is why, at committee stage, we proposed amendments intended to build safeguards into the regulation. These make approval of the agreement subject to its being operated in conformity with international law, insist on that operation being closely monitored and require a suspension if there is evidence of breach. As included in the report, these provisions afford protections that would otherwise be sadly lacking. We are grateful to the rapporteur for his sensitivity to the issues and for the compromise reached, as also for the support afforded to the whole set of amendments in committee.

I know, however, that many colleagues would have preferred a different outcome. I would like to reassure those who are uneasy about the mention of Western Sahara in the recital that it only recognises the fact of occupation and does not in any way imply its legitimacy. I can understand, too, the motivation of those who would like to see the waters adjacent to Western Sahara excluded from the agreement altogether, but I have to point out that this would have the paradoxical effect of depriving its people of the right to any financial benefit from the agreement, whilst not actually giving them greater security with regard to natural resources.

I conclude, though, by saying to the Commission and the Council that, however Members of this Parliament individually approach tomorrow’s vote, concern for the people of Western Sahara is felt across Parliament as a whole. Please take heed of that.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (SV) Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna has done an extremely thorough job, but we heard President Morales of Bolivia speak earlier this evening of 500 years of colonial plundering. That period should be in the past.

We come now, however, to this illegal fishing agreement, which is a piece of pure neo-colonialism. Western Sahara is occupied, yet no one acknowledges the hegemony exercised by Morocco. Only if the changes designed to exempt occupied areas from the agreement are approved can justice be done in practice to the European Parliament’s talk of human rights.

Do read SHERPA’s legal analysis. They are experts on international agreements and they completely condemn the fisheries agreement. The institutions’ legal services have been used to misinterpret the UN Charter in the interests of exploitation, but Parliament’s legal service recognises that the agreement is only legal if it benefits the Saharawi people. In the previous agreements, Morocco showed not the slightest concern about the population. This agreement contains nothing about compensation for the Saharawi people or about targeted aid as compensation. Morocco has stolen Western Sahara, and anyone entering into fisheries agreements with Morocco becomes guilty of receiving stolen goods. It is just like calling on a thief to go into someone’s kitchen and steal fish from the table, something that no one in this Chamber would do. Anyone who puts out their hand and presses the ‘yes’ button in support of this agreement, without exempting Western Sahara’s waters from it, is behaving just like a dealer in stolen goods, putting out their hand to receive payment for them.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) As regards the content of the fisheries agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morrocco relating to the waters under its effective sovereignty, I should like to highlight, in broad terms, the opinions expressed by representatives of the fisheries sector. They believe that the conditions of this new agreement will bring restrictions, greater burdens and fewer benefits for fishermen, and will accordingly be extremely harmful.

Yet this agreement raises a more fundamental issue, namely respect for international law and the legitimate rights of the people of Western Sahara. Morocco is illegally occupying Western Sahara. According to United Nations resolutions, Morocco has no sovereignty over this territory nor, in turn, its natural resources. It also has no right to be the territory’s de jure or de facto administrative power, under the terms of the United Nations Charter. Morocco is very much the de facto illegal occupying power in Western Sahara, that is to say, its illegal colonial power.

Consequently, any agreement with Morocco that, ambiguously or otherwise, involves the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources constitutes a clear violation of international law. The issue at stake, as the Polisario Front maintains, is whether the EU Member States will uphold international law and contribute towards a fair and lasting solution to the conflict involving respect for the Sahrawi people’s inalienable right to self-determination, or whether, by contrast, they will encourage injustice, aggression and the violation of human rights.

The inclusion in the agreement of clauses that say, in watered down form, that the European Community’s financial contribution should also be used to develop coastal fishing communities in Morocco and Western Sahara, as borne out in previous agreements, falls short of what is required and does not safeguard the rights of the Sahrawi people. If the intention really were to ensure that the Sahrawi people could enjoy the benefits of exploiting their fishing resources, the necessary conditions would be put in place to safeguard their interests and rights, by setting up a United Nations fund, for example.

We have therefore retabled two amendments, which, in line with international law, specifically exclude the waters off Western Sahara from the fisheries agreement before us, granting fishing possibilities only to Community fishermen in the waters falling within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco, or in other words solely in the waters north of the 27°40' parallel.

Lastly, it is important to point out that although the Council and the Commission have, of their own volition, expressed serious concerns about this agreement, the Polisario Front, the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, has not been consulted at any time during this process, and that is something we find appalling.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (SV) We have previously pointed out how dangerous the EU’s fisheries agreements are, both for the populations of the world’s poor countries and for EU taxpayers. The only winners are fishing companies from, in the main, the countries around the Mediterranean, where companies are heavily subsidised through the agreements.

