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B7-0047/2012

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PV 14/02/2012 - 13
CRE 14/02/2012 - 13

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PV 16/02/2012 - 8.7
CRE 16/02/2012 - 8.7
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Debates
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

13. Agreement between the EU and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products and fishery products (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the joint debate on

– the recommendation by José Bové, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade, on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of an Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products, processed agricultural products, fish and fishery products, the replacement of Protocols 1, 2 and 3 and their Annexes and amendments to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the other part (15975/2010 – C7-0432/2010 – 2010/0248(NLE)) (A7-0023/2012), and

– the Commission and Council statements on the agreement between the EU and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products and fishery products.

 
  
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  José Bové, rapporteur. − (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the EU–Morocco agreement encourages both sides of the Mediterranean to concentrate on capital-intensive corporate farms at the expense of family and peasant farming. The rise in the number of quotas at reduced rates for a wide range of fruit and vegetables makes it difficult for EU producers to continue to compete, but at the same time does not help the development of balanced agriculture in Morocco.

Labour costs are the principal factor determining the price of fruit and vegetables. Morocco has an undeniable advantage today due to the widespread use of child labour and the ban on agricultural workers forming trade unions. Workers in Morocco earn around EUR 5 per day, compared with EUR 50 in Spain.

How can we cope with this type of competition and this social dumping? Respect for trade union rights and a ban on child labour are essential preconditions for ratification of a new trade agreement with Morocco.

The circumventing of the system for import entry prices is a cause for concern among EU producer organisations. The problems with the system allow operators to reduce the import duties they pay. The European Commission has never equipped itself with the means to combat this type of fraud and it needs to resolve this issue before proposing a new agreement.

In Morocco the way in which export quotas are managed favours large groups. In the tomato sector 70% of Moroccan exports come from just three groups. Moroccan family-run farms do not benefit from this agreement. According to a study funded by the European Union, the Abu Dhabi Tiris Euro Arab investment fund obtained 700 000 hectares in the south of Morocco to plant and harvest citrus fruits, olives and market-garden crops. The monopolising of land, which is so shocking to our fellow citizens, is also happening on a large scale in Morocco.

In the Souss region, where tomato growing is concentrated, the water table is falling by two metres per year. In Western Sahara agri-businesses are drawing on coastal ground water. This irrigation results in the salinisation of fresh water, jeopardising the local population’s drinking water supply. Exporting 350 000 tonnes of tomatoes is equivalent to exporting 35 million cubic metres of water from Morocco to Europe.

The social, environmental and economic effects have not been assessed by the Commission. We are still waiting for the impact study. A study is required to allow Parliament to reach a decision in full knowledge of the facts. We have never allowed an agreement to be adopted before identifying its social, economic and environmental repercussions.

I have raised the question of the territorial scope of the EU–Morocco agreement. A number of countries, including the United States, have signed free trade agreements with the Kingdom of Morocco that expressly excluded Western Sahara. This was done so as not to influence the outcome of international negotiations being held under the aegis of the United Nations to enable the various parties to find a peaceful settlement.

As the Commission and Parliament’s Legal Service hold diverging views on this issue, we cannot guarantee, ladies and gentlemen, that this free trade agreement will comply with the international treaties that are binding on the European Union and all of its Member States.

Consequently, the European Parliament should reject the agreement. That will enable us to reopen the negotiations on a new footing. I think that it will also send a strong message to the Commission to change its working method by allowing the European Parliament to participate from the initial stages of the discussions among the parties.

The European Commission must produce concrete, serious impact studies on the economic, social, environmental and budgetary effects of the agreements it is negotiating. We can no longer accept the fact that Parliament only has the option of saying yes or no.

I must inform you that, contrary to the opinion adopted by the Committee on Agriculture, which opposes the agreement, the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade is to approve the agreement between the European Union and Morocco. I am bound to state that publicly.

Ladies and gentlemen, in view of the arguments that I have just set out, you will no doubt realise that I am asking you very clearly to vote against the conclusion of this agreement. This is not just in the interests of European farmers, who are unanimously opposed to the agreement right across the trade union spectrum, but also, and above all, it is in the interests of Moroccan farmers, who are today being deprived of their land by large exporter groups and who, because of this unbalanced agreement, are going to have their meat, dairy and cereal production capacity destroyed by imports by large European groups.

I therefore urge you, ladies and gentlemen, to reject this agreement, which is a bad agreement. By rejecting it, we will reopen the debate but we will not prevent the previous agreement from continuing. It is thus simply the extension of the agreement that I am asking you to reject, in the interests of farmers on both sides of the Mediterranean.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. − Mr President, in an evolving southern neighbourhood, Morocco has remained a key partner of the European Union and, in line with rapid changes taking place in the region, Morocco is undertaking substantial political and economic reforms. As you know, a new Constitution was approved in July. Free and fair elections took place in November, and now the new government is taking the reform agenda forward.

Major efforts are being made towards the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law, as well as towards sustainable and inclusive development. They deserve our full support, not only because this is in our strategic and economic interest, but also because we have committed ourselves to it. You will remember that last spring both the Council and the European Parliament agreed to be much more responsive to the efforts of our partners. We must now all work together to ensure delivery on the ground.

One of the key features we can offer Morocco in the long term is progressive and deep economic integration with the EU internal market. In the mean time, we need to look at trade measures that can be introduced rapidly and that can be beneficial for both sides. This is what we can offer Morocco today, with the agricultural liberalisation agreement which is the subject of today’s debate and the vote soon to take place.

The entry into force of this agreement would represent a significant step forward for overall bilateral relations between the EU and Morocco. It would demonstrate that the European Union is indeed delivering on its promise to support economic development in the region through increased trade opportunities.

Needless to say, our southern partners have not forgotten that our renewed approach towards the Southern Neighbourhood includes increased market access, and they will hold us to our word. But we should not forget that this agreement is also in our own interest. That is why it was approved unanimously by the Council. Morocco will make extensive moves to open its markets to EU products and this agreement will immediately liberalise 45% of EU exports, increasing over time to 70%. It will provide new opportunities for EU exporters.

This agreement is the result of sustained dialogue and combined efforts. Concessions have been made on both sides, and any blockage at this stage could have serious consequences for our relations with Morocco, in particular with regard to the continuation of ongoing negotiations on the liberalisation of services and on a mobility partnership.

In the same way, the adoption this morning of the recommendation by Mrs Neyts-Uyttebroeck on the protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement covering the general principles for Morocco’s participation in EU programmes marks an important new stage in our bilateral relations. It gives Morocco the right to take part in a range of current and future Community programmes. This is very much to be welcomed.

By also giving your consent to the trade agreement tomorrow, this Parliament will serve to underline that the EU stands by its firm commitments. It will show that we support southern Mediterranean partners’ ambitions for reform, and that we demonstrate that support in very practical and concrete ways.

This is the time for the EU to act. This is the time for us to show that we mean business, but also that we stand by our word to Northern Africa and to the process taking place there right now.

 
  
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  Dacian Cioloş, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, I would like to thank you for your contribution to the debate throughout the consultation period on this agreement, which is extremely important for our bilateral relations with Morocco. I also welcome this significant step forward in the Treaty of Lisbon, which allows us to hold an in-depth, open and transparent democratic debate on an issue as fundamental as a trade agreement.

I will begin with a few general comments on the substance that I feel are important and then I will answer some of the specific questions that you have raised recently about this agreement.

Morocco is not just a partner like all the others. It is an important partner on a political and economic level, but also on a human level. It is a country that has had an advanced status since 2008 in relation to the European Union. Morocco has demonstrated its desire to forge close ties with the European Union and has undertaken to continue in that direction, in particular by aligning its agricultural policies with the Community acquis.

In the political context of the Arab Spring, we want to deepen our partnership even further in order to reinforce the democratic momentum through greater political and economic support, including in the field of agriculture. The trade agreement with Morocco forms part of the European Union’s responsibilities and its commitment to promote the development of Moroccan agriculture.

It is very clear that we wish to support Morocco’s Green Plan, which offers targeted incentives for small Moroccan farms and local operators. They are a key link in terms of the security and stability of the food supply chain and the country’s economic and social development. This is a very important aspect, in my opinion, and I can assure you that I am monitoring it personally.

If we look more specifically at the agreement, I feel that it is an important marker of Morocco’s advanced status, a marker negotiated with great care over a number of years. This agreement, which I strongly urge you to support, is a balanced agreement on the whole and it opens up trade prospects for our farming sector. The internal balance of the agricultural negotiations is an essential element, in my mind, not only for this agreement with Morocco but also for future agreements.

