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Procedure : 2011/0139(NLE)
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Texts tabled :

A7-0394/2011

Debates :

PV 12/12/2011 - 13
CRE 12/12/2011 - 13

Votes :

PV 14/12/2011 - 7.4
CRE 14/12/2011 - 7.4
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0569

Debates
Monday, 12 December 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

13. EU-Morocco fisheries partnership agreement - Future protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and financial compensation provided for in the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:

- A7-0394/2011 by Carl Haglund, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, setting out a recommendation on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco setting out the fishing opportunities and financial compensation provided for in the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Morocco (11226/2011 - C7-0201/2011 - 2011/0139 (NLE));

- the oral question to the Commission on the future Protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and financial compensation provided for in the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco, by Carl Haglund on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Carmen Fraga Estévez on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) (O-000319/2011 - B7-0671/2011).

 
  
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  Carl Haglund, rapporteur. – Mr President, I will take the opportunity to present both issues at the same time – as you proposed. Allow me to start with the resolution that my dear colleague Carmen Fraga Estévez and I have drafted together. It concerns a resolution on the current arrangement with Morocco, something that has been debated several times in this House especially over the past year.

I am happy that we have come to a point in time where we have been able to agree among many groups on the content of this resolution. I know there are some alternative resolutions, but the main message remains: that Parliament wants to see a better agreement with Morocco in the future, and I am happy that, together, we have been able to identify that the current arrangements with Morocco are desirable. However, they need to be economically and ecologically far more sustainable than they are today. So I am happy with the resolution. I am sure that there will be a broad majority in support of the resolution. My colleague Carmen Fraga Estévez will probably get back on this.

Concerning my report on the same issue: we have been dealing with this topic in the Committee on Fisheries for a long period of time and – in light of the resolution, which clearly states that the current arrangements are not very good – I would like to explain why we need to vote against this report.

When I say ‘against’, I think it is important to note at this point in time that my initial recommendation for the Committee on Fisheries was not to consent to this agreement. The reasons are very well outlined in the brief resolution. A fisheries partnership agreement – and I say a ‘partnership’ agreement – should be viewed as a fisheries ‘partnership’ agreement, something which benefits both parties. Unfortunately, as we can see from the very good ex-post evaluation report, we have an agreement in front of us that is economically far from sustainable. The evaluation report states very clearly that, of all the fisheries partnership agreements, this places the heaviest burden on European taxpayers.

Practically speaking, the return on the agreement is negative. Many agreements have a positive return with about a 40% positive return, while this one has a negative return with only 65 cents return on every euro invested. This is a very bad deal for European taxpayers. On top of this, of course, there are the ecological aspects and I actually find them far more troubling.

The basic principle of fisheries partnership agreements is that we fish the surplus; in other words fish which is there to be fished and not over-fished. Therefore it is disturbing to note that out of the eleven fish stocks covered by the agreement – we have only been able to assess nine of the eleven as two of them lack data – nine fish stocks are over-fished. In other words, we are not fishing the surplus; we are fishing more than the surplus, which is ecologically unsustainable and goes against the basic principle behind these EU agreements which we have laid out in the common fisheries policy. This is also a reason why we need change.

With these things explained, I think it is quite clear that we need to pass the resolution to show our Commissioner – who is sitting right there – that she has our backing for a new agreement, but at the same time a better agreement which takes into account all the problems outlined in the ex-post evaluation report.

I also want to take the opportunity to say that from Parliament’s point of view, working on this dossier has not been the easiest because of timing and because of the new arrangement where Parliament is obliged to consent to these agreements. This is an arrangement which came with the Lisbon Treaty; it is both an obligation and a responsibility for us as Members of this House to actually examine these agreements.

In light of what I have done and in light of what the two committees who took the opportunity to give an opinion on this agreement have done, it is clear that we should not accept the current arrangements. That is why we should vote ‘no’. I can tell you that the Committee on Development and the Committee on Budgets both gave opinions on my report; both recommended for us not to consent to the current arrangements. I think that is a very strong signal from both the Committee on Development and the Committee on Budgets.

In the Committee on Fisheries we had a very tight vote which ended up in favour of the report, and I am sure we will have a tight vote also on Wednesday when we vote on the actual issue. But I urge all colleagues to take the responsibility which the Lisbon Treaty gives us, and examine the current arrangements very thoroughly and at the same time note the fact that we are calling for a future agreement with the Moroccans. This should not be seen as a hostile move towards our partners; it should rather be seen as us taking ourselves seriously on a very important issue.