This time, however, it is much more serious because the EU intends entering into an agreement with a colonial power of the worst sort. By doing so, the EU would be indirectly recognising the brutal occupation of Western Sahara, which is illegal under international law. It is outrageous that old European colonial powers are even today continuing to conduct the same policy as before, and just as destructively, albeit in a more subtle form.

These fisheries agreements are extremely objectionable. They prevent poor countries from developing their own fishing industries and are partly responsible for depleting the oceans of fish. They also cost EU taxpayers huge sums of money. I therefore call on you to vote against all the fishing agreements that will require decisions by Parliament, and especially against this one.

 
  
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  Jean-Claude Martinez (NI). – (FR) Mr President, I welcome this agreement, which is reasonable on two grounds.

Firstly, it is reasonable as far as the fishery resources in the Moroccan provinces of Western Sahara are concerned. It is not the opinion of Parliament’s legal service that counts, but that of the International Court of Justice. For centuries, Morocco has exercised a certain form of sovereignty over that territory. If Algeria wants an outlet into the Atlantic, that is its problem, but that is not a good enough reason to invent laws.

It is also reasonable because it is good to retain the benefits derived from these agreements and to transfer them to the Saharan provinces of Morocco and to the people. I have just one reservation, however: it concerns the annual 60 000 tonnes of industrial fishing granted to the large seiners of Northern Europe, which have no historic precedence, especially not in comparison with the historic precedence of Morocco, which nonetheless authorised the presence in its waters of 244 vessels, which disappeared at the end of the agreement.

Since the agreement with Angola has been denounced, we must take delight in the fact that we have concluded this reasonable and balanced agreement with Morocco. Let us not pick a quarrel with the Moroccans.

 
  
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  Margie Sudre (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur on the excellent work he has done in terms of showing consideration for everyone's interests and of reaching the best possible compromise.

In accordance with the international legal status of Western Sahara, no entity, not even the European Parliament, can intervene in this disagreement, under international law, and as has been confirmed to us by the European Parliament's legal service. That is why I am delighted to observe that the agreement has not been the subject of a political dispute, which means that the rights of the Moroccan and Saharawi people are safeguarded, together with those of the fishermen and the fishing industry in Europe.

On the other hand, it is up to the European Union to ensure that everyone, including Western Sahara, gains from the benefits derived from the agreement. That is precisely the aim of the amendments tabled in plenary by the Committee on Fisheries. Compliance with international law during the implementation of the agreement is once again at the forefront. Financial aid will have to be used in order to facilitate the development of coastal populations that subsist on fishing, and this so as to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to be created in this sector, whether in Morocco or in Western Sahara.

Finally, the Commission will have to present an annual report with the aim of assessing whether the agreement is being applied properly and, if it is not, then the Commission will be able to suspend it, as provided for. I am convinced that these amendments are the guarantee of a coherent and fair agreement. I hope that the European Parliament, for its part, adopts them by a large majority.

 
  
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  Henrik Dam Kristensen, (PSE). – (DA) Mr President, as Western Sahara is not a sovereign state, it is international law that applies to its population. Under international law, this population group has a right to self-determination via its recognised representatives. This means that if an agreement is to be entered into, the population of Western Sahara must be involved and their economic interest must be taken into consideration. The Legal Service of the European Parliament has determined that the agreement is not in contravention of international law as long as the Moroccan authorities provide the population of Western Sahara with economic compensation for the resources taken from their waters. However, nowhere in the agreement does it state that compensation is to be provided. In fact, not once are the people of Western Sahara mentioned, nor have they been involved in the process of entering into agreements.

I do not believe that it is the job of the Committee on Fisheries to solve conflicts between Morocco and Western Sahara, but I do think it is important that international law is obeyed and that the population of Western Sahara does not end up as the loser in this agreement. I therefore also believe it to be important that we vote in favour of those amendments that exclude territory belonging to Western Sahara. If these amendments are adopted, I believe that we could end up with a positive agreement. If not, the agreement will be a bad one.

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström (ALDE). – (SV) There is a lot to be said about the EU’s fisheries policy. There is no doubt a lot of politics involved over and above the actual fisheries agreements. This agreement in particular has a very great deal of politics associated with it, and there are many uncertainties where Western Sahara is concerned.

Morocco has been occupying Western Sahara since 1975, and the world community has still not succeeded in solving this issue. Morocco has refused to accept the UN’s plan for a referendum and has unfortunately failed to contribute to any form of dialogue or negotiation.