I understand that there may be concerns about it. I think that we have managed to alleviate those concerns in recent weeks and I want to mention a couple of specific points.

As far as fruit and vegetables are concerned, I can assure you that they were dealt with in a very sensitive manner when the agreement was being negotiated. It contains all of the provisions needed to safeguard the future of European production, including tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, garlic, clementines and strawberries. These products will not be liberalised by the agreement.

Equal attention was paid to the health aspects. Consumer safety is not negotiable and Morocco takes this matter very seriously, as demonstrated by the latest inspections by the European Union’s Food and Veterinary Office, carried out as recently as February. The Commission also provides technical assistance to improve Morocco’s administrative capacities, including in this area. The agreement will strengthen the channels of bilateral cooperation, the safeguard clauses and the provisions on the sanitary and phytosanitary rules and standards of the European Union. Clear provisions on these aspects are included in the agreement.

Rest assured that the European Commission will monitor strictly the volumes imported, especially for the most sensitive products, as well as the quality and safety of the products. This agreement will also enshrine Morocco’s undertaking to open negotiations on a bilateral agreement on geographical indications. You are all aware of how important that aspect is for the European Union. That commitment is a step towards a quality policy, which I strongly champion, as you know.

Finally, I have heard recurring concerns about the functioning of the entry price mechanism for the fruit and vegetable sector. In that regard, I would remind you that in the reform of the common agricultural policy we have now made provision for aligning the entry price mechanism with the Customs Code rules, and that will undoubtedly improve the functioning of this entry price system, which some of you had requested. I promise to move this matter forward as soon as possible. Indeed, the proposal is already being examined by the Council and Parliament in the context of the reform.

This Parliament is going to adopt a strong resolution to accompany this vote. I can assure you that the European Commission will come back to you with a precise follow-up to all of the issues that you have raised.

Once again, I call on you to support this agreement with Morocco, which is an important partner on both a political and an economic level to the south of the Mediterranean.

 
  
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  Lorenzo Fontana, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Bové’s comments sum up the whole issue. I am here in my capacity as rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, which passed a majority vote against this trade agreement. Your explanations today have certainly calmed our fears, Commissioner, but when the Committee analysed the agreement the assumptions were very different.

Our main concern regards two main factors. The first is that it certainly does not help small-scale Moroccan farmers. The second, which concerns us more closely, particularly the Spanish and southern Italian farmers – especially in Sicily – is the fact that we are dealing with unfair competition, which could completely destroy our fruit and vegetable industry. This is quite honestly very frightening.

We do not want this agreement to lean towards helping or promoting multinationals with manufacturing operations in Morocco effectively using slaves or underpaid farm workers. This would certainly not be to the advantage of the small farm workers that the European Union should be defending, nor would it benefit the human rights that colour so much of our debate here in Parliament.

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini, on behalf of the PPE Group.(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the agreement with the Kingdom of Morocco is a trade agreement with considerable political significance.

Morocco is the only country in the Mediterranean area to have made improvements to its constitution, and the recent elections showed that all the political powers are willing to listen to each other. Therefore for us Europeans the Kingdom of Morocco is a stable situation and a doorway to the continent of Africa – a continent which, in addition to the problems we are all too familiar with, is also under too much pressure from the market and Chinese expansion, which should be a concern to those talking about slavery.

This agreement replaces its predecessor – which was appalling, Mr Bové, despite the fact that you refer to it, because it did not allow Europe to carry out the necessary controls – and also shows Europe’s new focus on the Mediterranean area, which aims to ensure that democratic processes go deeper and that economic recovery in those countries can combat the current, forced emigration of so many young people.

We must continue to strengthen and make relations more cooperative between the EU and the Maghreb, our natural neighbour and economic partner. Therefore approving the agreement marks another decisive step for European politics, which has become more sensitive and aware of the needs of the Euro-Mediterranean area. We understand the concerns of some agricultural sectors but we are convinced that the Commission will find suitable support mechanisms in case of need.

I would like to emphasise that some tools, such as entry costs for sensitive products, already exist as a measure to safeguard some of our specific products. I would like to suggest that when reviewing the common agricultural policy, the Commission take into account in the agreement any objective difficulties concerning the areas involved that might emerge from the impact assessments.

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser, on behalf of the S&D Group.(FR) Mr President, Morocco is ranked 130th on the human development index. It is far behind Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Tunisia. It is a country whose per capita income is half that of Turkey, Libya, Tunisia; in short, it is a poor country.

It is a poor country and it is a country that, in the context of the Arab Spring, did not defend itself too badly. I, personally, would have liked the democratic reforms in Morocco to go much further, but I must say that those that have been put in place are not just for show and the election results have been faithfully honoured.

Now, if we say no to this agreement, whose pitfalls have been criticised, are we going to help Moroccans to cope with the political and economic crisis on their doorstep? I do not think so. I really do not think so.

I think that the question is not whether we are going to be inundated with Moroccan tomatoes, the question is whether saying no will allow us to give hope to those people who are now becoming immigrants, not by choice but as a means of survival.

Do we trust Morocco or not? I say that we should trust Morocco and see what political and economic reforms it is capable of achieving. Mr Bové, we cannot just say no; an overhaul of the economic and industrial policy is needed and we cannot achieve that unless we trust one another.

I say that we should put our faith in Morocco and that we should remain vigilant, with regard to both Morocco and everything that the Commission has promised us today, especially the measures to support small farmers and operators, which are not large multinationals. So I say yes!

 
  
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  Metin Kazak, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, there are numerous advantages to the agreement between the European Union and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products, fish and fishery products.

As has just been shown, it will result in 70% liberalisation for European exporters, compared with 1% at present, and 55% liberalisation for Moroccan exporters. The elimination of tariffs will result in an annual gain of EUR 100 million for European exporters. Through this agreement we are going to show our support for the programme of democratic reforms launched in Morocco, with its new constitution, which is fully in line with the ‘more for more’ principle in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Given that 40% of the Moroccan people work in the agricultural sector, the agreement will help to reduce poverty and promote peace and prosperity in the southern Mediterranean in the wake of the Arab Spring.

If we really want to help our neighbours through the current crisis, we should of course be prepared to make concessions, too.

We have also expressed concerns about the agreement in a motion for a resolution that calls for the continuation of the efforts in Morocco to promote democracy and development.

In order to offer guarantees to European farmers, such as the effective establishment of the entry price system and quota limits for sensitive Moroccan products, we obviously need to ensure better application of the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and the equivalent measures between the European Union and Morocco concerning the environment and water management, as well as phytosanitary rules.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, as shadow rapporteur I invite you to vote in favour of this agreement in order to maintain the European Union’s credibility in Morocco and send a clear sign of support for the reform efforts of the Moroccan Government.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GEORGIOS PAPASTAMKOS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(ES) Mr President, as rapporteur for the opinion for the Committee on Fisheries, I actually should have spoken earlier.

I wrote that opinion. I suggested in the opinion that we should follow Mr Bové’s opinion and therefore reject the agreement. However, when we voted, the Committee on Fisheries failed to approve my recommendation by two votes. It approved a vote in favour of the agreement, and that is why I had to remove my name from the opinion.

I think and hope that some Members who voted against on that occasion – and I am looking at Mr Mato – will tomorrow do otherwise. This would be very welcome, let me say again, for many of the reasons given by Mr Bové, which I should like to echo and summarise.

The first and fundamental one: we have worked hard politically, but also legally, to ensure that this agreement explicitly excludes the territories of Western Sahara. Other agreements, for example the one with the United States, already do this, so this would not be inventing anything new. It is possible.

For this reason alone, this means we already have an underlying problem if we support this agreement. Beyond this, however, and I repeat, this is not the only reason, we believe that this agreement should be renegotiated to reflect sustainable economic and social development needs, in order to promote regional integration.

We also call on the Commission to adopt a strategy that takes into account the challenges of the Arab Spring. We believe that this is also fundamental. The agreement should also, however, promote regional integration and help to strengthen the democratic political sphere. I am not sure that it does.

It should also focus on protecting the environment, resources, decent pay for farmers and sustainable jobs. It is not clear that it does this, either.

Lastly, I believe that the surplus production being sent for export should not lead to any increase in child labour in the agricultural sector, which, unfortunately, is what is happening at present.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, Morocco is a stable North African kingdom with close historical relations across the Mediterranean to its nearest European neighbours. My Group is in favour of all measures which ensure that Morocco remains a prosperous and stable country in North Africa and welcomes the recent political and constitutional reform programme from the King, which has so far progressed peacefully without the civil wars that we have seen in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

As a general political principle we believe that ENPI aid alone is not enough to stabilise the southern Mediterranean and that economic growth – to provide the kind of jobs for young Moroccans which will mean that they will stay in their countries and be employed and have prosperity in their own country – can come through foreign direct investment and tariff-free or reduced-tariff access to our markets for Moroccan exporters, including for agricultural and fisheries products. This is a vice-versa process. We hope that our finished goods, processed goods from the EU in these sectors, will be exported back to Morocco. So this agreement is a good one; the cake gets bigger for everybody.