Finally, I would like to thank all my colleagues for their good cooperation on this issue. I am aware that all of us do not share the same approach, but I want to thank colleagues for a constructive dialogue so far and I am sure we can handle this issue in a constructive manner despite certain differences. I will end my speech here.

 
  
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  Carmen Fraga Estévez, author. (ES) Mr President, the fact that we are currently within the extension period of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Morocco is simply because the Commission did not fulfil its obligation at the time by requesting a negotiating mandate or reporting the agreement well in advance if it was not being fulfilled. This is nothing to do with the fishing fleet: they are neither responsible nor should they have to suffer the consequences. Therefore, I strongly advocate resolving this situation by ratifying it.

I do not agree with those who oppose it, whether it is for the political issues in the Sahara, or the negative results in the fishing evaluation report. In that regard, I would like to refer back to 2006 and my report on the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco when this Chamber was very firm both in terms of the benefits that the Saharan people should receive, as well as denouncing a disastrous negotiation, the loopholes in which have led to the poor results.

I would stress, however, that I do not think any of these issues are going to be resolved by sending the fishing fleet home. On the contrary, I think we should look at the future of our fishing relationship with Morocco.

Furthermore, Commissioner, we are again in the situation where there are less than three months of the extension period remaining and there is still no negotiating mandate. The sector is again plunged into uncertainty, but this time it has taken the initiative and acted responsibly alongside the Moroccan fishing sector and, with the agreement of their respective administrations, together they have drawn up an action plan for the future, which was delivered to you in Brussels last week.

This is the reason why Mr Haglund, on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and I, on behalf of my group, have tabled an oral question and a motion for a resolution which look to the future, a future based on new foundations which try to make up for the mistakes that were made and which have the approval of all interested parties.

I simply request that the Commission is …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: RAINER WIELAND
Vice-President

 
  
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  Maria Damanaki, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, I welcome the opportunity to share with you my assessment referring to the current situation and my views on the future of our fisheries agreement with Morocco. Let me start first with the interim protocol. You are now going to decide whether or not this protocol can be concluded. The lead committee has adopted a positive recommendation, but I know that many of you are not convinced, so let me explain our position.

As you know, this one-year protocol – an interim protocol – was agreed with Morocco in February this year, just before the previous one expired. I am convinced that this decision was right. I believe even now that we have done the right thing. Why? Because the interim protocol provided us with the time to address those legal and political issues which are related to fishing in the waters of the Western Sahara.

We have pressed Morocco to provide us with reliable information that the local population benefits from the exploitation of these waters, as is required by international law. These efforts have given some potentially positive results. For the first time, the current protocol includes a formal requirement for Morocco to report on benefits and their geographic distribution, and in so doing it sets an important precedent for any future protocol.

With regard to economic and environmental issues, the mandate to extend the previous protocol did not leave us much room for manoeuvre during the last round of negotiations. In other words, we really did not have the possibility to go for a better agreement referring to economic and environmental issues. However, it is clear that any future negotiations will have to result in a better deal. After all, this interim protocol made it possible for fishing activities to continue without interruption.

I know that a lot of you are not convinced about this, but I would just like to remind you that this is really important for some hundreds of European vessels fishing there, most of which are small-scale vessels.

On the basis of a decision taken by the Council in July, the protocol is now being applied provisionally. Indeed, there is less than three months left before it expires at the end of February next year. So I can understand that your rapporteur, Mr Haglund, and Ms Fraga Estévez and others are not happy that Parliament is able to express itself only now. But this is not our fault. We have done everything possible to speed things up. In any event I am glad that Parliament has proceeded to this plenary vote without further delay. I can assure you that the outcome is of great importance to all of us. In any case, we are going to respect Parliament’s vote. That is something I would like to make absolutely clear. Your vote next Wednesday will be respected by us.

Let me also assure you that we are taking very seriously the comments made in Mr Haglund’s report, as well as the issues he raises and the issues raised in your motion for a resolution arrived at today. So in the case of any agreement, we have to significantly improve the text with regard to environmental, economic and legal/political aspects.

Let me say here a few words on recent developments in Morocco and on the state of relations between the European Union and Morocco, against which your decision today should also be judged. The winds of change that have affected the Southern Mediterranean and some countries beyond have touched Morocco too. So what is the Commission’s assessment of this? The Commission assessment is that, in Morocco, the authorities have launched a significant process of reform with the elaboration of a new constitution, increasing democratic accountability and respect for human rights as well as the successful holding of parliamentary elections which have brought new forces to power. The European Union, at all levels, has welcomed these changes. This House has also called for the EU to support the process of democratic reform in Morocco. That is the framework we have to bear in mind when making our decisions.