I am extremely concerned that, by voting in favour of this report, we are giving Morocco opportunities to exploit fishing resources belonging specifically to Western Sahara and its people. The legal analyses are contradictory and, as many of these point out, the position under international law is unclear because the boundaries of Morocco’s territorial waters are being erased. It may lead to Morocco distributing fishing licences belonging to Western Sahara, something that would contravene both the UN Charter and international law. Morocco has done this before, and the money has not benefited the West Saharan people. I shall therefore support the amendments limiting the agreement to what is compatible with international law. I think it important for the EU not to recognise the policy of occupation. Rather, we should show that we want to see a solution to this conflict regarding what is Africa’s last colony. If the amendments do not go through, I and, I hope, many others intend to vote against this agreement. We cannot say that the agreement is just about fisheries and the conditions under which fishermen operate. It is, to the very highest degree, about politics, and that is something we must realise. We have a big responsibility to make our position clear, and that is something we can do by voting against this agreement.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I have become increasingly sceptical over the years I have been here about the value of fishing agreements in general: usually only a few of our Member States benefit, while all our taxpayers foot the bill. I am far from confident that the European Union can properly monitor fishing activity in these agreements or guarantee that our money ends up where it should.

However, this agreement has an added dimension: the absolute right of a people to self-determination, the right, in this case, of the Saharawi people to control their own resources. We should not be signing up to any deal with Morocco that leaves any doubt whatsoever whether Western Saharan waters can be included by the Moroccan Government.

If Amendments 14 to 18, restricting the agreement to Moroccan waters only, are approved – amendments which my group and I have signed – I would consider supporting this report, otherwise I would have to reject it.

 
  
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  Vittorio Agnoletto (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, my group cannot vote in favour of the agreement with Morocco because its entry into force would be as good as a violation of international law. The proposed definition of Moroccan territorial waters as including waters that actually belong to Western Sahara means trampling on the Sahrawi people's rights, which are clearly defined by the United Nations, particularly its right to self-determination, which is already included in the declaration.

We are all aware that, for many years now, the Moroccan Government has done everything in its power to stop a referendum from being held on the independence of Western Sahara. Instead of putting pressure on Rabat to go down the road of a diplomatic solution, by signing the agreement under discussion today, the Union is in danger of sending out the wrong signal, by legitimising a form of occupation that has been denounced for years.

A few part-sessions ago, we voted in favour of a resolution that called for the sovereignty of the Sahrawi people over the resources of that country to be upheld. I believe that we need to reaffirm this point, by doing what my group tried to do and denouncing those parts of the agreement in which Morocco absorbs Sahrawi territorial waters.

Finally, I believe that this agreement demonstrates a need to include the democratic clause in all of the fishing agreements reached between the Union and third countries. In February, Parliament unanimously adopted my report on that subject. It is unacceptable that, as in that case, the Union and Morocco are doing business at the Sahrawi people's expense. Respect for international rights, and therefore for the sovereignty of Western Sahara, must be a prerequisite if EU-Morocco relations are to develop further.

 
  
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  Rosa Miguélez Ramos (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I believe that this is an important day, because the signature of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco and of a protocol for the next few years restores relations – fisheries relations – which have been suspended since the last one elapsed in 1999.

I perfectly recall what a difficult time we had, Commissioner, when the last Agreement came to an end and how many fishermen, the majority of them Spanish – mostly from Galicia, the Canary Islands and Andalusia – we obliged to undergo a difficult restructuring.

That was not a bitter-sweet time, Commissioner, but rather a thoroughly bitter time – a very bitter time.

The beginning of a new phase of cooperation and dialogue between the Commission and the Kingdom of Morocco has contributed in no small way to the achievement of this Agreement, and I would like to congratulate you and all of your team most warmly. I would also like in particular to thank you for being here with us today.

I also believe that it is worthy of note that, unlike five years ago, the Spanish Government has actively supported the Commission’s negotiating process, which has brought success.

I would like to point out that this Agreement, which belongs to a new generation of agreements, will make a very positive contribution to promoting our southern neighbour’s fisheries sector. In this regard, Commissioner, I would like to congratulate you, because we are going to contribute to generating stable employment and we are going to help to combat illegal immigration.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE).(ES) Mr President, we believe that it is legitimate, and necessary – as has been said – to normalise fisheries relations between Morocco and the European Union, but that should not be done at the expense of legitimising Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara.

The United Nations does not consider Morocco to be the administrator of the Sahara, and that country does not therefore have the right to negotiate over Saharawi waters. By de facto accepting that those waters are included, the European Union is regrettably helping to perpetuate the pillaging that we have condemned so many times in this House.