This does not mean that we do not support self-determination for the Sahrawi people through a referendum, as agreed by the UN resolutions, and we are reassured by the Commission that this will not be the case, and that the Western Sahara question has got nothing to do with what is basically a trade agreement between Morocco and the EU.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(ES) Mr President, my group is going to follow the advice of the rapporteur, Mr Bové, because as you know perfectly well, ladies and gentlemen of the Commission and the Council, this agreement is going to benefit European multinationals and the very few large land owners in Morocco, which include the Moroccan Royal Family.

This agreement will be a veritable tsunami for small and medium-scale farming production, both here and there. Yet, despite the Arab Spring, you are also still failing to consider something that should be a fundamental aspect in trade, which is the democratic and social quality of products. You do not take this into account.

Morocco is given as an example. What a great example! Some 22% of the electorate took part in the last elections, and the street demonstrations are still going on now. People are still on the streets, but you see nothing and hear nothing, because the only ones you want to reward are the European food multinationals, which are bringing small and medium-sized farms to their knees in the Mediterranean – and in Europe in general – as well as small and medium-sized land owners in Morocco, of which there are in any case very few, and of course Western Sahara.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission and the Council, are you going to infringe international law again? Do you not care? Do you not care that you are including a region that does not belong to Morocco?

It does not matter to you. Ladies and gentlemen, please have a little more dignity and more respect for international law.

 
  
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  Francisco Sosa Wagner (NI).(ES) Mr President, Mr Bové’s report illustrates well the disastrous consequences that this agreement would have if it is approved. This agreement, which would extend the quotas for certain fruit and vegetable products, makes absolutely no sense if the figures are not respected.

We should remember that the Spanish Federation of Associations of Producers and Exporters of Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers and Live Plants complained to Parliament’s Committee on Petitions about the mass influx of tomatoes that flooded through Perpignan, priced below the level set in the agreement.

Illegal situations such as this put European farmers at a competitive disadvantage. We should also note that our farmers have to abide by rigorous quality, environmental and social standards that our Moroccan partners do not always comply with.

To finish, I will like to raise the issue of the Sahara. The Charter of the United Nations describes the Sahara as an autonomous region, saying that any exploitation of its resources should specifically benefit the local population. In addition, the United Nations does not recognise the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Morocco over this region.

The European Union must make sure it complies with international law. I am in favour of an agreement with Morocco, in favour of an agreement in which the European Union establishes rigorous mechanisms to control quotas and prices, an anti-dumping agreement, which will not exploit Moroccan farmers and, above all, will allow European farmers to make a decent living. It is clear that the current agreement does not do this.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Jeggle (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in its opinion, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development – and we have heard this already – voted against the trade agreement between the European Union and Morocco. In my opinion, we had reasons for doing so that are very much worthy of consideration. The effects of opening up the European market – above all when it comes to agriculture – have not been investigated exhaustively. There must not be competitive disadvantages for either side. What we expect is that imports from Morocco must also comply with European standards. This means the working conditions, social standards, anti-dumping provisions, food security and the standards covering protection of the environment, health and plant life.

We expect the Commission to monitor and also enforce the schedules and the tariff quotas. Moreover, it is essential that the rights of minorities in Morocco must be protected in accordance with European standards. All areas of the agreement need to be negotiated with the consent, and for the benefit, of the entire population there – and I am including the Western Sahara when I say that. I am unflinching in advocating that the principle of the protection of minorities should be part of every agreement the EU enters into.

Despite this concern – or indeed because of it – it is also important that the EU should be a strong partner for Morocco in its development. A stable democracy is inseparable from a strong economy and a corresponding living standard for the population. For that reason, as shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), I will be voting in favour of the agreement tomorrow.

The ‘no’ vote by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development was a signal to Morocco, but also to the European negotiators, to be open and transparent and not allow imbalances to develop. At this point I would like to emphasise that those of my fellow Members, including those in my group, who intend to vote against the agreement tomorrow have my full respect.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D). - Mr President, I also welcome this agreement. Occasionally in politics you have to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. The European Parliament was rightly – during and following the Arab Spring – strongly in favour of the democratic transitions that were taking place and strongly in favour of taking measures to encourage economic stability in North Africa. This is our first chance to deliver on those promises.

Trade – and I serve on the Committee on International Trade – is not an end in itself, but is a tool to promote economic stability and to reduce poverty. This agreement is an opportunity to deliver on our promises to Morocco and to the wider Southern Mediterranean region. I believe it is not only a good deal for Morocco, but a good deal for the European Union and our producers. The protection of geographical indicators is vital for European Union interests and producers. The fact that sanitary and phytosanitary standards will be the same for European producers and Moroccan producers as a result of this agreement means that all producers will now be competing on a level playing field. This should serve to reassure European consumers.

Of course, I understand the concerns of our Southern colleagues. But I believe that the Commission will live up to the assurances that it has given on ensuring that the maintenance of minimum prices and the application of quotas are monitored. Of course, if the Commission fails to carry out proper and due monitoring, we will come back to this Chamber and hold them to account for that. But with the proper monitoring and the safeguards that are in place, this is a deal that can work for Europe and a deal that helps to cement a fruitful relationship with our Moroccan partners.

 
  
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  Carl Haglund (ALDE).(SV) Mr President, I think this debate shows that the agreement that we are to vote on tomorrow is a long way from being a good one. At the same time, trade agreements of this kind do, in principle, benefit development in the country in question. I am one of those who believe that open trade, in this case with Morocco for example, is in principle a good thing that will steer development in the right direction.

It is regrettable that, during the negotiations held in Parliament, we have removed the earlier reference to the fact that Parliament voted against the fisheries partnership agreement with Morocco in December. It was a difficult debate that ended with the majority in Parliament being critical. We all know why that was.

This demonstrates once again that we are clearly unable to discuss difficult issues with our friends. It has been said here many times that Morocco is a friend of the EU and that is certainly the case: we are friendly with the Moroccans. However, we should be able to discuss difficult issues with our friends too, but certain people seem to think that this is not possible, which is a shame.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE).(ES) Mr President, this is a debate in which Parliament must send out a clear political signal.

This signal must be a dual one. Firstly, Parliament must champion agreements that promote socially, economically and environmentally sustainable farming models. Secondly, it must insist on compliance with international law and respect for the human and collective rights of the Sahrawi people.

The agreement favours an export model that is harmful to small farmers both in southern Europe and in Morocco. It only benefits large companies and investment funds, which can bypass European social and environmental regulations.

The agreement does not contain a single clause regarding the social dimension, employment or the environment. It speculates with food and encourages unfair competition. It completely overlooks small farmers, both European and Moroccan, and does not guarantee their right to produce, meaning they will end up as cheap labour for the multinationals, who are the real beneficiaries of this agreement. Lastly, according to international legislation, we are up against a problem that is an unresolved political legacy of decolonisation.

Of course we are in favour of the democratisation of Morocco. Of course we support the demands of the Arab Spring. However, this cannot be used as a way of pressuring us into voting for an agreement that does not even state that Western Sahara is to be excluded from its scope.

The territory of Western Sahara, its natural resources and its raw materials belong to the Sahrawi people. Neither Morocco nor the European Union has a legitimate right to negotiate about them. While fresh tomatoes are planted on and exported from their occupied land and fresh fish are caught in and exported from their seas, the children of the Sahara eat canned fish and tomato purée.

This is why we must not vote in favour of an agreement that further consolidates this unjust situation. The Commission, the Council and Parliament must make a resounding political statement backing the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, in order to end the marginalisation of the men and women of the Sahara and their collective rights as a people.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), Blue-card question. – Mr President, I just wonder if Ms Miranda can name the agricultural products that are grown in the Western Sahara and how many of them make their way to the European Union. The clue, by the way, is in the name: Western Sahara.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE), Blue-card answer. – (ES) Mr President, Mr Martin, I actually have a report here all about tomatoes in various regions, which I can give you when we leave.