As I said in the Committee on Fisheries last month, the Commission is in the process of preparing a proposal to the Council for a new negotiating mandate. At first we thought of waiting for your vote on Wednesday, but then we understood that it would be too late for our preparations and too late for you to vote on the substance. That is why we have already worked towards taking this initiative, in order to be ready in case this House gives us a positive signal to go forward on Wednesday. So we have done the preparations. If you give your consent to the interim protocol, we are ready to go forward.

What are the main parameters of this better deal with Morocco that we should be aiming at? First, on economic profitability. We are definitely seeking value for money. It is imperative that any new protocol should ensure a better utilisation of available fishing possibilities as well as an overall financial envelope that clearly reflects market value, as other committees of this House are asking for. Second, on environmental sustainability. This means that we will be defining fishing possibilities based on best available scientific advice and also that we will be targeting only the surplus. Third, on international legality. With regard to the issue of the waters off Western Sahara, we will fully respect international law. There are a number of options on how to achieve this. We are working on all of them. If we were to follow the option of including the waters off Western Sahara, then we would need to demonstrate, through a strict and rigorous reporting mechanism, that there are economic benefits for the regions and local populations concerned. This would become a condition in the new protocol.

On all these issues, we will draw on the conclusions from the implementation of the present protocol as well as from the debates in this House. The Committee on Fisheries last month recommended that Parliament consent to the conclusion of the protocol. If that approach is followed by this House, then we will very soon be ready to move ahead towards a better protocol to this agreement.

 
  
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  Isabella Lövin, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Development. – Mr President, in the middle of the Sahara, Morocco has built a 2 700-kilometre-long wall which is the longest wall in the world after the Great Wall of China and is guarded by 120 000 soldiers and millions of landmines. It will also become the world’s longest conveyor belt, transporting phosphate resources out of the territory.

Morocco took the country of Western Sahara in 1975 using napalm and phosphorus bombs. That was an attack on a people abandoned by their Spanish colonisers and was a contravention of international law. The fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco, including the waters of the Western Sahara, is in fact illegal. This has been established by the legal services of this House in a recent opinion, which overrules the previous legal opinion of the Commission, which was written before it was possible to establish two things – firstly, if the EU was actually fishing in Western Sahara and, secondly, whether or not the financial payment was to the benefit of Western Sahara and if the fishing had the consent of the people of that territory.

There are now two answers to those questions – 74% of the EU fleet capacity does operate in the waters of Western Sahara, and the people of this region have not been consulted on the matter. I have seen the answers to these questions, which Morocco gave to the Commission one year ago. They make it one hundred per cent clear that Morocco is not going to recognise there is even such a thing as Western Sahara. They do not even mention Western Sahara.

This makes one other thing very clear – namely that Morocco does not need this agreement. Morocco has a domestic fleet that is bigger than that of Spain. They have the national fisheries policy objective of tripling fisheries’ contribution to GNP, doubling domestic employment and increasing domestic consumption of fish. In 1999, Morocco terminated the EU fisheries agreement for those very reasons, and because of the EU over-fishing that is now also taking place. It is extremely clear that Morocco only wants to keep the fisheries agreement with the EU for one reason: to legitimise Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara by making the EU an accomplice in this criminal act.

It would be shameful to this House and to the entire European Union if we, as a proponent of human rights and defenders of international justice and democracy, gave our consent to this shameful agreement.

 
  
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  François Alfonsi, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Budgets.(FR) Mr President, the Committee on Budgets wished Parliament to withhold its consent to the fisheries agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco. I should point out that in practice, withholding our consent would have no effect, since the agreement was concluded in February 2011, and therefore expires in one month’s time. The Committee on Budgets also rejected a proposal to remove the budget commitments linked to this agreement for the coming year.

Nonetheless, by expressing this opinion against the proposal, the Committee on Budgets wanted to send a warning signal. This agreement entails damaging environmental consequences, since it is well known that these fishing grounds are overfished. It also entails problems in terms of the legality of the expenditure, in that the Moroccan Government still refuses to budge on the decolonisation of Western Sahara, and three quarters of the fishing ground in question borders the Sahrawi coast.

If Parliament were to follow the Committee on Budgets’ example and vote against consenting to this protocol, it would send a strong message to the Commission concerning the negotiation of future agreements. At a time when the whole southern Mediterranean rim is waking up to democracy, it would also send a strong message to the Moroccan Government, encouraging it to begin the process of democratic reform, especially with respect to the people of Western Sahara.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I will deal first with the subject of the provisional protocol.