As laid down in the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the profits from the exploitation of a territory whose status has yet to be defined, according to the United Nations, must benefit the population of the territory in question. Nevertheless, the Moroccan authorities’ hostile and entirely uncooperative attitude to the Western Sahara dispute means that they are very unreliable in this respect.

We therefore believe that the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco must explicitly exclude Saharawi waters, otherwise our group will be obliged to vote against the report and hence the Agreement.

 
  
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  Jonas Sjöstedt, (GUE/NGL). – (SV) This fisheries agreement is a disgraceful agreement through which the EU is a party to crimes under international law.

The agreement covers Western Sahara’s fishing waters, but Morocco is occupying and oppressing Western Sahara and has no right to the country’s natural resources. Western Sahara’s legitimate representative, the liberation movement Polisario, is firmly opposed to this agreement. The Geneva Convention bans an occupying power from exploiting occupied areas’ natural resources for its own gain, but that is precisely what this agreement involves. It means that the EU too would profit from, and legitimise, Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara and thus be an active party to crimes under international law.

Commissioner, the agreement you have negotiated with Morocco is disgraceful.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, fishery agreements should be used to promote sustainable fishing, but that is not always the case, unfortunately. In this agreement too, question marks can be placed by the 22 trawlers that are permitted. This agreement, however, is more restricted than its predecessor, which ran until 1999, and excludes a number of vulnerable fish species, mainly octopus and crustaceans. The focus is more on small-scale fishing, which is important. The agreement with Morocco will contribute towards a sustainable treatment of scarce fish stocks and will be based on the principle of maximum sustainable yield.

This is all well and good, of course, but alas, Parliament can hardly put any of this to the test at a time when we are issuing our advice about the new agreement with Morocco, because we do not have access to the Commission’s ex ante assessment. I back the rapporteur’s amendments in which he asks for more information about fish stocks, as well as about the way in which the agreement benefits the parties involved. I would, at the same time, insist on Parliament gaining access to these assessments or impact assessments in good time, so that we are well-informed before we give our opinion.

Then, there is, of course, the issue of the Western Sahara, in respect of which the report is incomplete. The agreement is not restricted to the Moroccan coastal waters, but also applies to waters belonging to the Western Sahara. Although a joint committee must ensure that the people of the Western Sahara will benefit from this agreement, it is very much in doubt whether the Saharan people actually stand to gain. This is, in any event, left ambiguous in the report. We should state in no uncertain terms that this agreement will only pertain to the Moroccan coastal waters. Amendments to that effect have been tabled, which I hope will receive your support.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I would like to thank the Commission and the Commissioner for the work they have done, allowing us to reach this Agreement with Morocco.

I would like to express my complete agreement with the Commissioner’s comments on the rejection of the unfounded amendments proposed, because the intention to subordinate this Agreement to political conditions of a different nature has no basis in international law.

I would also like to express my gratitude to a section of the population who I represent and the region in which I live; I am talking about the population of the Canary Islands, which also neighbours these waters, which has always fished in these waters and not, despite what some people have said, in a colonialist fashion. My great-grandfather signed an agreement with the population of the coast in order to fish there, on the basis of the principle of mutual interest. We had been fishing in those waters, we shall go back to fishing there, and I would like to thank the Commission for the effort it has made.

I hope that this Parliament will approve this Agreement by a large majority, since it is very fair and very correct from the point of view of international law.

 
  
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  Paulo Casaca (PSE).(PT) Commissioner, Mr Morillon, this has been a lively debate. It has also been an important one, because whilst the legitimate rights of the fishermen and of Morocco must be respected, this agreement must not be allowed to legitimise the occupation of Western Sahara, which is not recognised by international law. This is an absolutely fundamental issue, and as such I cannot give my agreement to a proposal that simply turns a blind eye to this problem, which is a problem of the highest importance to the international community, although I do understand those who have taken a different view in this debate.

 
  
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  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, first of all I would like to thank Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna for his opening remarks. I fully understand the points raised regarding monitoring and I have no difficulty with keeping the Committee on Fisheries informed of how the agreement is actually implemented. I fully share the concern to keep Parliament informed of the various aspects of the implementation of the protocol. I would like to underline that the Commission already complies with the requirements on the transmission of information, in line with the current institutional arrangements. We have also continued discussions with the chairman and members of the Committee on Fisheries in order to try to improve the existing exchange of information and dialogue, in particular with regard to the conclusion and the ex-post follow-up to the conclusion of fisheries agreements.