 
  
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  Marek Józef Gróbarczyk (ECR).(PL) Mr President, the European Union is the largest importer of fish products in the world. Taking into account the fact that these products are an important source of food, we should pay particular attention to international agreements that generate competition for domestic products. The common fisheries policy (CFP) is enormously important for the environment, the replenishment of resources and the fisheries industry. A sustainable development approach results in a lack of competitiveness in relation to products from non-EU countries. The negotiations should therefore focus on the protection of EU interests in the context of restrictions resulting from the implemented policy, and on the adoption of and adherence to the EU rules by third countries cooperating with the European Union. We should remember that ill-considered trade liberalisation destroys the indigenous market, and consequently leads to uncontrolled increase in product prices in an environment devoid of competition.

 
  
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  Paul Murphy (GUE/NGL). - Mr President, throughout the discussions on the EU-Morocco agreement which liberalises trade in agricultural and fisheries products, the Commission has repeatedly described this as a win-win deal. Can we be a little bit more precise here and say that it is a win-win deal for major European agri-business, for a few Moroccan conglomerates, and particularly for the King of Morocco who owns 12 000 hectares of the most fertile land and who will benefit most from this deal? It is a lose-lose deal for ordinary small farmers, for agricultural workers and fishermen in Morocco and in Europe.

I am in favour of trade that provides development economically and socially and contributes to a rise in living standards, but in order for that to happen, the rights of working people, of small farmers and fishermen need to be protected. That does not happen in Morocco. The most basic trade union rights are not respected in Morocco: the right to form a trade union and the right to take strike action. Agricultural workers have been dismissed in recent years for trying to form an organisation, and the result is an extremely low level of wages and a race to the bottom in workers’ wages and conditions.

On top of that is the fact that Morocco is an occupying power in Western Sahara, and this agreement will increase the profits of those who benefit from that occupation.

The reality, in answer to David Martin, is that there has been a substantial increase in agricultural production of 2 800% in the past few years: 60 000 tonnes of agricultural produce last year were exported from Western Sahara. This is owned not by ordinary people in Western Sahara but primarily by the King – as a recent report demonstrates – and by major multinationals. Its produce is export-oriented and goes to Europe. The people of Western Sahara have not been asked, they will not benefit from it. The agreement should be rejected.

 
  
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  Nick Griffin (NI). - Mr President, I can start by saying that Mr Bové’s report is so comprehensive that it is difficult to add anything to the excellent job he has done. But I will point out that, with agricultural wages in Morocco at an average of just five euros a day, trade liberalisation can only add to the desperate plight of farmers in Greece, Sicily and Spain.

It is madness for the EU to give preferential treatment to big business concerns exploiting the Maghreb while its banking elite force murderous poverty on hard-working people in our own back yard.

Since not even the most crazed global-warmist still claims that we will soon be growing olives in Lancashire or oranges in Kent, it follows that we will have to continue to import such produce. Let us do so from our hard-pressed fellow Europeans in Greece, Italy, France, Portugal and Spain.

Leave the farmland of Morocco to support farming families in Morocco, rather than helping international agri-business swallow it all up and spit the human wreckage out at our shores as destitute and angry Islamist refugees.

 
  
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  Gabriel Mato Adrover (PPE). (ES) Mr President, the feelings of hundreds of thousands of farmers in many regions in Spain can be summed up in a simple but resounding word: ‘no’.

We say ‘no’ to an unbalanced agreement; ‘no’ to an agreement without even a single guarantee that customs duties will be paid or fraud prevented; ‘no’ to an agreement that allows unfair competition against our farmers, inducing them to abandon their crops. In short, we say ‘no’ to the disappearance of fruit and vegetable farmers in regions such as Andalusia, Murcia and the Canary Islands.

Our ‘no’ should not come as any surprise. It is a consistent ‘no’, just like our consistent ‘yes’ to the fishing agreement. We have not changed tack. We are defending today what we defended last July in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. We voted against then, and we will vote against once more on Thursday, because nothing has changed.

However, we do not want anyone to see this as a ‘no’ against the Kingdom of Morocco, which is a preferential partner, and should continue to be one in the future. While Morocco may benefit from the European Commission’s inability to amend the regulation on entry prices, it is not responsible for it.

I will finish by saying that our ‘no’ today is also a ‘yes’. It is a clear ‘yes’ to our farmers; a ‘yes’ to reciprocity and strict respect for agreements; a ‘yes’ to good relations between the European Union and third countries; a ‘yes’ to being able to continue farming; and lastly a ‘yes’ to differences being defined by quality, not by fraud.

 
  
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  Bernd Lange (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Mr Mato Adrover, I see things in a fundamentally different way. This agreement cannot be compared with the fisheries agreement. In the case of the fisheries agreement, it was not clear where the money paid by the European Union would be going. In this case we have clear rules about who benefits from the money – and the beneficiaries really are Moroccan producers – as well as about European investments into Morocco. With that being the case, the situation is completely different.

It is also completely clear that, with this agreement, we are not legitimising the situation in Western Sahara. On the contrary, we are saying clearly that a solution needs to be found in the interests of the people. We are also making that clear with our resolution.

We cannot, however, send out a signal to the Arab Spring that we will always seal off our markets per se. We do need to offer solutions for fair trade so that there really can be change through trade. It also means that, if there really are distortions in the European Union in agriculture, we need to ensure, within the EU, that our farmers also have development perspectives. We cannot simply close our borders, however. That would be a signal that would heighten the sense of disappointment in the Arab Spring. For these reasons I will recommend to Members in my group that they vote in favour of this agreement.

 
  
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  Ivo Vajgl (ALDE).(SL) Mr President, in December this Parliament voted against extending the EU–Morocco fisheries agreement, in part because, in violation of international law, Morocco did not provide any evidence that it would use the European money attached to this agreement for the benefit of the local population, the Sahrawi people.

Many of us also voted against the agreement because Morocco implicitly claims a right to use the natural resources of the territory it is illegally occupying.

For the same reason, an agreement on liberalising trade in agricultural products and products of the fish processing industry is unacceptable.

If we in the European Union recognise international law and human rights, then we must oppose any agreement with Morocco, which does not explicitly exclude the possibility of trade with the Western Sahara as part of the Kingdom of Morocco.

I suggest this be considered by all members who are enthusiastic about democratic reforms in Morocco, since the decolonisation of the Western Sahara is a measure of the democracy and democratisation of Morocco.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR), Blue-card question. Mr Vajgl, I still do not see why a trade agreement which would allow Sahrawis, who are also producers of agricultural products, to export – presumably to our markets – is actually going to threaten their livelihoods or their rights to self-determination. I fully understand that the Western Sahara question is a very key one. It was very different when it was a matter of EU money being disbursed under the fisheries agreement. This is about a trade issue, so why is trading with the Western Sahara violating their rights to sovereignty or self-determination? That is my question to Mr Vajgl.

 
  
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  Ivo Vajgl (ALDE), Blue-card answer.(SL) Thank you for your question.

I recently visited a refugee camp in Tindouf – there are many similar camps all over the Western Sahara.

The people in them have had to flee their homeland to escape Moroccan violence. These people cannot produce vegetables or tomatoes or anything on their land in their own homeland.

That is the problem.

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (ECR). - Mr President, I have heard a great deal in this debate this evening from the people who are saying no to this agreement about workers’ rights, trade union rights, human rights and the abuse of those rights in Western Sahara. These are the same people who, only a few weeks ago, said no to the renewal of the fisheries partnership agreement.

Are they aware that more than 600 Sahrawi people immediately lost their jobs in Dakhla, Western Sahara, in a processing factory? Are they aware that 780 fishermen from Andalucía, the Canaries and Portugal lost their jobs? And these are not wealthy people! What about their rights? What about the rights of these people in Western Sahara who lost their jobs while all the bleeding hearts in here were talking about workers’ rights? In my personal opinion you should learn more about what the actuality is, the reality on the ground, before you take these votes, but let us listen to what David Martin said this evening and support this agreement.

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I find it fascinating how we continually observe that we are all so pleased with the changes that the Arab Spring has brought to North Africa. In every speech – at least in every sermon – we all say that we have to help the people of this region. In other debates, we track the stream of refugees heading our way from North Africa. Why are they coming here? They are coming here because of the economic and political situation in their homelands, which remains poor in many cases.

In every sermon we say that we have to help the people. What is at issue now is tangible help for people in a specific region, in a specific country and suddenly many of us are chickening out and expressing misgivings. The expression of misgivings is actually a good thing, but it is also part of the parliamentary procedure for us to have tackled many of these concerns, for us to have used the time over the last few weeks and months to consider, for example, misgivings expressed by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and to also incorporate elements into our resolution. Our resolution – which, of course, will be voted on on Thursday – clearly sets out a large number of basic conditions. We have also said quite clearly that, should any truly detrimental impact on European agriculture become evident, we will demand appropriate steps and action from the Commission. It would be truly terrible, however, if our first signal to Morocco were to be that we reject this agreement.