As shadow rapporteur for my group, I would like to convey a message to the rapporteur: I hope that when the time comes for the report on the funding of maritime affairs and fisheries, on which I am the rapporteur and Mr Haglund a shadow rapporteur, we will be able to have more regular discussions than we have had on this report.

I would like to repeat what I have said, and remind him that I am, and always have been, available to discuss all the subjects that we have already worked on and will, I hope, work on together.

The fisheries agreement currently in force between the EU and Morocco is a one-year extension, as already mentioned, of the previous agreement that the Commission proposed. As you know, this agreement will end on 27 February next; in other words in two months’ time, as Mr Alfonsi has just said. It allows ten EU Member States to fish in Moroccan waters, and whether we like it or not, it benefits local inhabitants. The aid which the EU pays to the Moroccan industry supports fisheries policy development throughout the whole of that country.

I call upon my fellow Members to vote in favour of this agreement, as it is mutually beneficial. Our consent will allow negotiations to begin on a new fisheries agreement, with new criteria attached. Withholding our consent, on the other hand, would send a very negative signal to the whole region, at this time of democratic reform. Morocco is a vital partner for the European Union. EU support should consist of more than just declarations: we make plenty of those here. It should also consist of agreements, and practical action.

The resolution on the future agreement by our group and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe sends a strong signal to the Commission to negotiate an agreement that is profitable and ecologically viable, and will allow the EU to make good use of fishing opportunities. However, as you know, we must first vote in favour of the provisional agreement.

 
  
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  Ulrike Rodust, on behalf of the S&D Group. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, this House has now been dealing with the fisheries agreement between the European Union and Morocco for over a year, and I am sure that tomorrow’s vote will not be the end of it. This agreement has become a highly emotive issue. The whole of Parliament is talking about the agreement; the debate has been a matter of controversy within all the groups in recent days and weeks.

This is a fisheries agreement that needs careful analysis. What is the result of such analysis? Those of us who are members of the Committee on Fisheries are agreed that this agreement is not ecologically sustainable, because it contributes to overfishing. I regret to say that this has rather been forgotten in the debate so far, but nonetheless it is a key point. In view of the catastrophic state of the world’s seas, the European Union should not be allowed to overfish its own waters, much less waters belonging to third countries. This protocol also has no economic merit. There is no win-win situation for us. In addition, there remains the Western Sahara question. I am sure we are agreed that the agreement must be in accordance with international law.

The current protocol on which we are going to vote has all these shortcomings. For this reason, it is not possible to vote in favour of it. We are now being consoled with the idea that it will all change in the future. I hope that is so, and that our resolution will help the Council and the Commission to get things right in the negotiations with Morocco. The only convincing reason for voting in favour is that the protocol is about to expire and the Commission has asked us not to bring about a break in it, because that would make the new negotiations more difficult. It assures us that all our demands will be incorporated into the new protocol. Not only is that something I am expecting, but indeed I am relying on it being the case.

 
  
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  Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the Commissioner must excuse us if some of us feel outrage at the existing agreement. You only have to look at the evaluation study to recognise its faults. The study makes absolutely clear that this is the least successful of all the bilateral fisheries agreements agreed by the European Union. It is one under which our taxpayers are paying EUR 36 million a year – for what? Very little. The fish we land does not even end up in the European Union: it goes down to Africa or gets sold on to the Asian market. The ship-owners – there are 80 ships, more or less, on a constant basis there – are paying just EUR 2 million. That is a subsidy of extraordinary proportions.

Not surprisingly, when we look at the issue of sustainability and we recognise that these fishermen are fishing in waters which are described as ‘fully-exploited’ or ‘over-exploited’, there are questions here about the whole sustainability aspect.

I think we can have confidence that the Commissioner will do her very best to negotiate a new arrangement which meets the criteria of sustainability and the social requirements referred to in the declaration. She can also have a smile on her face, as she was not responsible for negotiating the appalling arrangement we have in place at the moment.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(ES) Mr President, evidently I oppose not only the extension of the current agreement, but also a new agreement, and the reasons why have already been mentioned. There are three types: legal, economic and ecological.

Legally speaking, it is a simple issue. Morocco negotiates using resources that are not theirs and two courses of action can be taken from here: either the Saharan territorial waters are excluded from the negotiations, which has not occurred up to now, or international law is respected, demanding that this agreement respects the benefits for the local population, but also their wishes, Commissioner, the wishes of the local population to which no one has yet referred.