Concerning the points raised by Mrs Fraga Estévez, in particular with regard to cephalopods and crustaceans, I would like to underline that Article 4 of the protocol provides for reviewing the fishing possibilities under the agreement if the scientific reports indicate an improvement of the situation of certain stocks. On the basis of the conclusions of the annual Scientific Committee meetings, the two parties can agree jointly to modify the existing fishing possibilities as long as sustainable management of the resource is ensured.

The fishing possibilities established in the agreement reflect the total amount of available species, as recommended by the scientific report, and the capacities of the Moroccan national fleet. The Commission does not intend to re-open discussion on this issue except within the parameters of Article 4. Also, with regard to the point raised concerning modalities, the modalities referred to are certainly important but let me emphasise that these are technical questions that by their nature are not defined in the agreement.

Technical modalities such as the use of lamparo, the number of hooks for long-liners and the issue of landings for industrial pelagic fishery will be fine-tuned during the first Joint Committee meeting that will be convened after the entry into force of the agreement, and we certainly have no problem with keeping Parliament and the sector fully informed. Information could be given on technical modifications during our regular closed session meetings. The next one is foreseen for 21 June and if by then we have already had contact with the Moroccans, we will certainly report back to the Committee on Fisheries on the outcome of those contacts.

I was asked by Mrs Fraga Estévez how far Morocco has proceeded with regard to concluding the process of adoption of the agreement. Our information is that everything is moving smoothly. We do not know of any particular difficulties on the Moroccan side. It should therefore be adopted by the Moroccan Parliament immediately after we have adopted it some time in June.

I would like to thank all those who have expressed support for the agreement reached. Regarding the point raised by Mrs Corbey concerning the ex-ante evaluation, let me say that it was sent in September to the Chairman of the Committee on Fisheries and distributed to all members of the Committee on Fisheries.

As regards the points raised by Mrs Attwooll and a number of others, I repeat that concerning Western Sahara the wording used in the agreement was formulated very carefully. I repeat that it neither defines nor prejudges the legal status of the waters concerned. Again, with regard to what Mr Schlyter, Mr Hudghton, Mr Guerreiro and others said on the question as to whether Morocco can conclude agreements that concern the exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara, the United Nations legal adviser gives a clear answer. Although the United Nations has never recognised Morocco as an administrative power in accordance with Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations, and Morocco is not listed as an administering power of the territory in the United Nations’ list of non-self-governing territories – this is point 7 of the Opinion of the United Nations legal adviser – agreements can be concluded with the Kingdom of Morocco concerning the exploitation of natural resources of Western Sahara.

The interpretation given by the UN legal adviser recognises the competence of Morocco to conclude these types of agreements and in this way implies that Morocco is a de facto administrative power of the territory of Western Sahara; the mandate given to the Commission by the Council was to negotiate with the Kingdom of Morocco.

In the framework of these agreements, international law seeks to assure the right of peoples and nations to use and dispose of the natural resources in their territories. In that respect, the agreements are considered compatible with the Charter obligation of the administering power and in conformity with the General Assembly resolution and the principle of permanent sovereignty of natural resources enshrined therein, if the exploitation of the resources in non-self-governing territories is considered for the benefit of the peoples of those territories, on their behalf or in consultation with their representatives. In that respect, Morocco is under an obligation to take all appropriate measures to ensure the full application of the EC-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement in accordance with the obligations of international law.

May I say in response to Mrs Sudre’s and Mr Kristensen’s concerns that the agreement itself already guarantees certain benefits for the local population. In particular with regard to industrial pelagic fishery, which is focused on stock C, the agreement foresees the obligation to land 25% of captures. The main purpose of this provision is to contribute to the better supply of pelagic fish to the transformation industry that has in recent years suffered from irregular and short supplies of raw material. Additional economic incentives are therefore foreseen to encourage pelagic vessels to land a bigger part of their catches, more than the obligatory 25%, in the local ports in the south.

In addition to the above-mentioned landing obligation, the agreement also makes stipulations regarding services and infrastructure activities in the local ports in the south. That provides for additional earnings and contributes to development of these ports. The agreement also ensures additional support for the development of the coastal area through the following financial measures. The agreement sets an amount of at least EUR 4.75 million per year for the modernisation and upgrading of the coastal fleet. The agreement also specifies that part of the financial contribution should be used, among others, for the restructuring of small-scale fishing, training and support of professional organisations. The industrial pelagic fishery is under the obligation to land 25% of all catches in the local ports. This obligation has been inserted into the agreement in order to support the development of the local fishing industry, which suffers from an irregular or insufficient supply of raw material.

 
  
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  President. I thank the Commissioner, all the speakers and the chairman of the committee for their presence throughout these debates.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11.30.

 
Last updated: 27 July 2006Legal notice