One illustration of how important this region is for us can be seen from the fact that the Spanish prime minister’s first foreign trip after taking office is not to an EU country, but to the other side of the Mediterranean, to the other side of the Straits of Gibraltar, to hold discussions with the Moroccans. This is also a clear sign that our political leaders have recognised that we do need to enter into dialogue in this area.

I am absolutely convinced that this agreement is a small step. The impact on our agriculture should be limited, and that is something that we do need to monitor strictly. I am sure we all agree on that. We should not, however, see the agreement fail on this very issue, and we should support it instead.

 
  
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  Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D).(IT) Mr President, there is one point on which Parliament has found a broad consensus over the last few weeks. This concerns the need to change the neighbourhood policy towards southern Mediterranean countries, particularly in view of the changes taking place which are producing significant improvements in the spread of democracy, and opening a whole new chapter in the EU’s approach to these countries.

Now we need to be consistent and not oscillate between extremes when implementing this neighbourhood policy. It would be absurd and inexcusably incomplete if this policy merely called for more rights and democracy in these countries, and resolutely ignored everything else, starting with economic and trade issues. We have often stated that rights and democracy are established above all also through new economic and financial policies capable of stimulating growth in these countries. Democracy and social and economic growth are inextricably linked.

The agreement with Morocco is part of this context. It aims at and must encourage mutual convenience in terms of free trade and the process of integrating the Mediterranean area. I am concerned about Mr Bové’s style of protectionism because, instead of helping the democratic process and rights in these countries, it in fact becomes an objective obstacle to them.

For all these reasons it is important that Parliament should approve this agreement, and I hope that tomorrow this will happen.

 
  
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  Esther Herranz García (PPE).(ES) Mr President, last year Parliament’s Committee on Petitions asked the European Commission to amend the entry price system for fruit and vegetables entering the Union. This system allows products from third countries to enter fraudulently, as the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) itself has stated. These products are primarily Moroccan tomatoes.

The Governments of Spain, France and Italy issued a statement last year that made the same request. We can combat this fraud by amending the Regulation on application of the Common Market Organisation (CMO) for agricultural products, because the problem will not be resolved by aligning the Customs Code, Commissioner.

For several years I have been speaking up within the Spanish Partido Popular about the need to stop new concessions to Morocco until such time as the European Union has the necessary instruments in place to ensure compliance with the agreement currently in force.

The European Commission argues that the Member States should control imports. However, what the Commission does not say is that the current entry price system prevents national customs authorities from being able to properly trace the prices declared by importers in order to check for irregularities.

Amend the Regulation on the application of the CMO for agricultural products and part of the problem will be solved. If you do not, the legal loophole in European legislation will prevent national authorities from doing their jobs properly.

 
  
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  Josefa Andrés Barea (S&D).(ES) Mr President, the Spanish Socialist delegation is concerned about farmers, particularly horticultural producers. The Spanish Socialist delegation submitted five key proposals which it considered essential in order for this agreement to be adopted.

One proposal, which we submitted 14 years ago, addressed the regulation of entry prices. We recently received a reply from the Commission saying that this can be done in the framework of the common agricultural policy (CAP), but the market may collapse now as products enter. Oranges are currently being produced at EUR 0.26 a kilo.

Another proposal was quota control – not only quota control but also the volume of exports not subject to quotas, which often flood the market in the more sensitive months.

The third proposal was an impact assessment on the way in which European Union farmers’ incomes are affected. Did you know that the average income of a farming family in Spain is equivalent to the minimum wage? This is an extremely important matter.

Fourthly, there is reciprocity for plant protection products. Reciprocity is key here. Lastly, compensation if farmers are affected.

We will also be voting on a resolution submitted by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament which includes all these claims. In an amendment tabled by Ms De Keyser and myself, we called for compensation of damages caused to farmers. However, we do not want this compensation to be provided as some kind of charity. What we want is dignity for farmers and for all Europeans.

These are the five proposals we have put forward to the Commission, which we hope will be included now or in the future. We will therefore not be voting in favour of the agricultural agreement with Morocco at the present time because we believe these five elements are essential.

 
  
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  Jean Roatta (PPE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the signature of the agreement between the European Union and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products and fishery products has an economic dimension and, above all, a political dimension.

The agreement with Morocco represents support for the rural development policy, support for local farmers as well as support for the democratic process that was initiated several months ago after the parliamentary election. This agricultural agreement is therefore a major component of the advanced status granted to the Kingdom of Morocco in 2008.

It also shows that the EU supports and encourages the programme of constitutional and democratic reforms in Morocco. Over and above the economic dimension, this agreement will formally enshrine the rapprochement between the European Union and Morocco. The credibility of the European Union is at stake. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot maintain bilateral relations that merely limp along. That is why I would encourage you to vote in favour of the signature of this agreement. It is a balanced, coherent agreement, which we need so that we can open as soon as possible the negotiations on a free trade agreement.

 
  
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  Gianluca Susta (S&D).(IT) Mr President, the relevance to the EU of this agreement is more than just that of farmers in the south, although this is of course important. The southern shore of the Mediterranean will not develop peacefully or democratically if we retreat into autarchical nostalgia which could encourage the spread of anti-European sentiment on the African continent.

Of course it would have been preferable to pursue a multilateral approach with the countries of North Africa, in order to avoid future inequalities. Nevertheless this agreement appears to be balanced. It does not threaten many of our traditional products. Quota restrictions on six out of the fifteen most sensitive products exported by Morocco will remain. New opportunities are opening up for some of our products and for those to which total liberalisation will apply. Finally, the safeguarding clause offers an additional protective mechanism in the event of serious damage.

It is true, ladies and gentlemen, that this agreement does not resolve the ancestral issue of the Saharawi people. Every trade agreement needs to be accompanied by a courageous political initiative on the part of the EU to promote the values of liberty and justice in the world. However we cannot use the tragedy of the Saharawi people to safeguard a few individual sectoral economic interests. We can and must have the farsightedness of a trade policy vision that looks beyond its own immediate requirements – a vision that this agreement allows us to catch a glimpse of, and therefore I will vote for it.

 
  
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  Christofer Fjellner (PPE).(SV) Mr President, the trade agreement with Morocco concerning fruit and vegetables is much more important than it sounds. Few things have damaged the economies in North Africa as much as the EU’s duties on fruit and vegetables, resulting in unemployment and poverty.

We are their largest market and we impose high duties on some of their most important export products. Minimum prices, which is what we are applying here, are among the most discouraging measures we can take, because it means the more productive they are, the higher the duties they face. It is an effective way to make them toe the line and to keep them in poverty. This agreement is therefore an important move away from an old policy.

We must not forget that the Arab Spring was actually started by a fruit and vegetable trader who took his own life in protest. I therefore hope that this agreement is merely the first step, that the Commission will go further and that we will soon have agreements with Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and perhaps one day even Syria.

Fine words about helping are not enough. What is needed is a helping hand and in this case the best helping hand is probably a reduction in duties. That is how we helped the Balkans after the war: by reducing duties so they could use trade to bring them prosperity. That is clearly also how we should help the countries in North Africa – trade for prosperity.

 
  
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  Gilles Pargneaux (S&D).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, allow me briefly to describe the political context, which is essential for our discussion.

First of all, this is an agricultural agreement that was essential in the framework of the advanced status – as has been mentioned – but it is also essential in the final free trade partnership that we wish to maintain between the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco.

Secondly, there is the democratic process, as we have seen. The parliamentary election of 25 November was transparent. That is a source of pride for us but it is also an example of what has also been done in Morocco itself.

Thirdly, we must highlight the very significant efforts made by the new government, especially the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr El Othmani, who is in talks with Algeria, Morocco’s neighbour, to find a solution to the problems of Western Sahara, and the UN is also involved. I therefore believe that it is not relevant to include Western Sahara in the discussion given the progress that we are seeing.

We should also remember that this agreement also serves to protect small Moroccan farmers; 70% of farms in Morocco have fewer than five hectares. We also know that the agreement is going to benefit European agricultural exports.

Finally, I would like to put a question to the European Commissioner: what additional measure do you hope to take to enable, for example, our farmers in southern Europe to benefit from the EU Globalisation Fund and thus obtain that support from the European Union?

We are voting in favour of this agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to contest the method used in this agreement on which we will be voting next Thursday, because we can no longer continue with bilateral agreements. Instead we need multilateral negotiations capable of giving us far broader feedback that is possible with a single agreement.