From an economic standpoint, it is also clear that the agreement is a shambles because under no circumstances does it lead to a benefit, and it is also economic profligacy, even more so during conditions like those we are currently experiencing. The ecological issue is even more serious, however.

We are faced with a situation where the agreements should respect a maxim: exploitation of surplus stocks only. When it comes to Moroccan waters, we find overfishing is already taking place by local fishing, and we can add to this the contribution we Europeans are making.

There are three elements for voting against the extension and a new agreement, therefore, which are legal, economic and ecological. Furthermore, for once, I think it would be good for this Parliament not to bow to the pressure and blackmail of the Moroccan Government, to act responsibly accordingly and, in particular, guarantee its credibility.

 
  
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  João Ferreira, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, by proposing to extend this agreement the Commission is caught in the trap of its own incoherence and contradictions. The Commission ordered and paid for an ex post evaluation by an external consultancy after the agreement had been in place for four years.

The evaluation was clearly negative, both in economic terms, from the point of view of its utility to the Member States’ fleets, and in ecological terms, from the point of view of the perilous state of conservation of various fish stocks, not to mention any positive impact on the Moroccan fishing sector, which is, as in other cases, much reduced or zero.

Faced with the result of this evaluation, the Commission has come here to say that the report did not necessarily represent the Commission’s position, but it did not, as it should have done, counter the analysis therein with any objective data that might have contradicted it. However, the most serious issue raised by this agreement, which justified our opposition to it in 2005 and likewise justifies our opposition today, is that the agreement is illegal under international law.

The agreement with Morocco covers the exploitation of a natural resource over which Morocco has no jurisdiction under international law. According to the International Court of Justice, Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara has never been recognised from 1975 to the present day. By including waters off Western Sahara, this agreement contravenes all the resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations on this issue, particularly the 2009 resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the non-self-governing territories.

It is noteworthy that the legitimate representatives of the Sahrawi people were never given a say on this agreement: they were completely ignored, along with their will. This is an obligation derived, contrary to what you said, Commissioner, this is an obligation derived from international law, and let us not simply be satisfied with Morocco’s assertions that the people of Western Sahara are benefiting from this agreement.

I should say that we do not disagree in principle with fishing agreements with third countries. On the contrary, we have supported several of them, despite their many limitations and shortcomings. However, these agreements should be a free expression of the sovereign will of the peoples and countries involved, and should not provide cover for the pillage of natural resources as is happening here. The European Union is, unfortunately, a party to this pillage. Our opinion is that the only solution to this situation is to exclude the waters of Western Sahara from this agreement and to set up a process of dialogue with the legitimate representatives of the Sahrawi people …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  John Stuart Agnew, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since the 1970s. If this fisheries deal goes ahead, the EU will be in breach of international law. We know it, the UN knows it, and even Parliament’s legal services know it. The financial contribution to Morocco will be EUR 36 million every year for EU boats to plunder overfished stocks. The Commission has provided no assurances that the Western Saharan people will benefit from this deal, and I have no doubt that the money will be hoovered up by the Moroccan authorities. Despite all this, the Commission does not care and wants its deal. UK boats that operate in the area go to great lengths to make sure local people benefit, so it would be a shame for them to be disrupted.

This all demonstrates the failure of EU control over UK fisheries and trade. I am appalled that the Liberal Democrat political group tried to cancel this public debate and submitted a resolution that urges the Commission to close the deal as quickly as possible. This whole issue shows just how little the EU cares for democracy and human rights around the world.

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

 
  
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  Chris Davies (ALDE), Blue-card question. – Mr President, I would just like to ask the Honourable Gentleman what evidence he has that the Liberal Democrat Group, under the leadership of our rapporteur Carl Haglund, tried to cancel this debate? I believe that is not true.

 
  
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  John Stuart Agnew (EFD), Blue-card answer. – Mr President, I understand that the coordinators wanted to go straight to the Chair and have no vote, which seems a funny way of going about democracy.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE).(PT) Mr President, the external dimension of the common fisheries policy (CFP), in general, and the fisheries partnership agreements (FPAs) with third countries, in particular, constitute a crucial aspect of the CFP. The EU-Morocco FPA is one of the most important for the southern European fleet, arising at a political juncture when it is important not to close any doors.

Indeed, the FPAs enable the Union fleet to access external fisheries traditionally frequented by the European Union and indispensable for obtaining major fisheries products which help to guarantee Europe’s food supply. At the same time, they also play a major role in the economies and social development of third countries.