Every time we enter into bilateral agreements it is always European farmers who pay the price. In this case too it seems to me that the cost is too high, and therefore I will be voting against the agreement, one reason also being that it does not contain a reciprocity clause, a fundamental component – and of course Parliament cannot make amendments to it.

We are opening up our market when there is still duty on the export of meat and other products from Europe to Morocco. Furthermore, reciprocity also presupposes compliance with manufacturing conditions and guarantees for European consumers. Instead of which we are opening up our market without giving European consumers sufficient guarantees, and putting farmers in southern Europe into situations of great hardship, especially those in Mediterranean areas.

I will therefore vote against the agreement.

 
  
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  Maria Eleni Koppa (S&D).(EL) Mr President, to date there have been numerous occasions – and there will be more in the future – when we have needed to take a stand on sensitive and important issues such as this agreement.

We have repeatedly stressed that trade agreements are basically political agreements, as we proved a short while ago with the agreement with Uzbekistan. It is perfectly clear that, if we say no to this agreement, we shall freeze our relations with Morocco and basically we shall have no access to or say on a series of important issues. It is important for the European Union to continue to cooperate with this country, in order to encourage reforms in what are important sectors for us.

The European Union has had good and honest dialogue with Morocco to date on political issues, within the framework of the bodies responsible for continuing the Association Agreement. A negative stand will simply blow that dialogue to pieces. Finally, we need this agreement in order to safeguard the interests of European farmers. Besides, there are safety valves in this agreement that will kick in if imports of agricultural products from Morocco disrupt the European market. I would ask the European Commission to confirm that once again.

 
  
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  Michel Dantin (PPE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, you fulfil your duties well. You defend a text with conviction. This is not your text, however. It is an inherited text. We know very well that, if you had had to negotiate this text yourself, it would have been different because you are currently involved in the CAP negotiations and you are aware that it is difficult to impose environmental constraints on European farmers when texts such as this proposal ignore that issue completely. You are aware that it is difficult to establish a common framework for the CAP because the standard of living differs from one EU country to another. Here, we are not taking into account the standard of living of Moroccan producers, whom, we are supposed to believe, represent El Dorado.

Yes, the situation is complicated as I am sure that nobody here in this House wants to jeopardise Morocco’s development. Morocco is a country that we need for stability in North Africa. Morocco is a gateway for developing new trade and we know that every time we develop new trade, both parties benefit to some extent.

However, I will get back to what I was saying about the environment. How are we going to explain to European farmers that we are perhaps going to force them to comply with the Water Framework Directive under the system of cross-compliance but that at the same time we are not going to pay any attention to the production conditions of the tomatoes that are allowed to enter? How are we going to explain to them that the water table is falling by two metres per year in some regions but that that is being ignored?

I firmly believe that the model that we are proposing to the Moroccans is not a sustainable model. Perhaps our producers do not have to worry because, with the system they are being offered, Moroccan producers will die before them. This is serious, however. In my opinion, we have to defend Morocco, we have to defend democracy in Morocco but we also have to take care to ensure that what we are proposing is balanced from an environmental, social and economic perspective.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Salvatore Iacolino (PPE).(IT) Mr President, I listened very carefully to the speech by the Commissioner on the current process of adaptation to the Treaty of Lisbon. However, as others have already pointed out, there has been no sharing in this legislative process, which should lead to the conclusion of an agreement between the Commission and Morocco on a number of fruit and vegetable products that are an important reference, particularly for the economies of southern European countries.

There are no geographical indications. Much can be said about plant-health controls: there is no reciprocity, quality standards are not high, and above all there is no sharing. While we are of the opinion that support for the democratisation process taking place in Morocco should be both robust and concrete, we cannot vote for an agreement that would undoubtedly be a danger and have serious consequences for all the farmers for whom Europe still offers opportunities for development and competition.

 
  
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  Bernadette Vergnaud (S&D).(FR) Mr President, this partnership agreement with Morocco for agriculture and fisheries is an important act concerning a country that has had a shared history with Europe for centuries and is an important trading partner, with which the European Union maintains a net trade surplus.

I understand the concerns that have been expressed. Although I have some doubts about certain political hijacking, or exploitation with regard to the rights of the people who are affected but not involved, I also have the same questions about the consequences of the liberalisation on the sectors of activity that are already highly vulnerable.

That is why it is essential, Commissioners, to put in place effective compensatory measures to avoid any negative repercussions on European production and jobs. On that condition, I support this agreement because economic expansion in Morocco is an essential lever in consolidating a democratic process that all of us in this House sincerely want to see in that strategic part of the Mediterranean basin.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, we oppose and will vote against this agreement, which will bring agricultural products onto the European market at a lower cost of production than in Europe.

Italian farmers, and southern Italian farmers should know that we are voting against it. We are announcing our intention to all the farmers growing tomatoes, fruit and vegetables, citrus fruits, grapes, peaches and cherries, who risk being not just threatened but beaten by the entry onto the market of products from Morocco, where there are no assurances regarding environmental quality standards, the fertilisers used and social standards such as welfare and salary guarantees for farm workers.

Furthermore, these products from Morocco would enter our market with minimal duty or even without duty, while our oil and meat would be subject to duty. Well, we are absolutely against this. In southern Italy we are witnessing farm bankruptcies, job losses and the abandonment of land. This agreement risks making the process even worse, while we want to stop it.

We are moving – and I am concluding, Mr President – from support for the Arab Spring to the start of the European Winter for our farmers. We cannot allow this to happen.

 
  
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  Spyros Danellis (S&D) . – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, the reactions to the ratification of the agreement have been twofold. The first is a fearful reaction to the liberalisation of trade that will benefit both the European Union and, of course, Morocco, bearing in mind, of course, the terms of protection for sensitive European products. The other has to do with the political problem of the people of the Western Sahara.

However, if the agreement is not ratified, that will do nothing whatsoever to improve the position of the people of the Western Sahara. On the contrary, we need to address these issues directly. At the same time – and I think this is a point of paramount importance – we should not forget that, by promoting economic growth throughout the Southern Mediterranean, we are doing a great deal to help consolidate democracy and achieve political stability at a crucial juncture in the Arab Spring. I think that is the main objective of the European Union and, obviously, of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Antonello Antinoro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, it takes more than a minute to tell a joke, so there is no hope of being able to put a point properly.

We care deeply about the Arab Spring. Morocco has made and is making progress – and it is right that it should do – but this does not mean that we should damage our agricultural economy. It must not result in penalisation of European agriculture, especially in southern Italy and – why not? – for my region Sicily.

I believe there is also a little hypocrisy in all the arguments I have heard. We are justifying the Arab Spring as a necessary condition for all of this to take place, for this agreement to be concluded, while we know perfectly well that Moroccan farmers will benefit from it. We are well aware that major financial groups have already acquired part of those interests and those markets. We are well aware that once more we are taking Europeans for a ride.

I hope that Europe will go back to being political and stop being the Europe of finance when dealing with delicate and important issues like that of agriculture.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, this is another agreement that benefits the few to the detriment of the many on both sides of the Mediterranean. Those that benefit are major European retailers and multinational carriers, which will be able to win new markets and access cheap labour, as well as having the chance to avoid the social, employment and environmental standards in force in European countries.

The losers are European producers, in particular small and medium-sized producers of typically Mediterranean crops, particularly fruit and vegetables, since this agreement increases the pressure they are feeling today from low base prices and the difficulties experienced by many producers in selling all their produce.

Another loser is family farming, which will start facing competition from intensive production for export. These are models that jeopardise environmental sustainability, the viability of regional and local markets, and food sovereignty; they also degrade food quality and safety.

For these reasons, consumers and the public also lose. Furthermore, with this agreement, the Commission is also insisting on ignoring the problem of Western Sahara, which is illegally occupied under international law.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE).(PT) Mr President, I recognise the importance of good political links with third countries, our neighbour Morocco in particular, and I am committed to good trade relations. I therefore cannot accept another step towards an allegedly equal liberalisation that will really create a situation of profoundly unequal competition between European and Moroccan producers.

Europeans have to abide by strict and demanding food-quality and safety standards, and agro-environmental and animal welfare standards, which considerably increase the cost of production. However, the required certification and labelling do not protect them sufficiently or encourage consumers to give preference to their products over those produced to lower standards and at lower cost.

The liberalisation of 55% of exports from Morocco to the European Union and the increase in concessions in the fruit and vegetable sectors represents a severe blow to producers in southern Europe, particularly Portugal, but also Spain, Italy, Greece and France. All these Member States are experiencing difficulties and need to invest in their productive sectors rather than, once again, seeing their agriculture sacrificed to other interests.