However, the European Union’s action at international level must also be consistent with the CFP’s principles and objectives, namely the sustainability and preservation of marine ecosystems. In this context, the new sustainable fishing agreement between the European Union and Morocco should be geared towards sustainable management of fisheries resources through a transparency clause ensuring that the exploitation of fish stocks by Union vessels in third country waters is limited to the resources that these countries cannot, or do not wish to, catch themselves.

As such, the new EU-Morocco agreement should have a credible scientific basis and an effective method of monitoring and supervising its implementation, safeguarding the interests of the Union fleet, of marine ecosystems and of local populations, whom the agreement should also benefit. In this respect, and in general terms, I am bound to regret that the European Union’s high standards of behaviour, which propose respect for local populations and the safeguarding of their fisheries resources, are not observed by other fleets that sometimes fish in the same waters, which will, in fact, happen illegally if the European fleet withdraws.

 
  
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  Guido Milana (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a dreadful agreement, a dreadful extension and a dreadful performance over the years: these are the keywords in this debate!

Well, we must consider this phase closed. If the Commission – or, rather, the Commissioner, who did not draw up this agreement – asks us to consent to the agreement, we must put this phase behind us and concentrate in particular on the new agreement and on what will happen in the coming years.

As someone who has upheld the Sahrawi cause for many years, I am not sure if it is a good idea not to have any further relations with Morocco. We cannot replace the agreement, the lack of which would not help us resolve the conflict, which has been going on for more than 30 years.

What Ms Lövin said was music to my ears. I wholeheartedly agree with her, although I do not think the fisheries agreement is the way to solve the problem. We certainly will not find a solution when the UN has had a mission in place for 30 years that has been incapable of resolving all the humanitarian issues involved.

We should therefore say ‘yes’ to the resolution and ‘yes’ to extending this agreement, because the resolution should encourage the Commission and spur it on to negotiate hard, both to ensure that the new agreement truly responds to these requirements, and to ensure that it is a sign that the Union’s foreign policy must heed. Baroness Ashton cannot ignore the Sahrawi question any longer!

 
  
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  Ivo Vajgl (ALDE).(SL) Mr President, yesterday I returned from Tindouf, where I saw just how much the population of the Western Sahara benefits from our policies and from all who claim to make agreements in the interests of this population. This agreement must be rejected and I strongly urge you to do so, for moral, political and ethical reasons and for reasons of international law.

This agreement is not a normal fisheries agreement. This is an agreement that will entrap international law and justice. This is an agreement that offends the dignity of this nation of the Western Sahara, which is already suffering under Moroccan occupation. Therefore we cannot treat this as just another routine fisheries agreement. This is a political agreement and we will be taking the wrong side if we vote in favour.

 
  
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  Rui Tavares (Verts/ALE).(PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to vote on an agreement which is highly unusual in that it relates, in part, to what the United Nations has ruled is illegally occupied territory. This means that we are not only talking about Morocco’s natural resources, which are the subject of this agreement, but about the national resources of a people that does not have the right – or that has not had the right – to self-determination.

As a Portuguese Member, I am bound to remember the case of Timor-Leste, when the European Union repeatedly censured Australia for being in negotiations with Indonesia over the resources of an illegally occupied country. No Member who defended the Timorese cause in this House can, with a clear conscience, vote for such an agreement, which would make the European Union the beneficiary of resources that do not belong to it any more than they do to the state with which it is negotiating, and which would make us accomplices in a robbery for which there has, to date, been no compensation and which has not, to date, been put right.

There cannot be any agreement concerning the natural resources of a people that has not had the right to self-determination, while that people is unable to discuss its resources.

 
  
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  Gabriel Mato Adrover (PPE).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, it is clear that something is wrong when we are debating an extension today, in the month of December, which ends in scarcely two months.

Nonetheless, we are discussing an agreement that is important to the European Union and to Spain in particular, an agreement that cannot be used as an excuse for diverse claims that are not strictly fishing based, and one which I agree should be extended despite the fact that many aspects of the agreement are unsatisfactory.

I have always defended agreements with third countries, and even more so with neighbouring countries and those of such importance as the Kingdom of Morocco. It is precisely for that reason that I hope that the extension will be ratified and that a new agreement is negotiated, which is balanced, fair and beneficial for all signatories and allows our fleet to continue working.

I am confident that this agreement will be reached, and that, as well as being economically viable and guaranteeing the sustainability and conservation of resources, it will also have positive consequences for the signatories from a social and working perspective.