 
  
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  Pino Arlacchi (S&D). - Mr President, I am not in favour of this agreement and many S&D colleagues agree with me for three main reasons. First, this agreement is a fait accompli. It is an additional example of an international action undertaken by the Commission without any consultation with Parliament, and Commissioner Füle informed us that it is not possible to modify it.

Second, the arguments against this agreement put forward by colleagues concerned with the fate of small European and Moroccan producers are very strong. A precipitous liberalisation could bring significant damage, as has occurred in many places already. Moreover, I do not believe that there is any connection between the Arab Spring and democratisation on the one side, and the extent of tomato production in North Africa, on the other.

Third, the most important reason why I am against this agreement is that it does not mention one fundamental fact: the rights of the Sahrawi people who are harassed by Morocco and whose territory is occupied by it, and the fact that these rights are not alluded to directly or indirectly by its clauses. I am very sorry that the Commission did not find the courage to clearly say that these agreements exclude the territory of Western Sahara.

 
  
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  María Auxiliadora Correa Zamora (PPE).(ES) Mr President, I would briefly like to express my support for my delegation colleagues, Ms Herranz García and Mr Mato Adrover, who have argued that this agreement with Morocco is absolutely detrimental and utterly harmful to European agriculture as a whole and to Spanish agriculture and farmers in particular. Morocco has time and again infringed the quotas and entry prices established in the agreement.

We will therefore vote against the agreement. However, as a full member of the Committee on International Trade, I wish to say that this vote against does not mean we oppose entering into trade negotiations with Morocco. On the contrary, the committee will continue working to increase trade relations with third countries and fostering trade and investment as drivers of economic growth.

 
  
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  Marco Scurria (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, I do not understand why we take so much pleasure in harming ourselves. You have spoken about Morocco as an important partner on a human level, while many of us have already mentioned that Morocco is an imperialist state that occupies land illegally, in which the United Nations has not succeeded in holding a referendum.

You have spoken about democratic links with Morocco. Well, in Morocco 22% of the population has the vote, it is one of the countries with the greatest illiteracy levels, farmers and fishermen do not have the right to form trade-unions there and everything is in the hands of the King. You have spoken about convenience for farmers. It is a pity that no European farmers have noticed this convenience, as you are well aware.

Explain to me why we are asking our farmers and fishermen to comply with rules that do not apply to those who fish and farm outside of Europe but who are allowed to export their products into Europe. Commissioner, please tell me why democracy is valid for all but sometimes does not seem to apply at home.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Dacian Cioloş, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, allow me to clarify a number of aspects that have been raised here.

Firstly, some of you spoke about unfair competition and the lack of impact studies. I will give you two figures: tomato production in the European Union totals 6 million tonnes per year. The concessions we are offering Morocco under this agreement involve increasing the quota by 52 000 tonnes, which represents 0.8% of tomato production in the European Union. Moreover, with the entry price system and this quantity being allocated to specific months, we are protecting the European market from Moroccan tomatoes between June and September, when production reaches its peak in the European Union. For the rest of the year this quantity is divided between the remaining months.

I had also spoken about the entry prices, Mrs Herranz García and Mr Mato Adrover, and I listened to your comments and those of the Agriculture Ministers of the countries involved. That is why I proposed aligning the system for calculating entry prices with the European Union’s existing taxation system, precisely to avoid small quotas or small quantities of certain products, which are more advantageous, from resulting in all transport being calculated on that basis.

It was in order to eliminate that type of problem that we proposed improving the entry price calculation system. I can assure you that we are also going to monitor the way in which the Member States carry out customs checks at their borders once this change is made.

Some of you said that this agreement is going to benefit the multinationals rather than small farms, but I do not know if a trade agreement can encourage the development of a multinational or an operating model. You know that in the European Union these types of guidelines are laid down by our agricultural policy. Morocco also has its own agricultural policy and during the negotiations on this agreement it presented to us its Green Plan, in which the Moroccan Government has at least expressly agreed to provide support for small farms, too.

You also mentioned land monopolies. According to the information we have received from the Moroccan Government, and this is clearly set out in the Green Plan, too, foreigners’ access to land is limited to 100 000 hectares in Morocco and individual farms can be no larger than a few thousand hectares. In any case, Mr Bové, that is what the Moroccan Government has told us.

As regards respect for sanitary standards, as I said in my initial speech, we will ensure during border checks that products from Morocco, and from other parts of the world, comply with our sanitary and phytosanitary standards. All of the food safety standards imposed on our producers are thus applied to Moroccan producers and, indeed, the recent inspections by the EU Food and Veterinary Office in Morocco demonstrate that it now has the capacity to carry out these checks through the institutions that it has set up. Our technical assistance programmes in Morocco also focus on capacity-building for the future.

You mentioned, too, the impact on the environment, and water consumption in particular. The information we have available indicates that the average water consumption for one kilogram of tomatoes in Morocco is 47 litres, while 45 litres are used in the European Union. That figure is therefore not too far from the European Union average, or at least that is the figure we have, Mr Bové. With the drip-feed technological system that Morocco hopes to develop under its Green Plan, as far as we are aware, that consumption could be reduced further.

Once again, however, we cannot use an agreement to impose on a government choices that are its responsibility. I believe that, if we respect the self-determination of a state such as Morocco, we must have faith in the information it gives us when taking decisions, including decisions on an agreement.

Thank you very much for these clarifications. I think that my colleague Štefan Füle will give you some more information on the non-agricultural aspects that you also raised in your speeches.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: LÁSZLÓ SURJÁN
Vice-President

 
  
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  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, today’s debate touches on many fundamental issues about the Europe we want to build. Do we want to build a Europe open to the world? Are we serious about establishing a close partnership with our neighbours? Are we serious about the ‘more for more’ and mutual accountability principle?

The vote by this House on the agricultural agreement with Morocco will determine some of the answers to these questions. As my colleague Commissioner Cioloş stated, Morocco is an important partner of the European Union. We concluded an agreement on advanced status in 2008 and the entry into force of the agricultural agreement will give substance to the advanced status. It will create investment opportunities for European Union companies and help provide jobs in Morocco, therefore reducing the temptation to find better living opportunities abroad thus stretching further our migration capacity and policy.

Let me make three additional points. First, on the Western Sahara, I would like to confirm that the post-Lisbon European Union is committed to doing more to find a solution to the conflicts of our neighbourhood. We are also keen to promote regional cooperation in the Maghreb and support efforts made by Algeria and Morocco to normalise their relations.

Many positive steps have been taken recently and the Commission is determined to provide both political and technical support. We care very much about human rights in the Western Sahara. Overall, we consider that the situation in Morocco has improved over the years and this movement needs to be encouraged further. We will continue to follow events closely and intervene whenever appropriate, including by supporting trial observation and with specific démarches.

On the occasion of the political dialogue with Morocco we will continue to raise our concerns when appropriate. Let me make it clear that the de facto Moroccan administration in the Western Sahara is already under a legal obligation to comply with the principles of international law, which provides that the activities related to natural resources are lawful as long as they are not implemented in disregard of the needs, interests and benefits of the local population.

We are committed to monitoring closely the impact of the agreement on the population of Western Sahara. We will use the existing agriculture and fisheries subcommittee established by the Association Agreement to gather this information and to keep Parliament informed. I welcome the fact that Morocco has committed to providing information on the regional impact of the agreement.

Now a second remark on the importance of agreement in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Arab Spring: let me stress that the rejection of this agreement would send a negative signal to all our Arab partners engaged in the difficult process of democratisation and reform, for whom greater trade opportunities with the European Union will be a source of jobs and economic growth.

More broadly, let me recall that this Parliament last December supported the new approach for the European Neighbourhood Policy and in particular the vision of the gradual economic integration of our neighbours into our internal market. So let me stress that, despite what some of you said, we have a strategy to support forces behind the Arab Spring. You voted for it, and the opening of markets was an integral part of it. The agreement with Morocco is indeed a building block of this exercise, and its adoption will send a very positive and encouraging signal to all our neighbourhood partners in the east and south.

Now a third point on the resolution: let me conclude by thanking Members of this House for their positive collaboration in the preparation of the resolution. We take your resolution very seriously. My colleague has indicated a number of areas of concern to Parliament where we will work intensively once the agreement with Morocco enters into force

With a particular regard for your concerns, the Commission will monitor closely the effect of the agreement both in Europe and in Morocco and in all policy dimensions. The monitoring will start on the first day of the entry into force of the agreement and it will be a continual process.