However, I also robustly defend that the agreements must be respected and comprehensively fulfilled, and for that reason and to be consistent, I questioned the agreement with Morocco for the agricultural sector and I emphatically support the agreement for the fishing sector.

We do not have anything against Morocco, quite the opposite, but this does not detract from the fact that we demand that the agreements are respected as is deserved by the citizens we represent.

This Parliament should send a clear and open message to the Commission that they should negotiate and negotiate well, without delay and with transparency. Remember that poor negotiations always bring poor consequences. There are many examples.

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

 
  
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  Lucas Hartong (NI), Blue-card question. – Mr President, I would like to ask my esteemed colleague: who would profit more? All the Member States of the EU, or Spain only?

 
  
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  Gabriel Mato Adrover (PPE), Blue-card answer.(ES) Mr President, in any event, I think that when one Member State benefits, we all benefit as members of this European Union.

 
  
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  Josefa Andrés Barea (S&D).(ES) Mr President, we as the Socialist Group consider that it is important for this extension to be ratified, as it will be the foundation for us to reach a better agreement.

This agreement, which ends on 27 February 2012 (only scarcely three months remain, as stated by the Commissioner), has been negatively assessed from an economic standpoint. However, the importance to the 11 countries of the European Union has not been assessed, which I mention due to the question that has just been posed. They do benefit from this agreement, as do the 800 European Union workers who are in employment because of the agreement, as well as the fact that thousands of jobs have been created in Morocco, and also in the Sahara.

When it comes to sustainability as an important component, reference has been made to the ex post report. For the next agreement, we request scientific data that specifies the fishing capacity, given that according to the aforementioned ex post report, the European Union only fishes 10% of the total that is fished. According to the report, the impact is negligible.

A new agreement is needed, Commissioner, a new improved agreement, a new agreement under the Treaty of Lisbon, as you said, a new agreement with this additional specification of a detailed report about how to apply the agreement and which population benefits, and about the compliance of international law. The agreement should also benefit both parties, however.

The overall architecture: it is necessary for the European Union to prioritise the association agreement between the European Union and Morocco; a social and economic aspect to international agreements; solidarity and the strategic sector. Europe cannot be left behind on the international stage. The ratification of this extension and the next agreement are both important.

 
  
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  Thijs Berman (S&D). - Mr President, I am speaking on behalf of my colleague, Åsa Westlund, whose plane is late.

The European Parliament’s Legal Service has concluded that the Fisheries Agreement is against international law, since the UN has never recognised Morocco’s claim over the Western Sahara. Nothing shows that the wishes of the people of the Western Sahara are being respected or that this agreement benefits them.

The Community should therefore envisage either the suspension of the agreement or should apply the agreement in such a way that EU-flagged vessels are excluded from the exploitation of the waters off Western Sahara. There are additional arguments for the European Parliament not to give its consent: the current protocol has had the lowest cost-benefit ratio of any EU bilateral agreement, and it has fostered the fishing of many depleted stocks and failed to contribute to the development of the fisheries sector in Morocco. Given these facts, the EU…

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. – Thank you, Mr Berman. You had plenty of time left. It would have been better had you read a little more slowly. We need to think of the interpreters; otherwise, those listening in other languages will not be able to grasp what it is you want to tell the House.

 
  
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  Thijs Berman (S&D). - Mr President, I am deeply sorry for the interpreters, whom I like so much.

 
  
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  President. – May I take this opportunity to remind all Members that if you are reading out a written text, please do so in a way that enables it to be understood in all the official languages of the European Union.

(Catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, as all my colleagues have noted, the fisheries agreement with Morocco is by no means a partnership agreement. It is neither fair to the European Union, nor does it take account of the protection of fish stocks, and I will therefore vote against it. However, I must also say that this is not a unique situation. For the same reasons, we ought to step up the dialogue with our Black Sea neighbours, as a matter of urgency, in particular with Turkey, perhaps as part of a specific institutional framework modelled on the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D).(DE) Mr President, I am from Austria – a landlocked country – and therefore I do not look at the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Morocco through the mists of self-interest. On the contrary: I am interested in sustainable, fair fisheries and not in rapidly and greedily fishing the seas until stocks are depleted. Voting in favour of this protocol could only cement injustice further. It would be voting to squander money in a way that is not ecological and that goes against international law.

The EU pays more than EUR 36 million annually for access to Moroccan fishing grounds. That is out of all proportion to the jobs that it secures in the European Union. There are smarter ways of using this money for employment measures. Only once it is ensured that the Sahrawis receive their fair share of the fisheries in their coastal waters and that the sea is not overfished will we in the European Parliament be abiding by our own values and principles.