In this context, let me also state that much has been done to meet most of the five demands mentioned by the Spanish parliamentarians from the S&D Group. The Commission will also launch an impact assessment for the negotiation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade area with Morocco and other partners in the southern Mediterranean. I am keen to ensure that the Commission will deliver on its commitments, and you can count on our personal engagement to this effect.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, honourable Members, thank you for a constructive debate. I would like to emphasise that the agreement that is to be voted on later this week is an incredibly important symbol of cooperation between the EU and Morocco. I am therefore also pleased to see the support that a number of the Members of this House have expressed, including Mr Kazak, Ms De Kaiser, Mr Martin and Mr Lange, along with many others. It is a sign that, if we want to bolster development and reforms in North Africa, we need to demonstrate this by means of practical initiatives that create economic growth and bind us closer together. That is precisely the purpose of this agreement. If it is rejected, we will send completely the wrong signal to both Morocco and the other North African countries.

To Mr Bové and all the others who have expressed their scepticism and opposition to the agreement I would just like to say that I respect your views, but I do not agree with your conclusion. I would like to remind you that the agreement contains provisions that give the EU the right to limit imports from Morocco if they create significant disturbance on the European market or harm production, and it also takes account of products that are particularly sensitive in the EU.

No political agreements are completely black and white when compromises are made. However, this agreement is particularly important because it will send the first important signal to North Africa following the Arab Spring. It is now that the EU has the opportunity to back-up its fine words and strong values with action in the form of an agreement which will make a tangible difference to the people of North Africa. This is an agreement that will send a clear message that the EU takes action and supports democratisation, free trade and a partnership based on trust, trade and democratic values. Therefore, it is about more than just trade when the Members of this House vote on Thursday. It is a question of whether the EU will fulfil the promises it has made concerning close cooperation and providing support for the forces of democratic reform, which need and deserve our support.

With these words on behalf of the Council, I strongly urge all of the Members of this Parliament to vote in favour of this agreement.

 
  
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  José Bové, rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, Commissioners, President-in-Office of the Council, we have just had a debate that, in spite of everything, was interesting because for the first time it was a real debate on a free trade agreement.

Some people referred to the facts, others to ideology, even belief, belief in free trade as a stepping stone to democracy. I hope that those people do not find themselves one day in a situation where they have to face the people who have suffered because of free trade agreements, of any kind: today the peasant farmers who produce fruit and vegetables, or tomorrow the meat producers when it is time for the Mercosur agreement. I believe that this free trade agreement is a bad agreement, especially for Morocco’s peasant farmers.

If the ‘yes’ vote prevails on Thursday – which is of course possible as I do not know what will happen – it will mean that you are creating all of the conditions for the Arab Spring to arrive finally in Morocco. That means that you will be in a bit of a strange situation tomorrow. In fact, the agreement provides for an increase of more than 50% for European products on Moroccan territory, compared with just 15% for Moroccan products in Europe, which means that hundreds of thousands of Moroccan families are going to be thrown out on the street because of these exports to their country. Is that what you want?

I get the impression today that you are not talking about the reality. You refuse to talk about the reality. We are accepting this agreement because Morocco is promising to protect us from the immigration from Africa. That is what is happening and it also features in all of your texts. Are we concluding economic agreements solely to build a wall on the other side of the Mediterranean to protect Europe?

We have to get serious! We have to get back to the actual facts, and the actual facts all come down to agriculture. However, this agreement is a bad plan for agriculture. A 1% increase in volume over what is offered could lead to prices collapsing. As you are all too aware, Commissioner, the balance between supply and demand is very fragile. A 1% adjustment can make prices collapse and have devastating consequences.

We know that Perpignan is currently a key transit point for tomatoes. We know that the head offices of the two largest firms, Azura and Idyl, are located in France. We know that today. So why are we continuing in this manner? We also know that the Commission has internal EU documents that show that more than 700 000 hectares were given to the Persian Gulf fund. You cannot deny that today; it is the Commission’s own documents that prove it.

We need to get serious when it comes to the issue of water, too. We are told today that there is no information about water, even though European universities, in the Netherlands, in France and in Spain, in addition to Moroccan universities are providing figures.

I do not need to say any more. As regards our obligation to Western Sahara, I did not want to turn it into a political battle, but simply to raise a point of law. Indeed, the law is clear-cut. If Western Sahara is not excluded from this agreement tomorrow, you could face the possibility of action before the European Court of Justice.

 
  
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  President. − Six motions for resolutions(1) have been tabled under Rule 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 16 February 2012.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Béla Glattfelder (PPE), in writing.(HU) The agricultural trade agreement to be signed between the EU and Morocco is contrary to the interests of both European consumers and European farmers. It is contrary to the interests of consumers because it would facilitate the entry onto EU markets of vegetable and fruit products that have often been treated using plant protection products already banned in the EU. In the past few years there have been multiple incidents of Moroccan pepper containing residues of banned chemicals being found in Hungary. The agreement is also contrary to the interests of European farmers who must comply with increasingly stringent EU environmental and food safety rules, while imports from Morocco remain outside the scope of these rules. Spanish farmers have pointed out that the European Commission did not prepare any impact assessment whatsoever concerning the foreseeable effects of such imports. We agree with and support the position of COPA-COGECA – the largest organisation of farmers in Europe, of which MAGOSZ, the Hungarian Association of Farmers’ Societies and Cooperatives, is also a member – which demands the rejection of the agreement.

 
  
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  Jarosław Kalinowski (PPE), in writing.(PL) The intensification of trade between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco will undoubtedly assist in the economic development of that country. However, liberalisation of the exchanges of agricultural products may have catastrophic results for European agriculture. Moroccan products do not meet many of the European health, environmental or food safety standards. The increase in fruit and vegetable imports will result in enormous distortion of competition in this sector. At a time of economic crisis, this may even lead to unemployment among many producers. It is essential to strengthen the effectiveness of the Union’s import control and safety system and to require the Moroccan producers to comply with the same standards as European producers are required to observe.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE), in writing. This report highlights concerns regarding the impact of the proposed EU–Morocco Agreement on the agricultural sector in the EU, and stresses the potential ramifications of future bilateral agreements between the EU and third countries. I support the Committee on Agriculture’s position on the proposed agreement. The rapporteur underlines other areas of concern such as child labour in the agricultural sector in Morocco, poor wages for workers and environmental issues.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE), in writing. (RO) I wish to begin with a reminder that Parliament has been presented today with not one but two agreements concerning our relations with Morocco. There is a broad consensus across Parliament regarding Morocco’s involvement in EU programmes, a text which was voted on earlier and for which I was the shadow rapporteur. This Protocol is in keeping with the advanced status Morocco enjoys in its relations with the EU. It will allow Morocco to get effectively involved in devising and supervising the implementation of current and future EU programmes. Furthermore, Morocco is treated as an equal partner of the Member States because (subject to the possible financial aid it could apply for) it will contribute to the EU budget for the programmes of interest to it. I can only hope that we will also successfully find the same consensus for the EU–Morocco Agreement on agricultural and fishery products. I believe that the repercussions this agreement will have for the agricultural and fisheries sectors at EU level are dealt with appropriately in the final text. On the other hand, our Moroccan partners regard this agreement as a test of the credibility of our commitment to support a country involved in a huge reform process being carried out on a consensual basis.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing. (RO) The European Union has made a habit of signing trade agreements with third countries to the detriment of its farmers. Our farmers are obliged to compete with cheaper products originating from outside the EU, which fail to meet the same standards of hygiene or animal welfare. I would like to stress that European farmers need to be compensated for the losses suffered as a result of deregulating agricultural trade with Morocco.

I also believe that we need to show solidarity with Morocco, given the fragile political situation in this region. However, we must not forget that the intensification of agriculture in this country will result in excessive use of water resources and could also cause serious environmental problems. At the same time, I call on the European Commission to ensure, prior to signing this agreement, that imported products will not come from farms using child labour.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE), in writing. (FR) I understand the concerns over this agreement, which has been under discussion since 2008 and which is going to be adopted, but guarantees have been put in place to protect the interests of European producers.

The quotas remain the same, Moroccan products will not have access to the European market during the peak sales periods for European products, and socioeconomic and environmental criteria will have to be met by the Moroccans.

We must ensure that there is free, undistorted competition and we must defend the interests of European agricultural operators. If market imbalances appear, compensatory measures to help European farmers will have to be implemented. With the expansion of the Moroccan market, we are going to be able to increase our exports to that country, too.

It is at the same time a reward for Morocco for its democratic reforms, and it would be dangerous to reject the agreement. We thus have to strike a balance between protection for our agriculture and our special partnership with the Moroccans.

That is the spirit in which I support this agreement, although I will monitor carefully its implementation. It is possible to preserve our agricultural model and open up our market at the same time. Thank you.

 
  

(1) See minutes.

Last updated: 20 May 2012Legal notice