 
  
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  Antolín Sánchez Presedo (S&D).(ES) Mr President, the Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Morocco is in force because it was automatically renewed, given there were no objections to it. What has expired is the protocol that establishes the fishing opportunities and the compensations. After receiving the information, it has been provisionally extended and now Parliament should ratify it, in agreement with the guidelines of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Socialist group and I are completely in favour for three basic reasons: firstly, due to the nature of our relationship with Morocco, fishing cannot be an exception; secondly, due to the impact that may be felt from an interruption to activities in all areas, particularly the small-scale fleets, which are most affected, and the workers; and thirdly, because we want to send a positive signal to Morocco and to achieve a fair and balanced new protocol, which is in favour of the development of sustainable fishing, and which preserves the rights of those involved and is mutually beneficial.

 
  
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  Maria Damanaki, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I think that I must clarify some points.

I would like to underline that the Commission is here to defend the common European interest. Our common fisheries policy is about the common European interest, so I cannot accept arguments that, in the case of this agreement, only this or that Member State fishes there. There will be other agreements whereby other Member States will fish there. Also, we are all European citizens and all of us consume fish, which is a very important part of our diet. We are the world’s leading consumers of fish and we need to have good relations with all the nations across the Mediterranean and other areas. So, please, while I understand that we are going through a very difficult time, a very difficult situation, this separatist narrative is not really fruitful.

The second point I should clarify is that the Commission does indeed care about the rights of the people. We are not saying that we do not care about the rights of the people of Western Sahara. That is why we have gone for an interim protocol; that is why we have pressed the Moroccan Government to give us data on how the local population will benefit from this agreement or other agreements. That is why we have come to you with an interim protocol. That is why we are trying to negotiate a new agreement, under all the circumstances of which you are already aware.

What we are trying to ensure, I can assure you, is that any new agreement including the Western Sahara will be introduced only on condition that we are sure that the local population will benefit from it. We do care, but please be aware that it is not easy to solve the international problem through this agreement, and the Commission cannot accept that idea.

Let us be clear on this point. I am here to explain everything to you and to say very clearly that the Commission is going to respect your vote. I would like to have a clear answer: do you want a new agreement? I can promise you that I will do my best to obtain a better agreement. A better agreement means one that is economically profitable, environmentally friendly, and in accordance with international law. It is not as easy as it would appear from some speeches here to interpret international law.

So, please, I would like to have a clear answer on this. I can see that there are different opinions. I can see that some people are against the fisheries agreements in general; others are against this agreement in any event. Some others think that we need a better agreement; yes, but after all we need a clear line.

What I can say to finish, as I have used up a lot of time, is that the Commission is already preparing a negotiating mandate for the next agreement. I can assure you that, if we negotiate another agreement, it will be better than the previous one, but we need the consent of Parliament to do so. Let us be honest and face facts: if Parliament says ‘no’ to the agreement, then we can have no agreement. I would like a clear line on this.

Referring to the past, I agree with you that the agreements we had were not economically profitable or environmentally friendly, and that is why we are going to change them. That is why we are reforming the common fisheries policy, and I hope you are going to support us in order to get this reform through the Council and its decision-making process. We need this agreement, however. That is my opinion. We need to have good agreements, but we do need agreements, as otherwise we are going to be isolated from all these areas.

 
  
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  Carl Haglund, rapporteur. – Mr President, I should like to thank my colleagues for a constructive debate.

Let me say to the Commissioner that I am very happy, and I think all of us are very happy, that you are striving to have a good agreement in the future. There is no doubt, based on the debate, that this is something that we all want. I cannot, however, at all agree with the conclusion that we need to vote in favour of a terrible agreement that almost everyone seems to think is bad, just to give you a good agreement in the future. That reasoning does not work.

Our responsibility, according to the Lisbon Treaty, is to take a stance on the current protocol. We are not voting on a future protocol now; we are voting on the current protocol and the current protocol is bad. I will vote in favour of a good protocol next year if you deliver one. I promise.

There has been mention that this protocol delivers EU jobs. Let me tell you that every EU job created by this protocol is subsidised by EUR 45 000. Is that good economic policy and good spending of taxpayers’ money? No. Let me also tell you that only 15% of the sectoral support from Morocco has been used. Fifteen per cent, which means that 85% was unused. Keep that in mind.

I am very happy about the debate, which focuses on the future. I also want to do that. Our partnership with Morocco is important; we have the neighbourhood policy through which it has been concluded. I think everyone has stated very clearly – despite a few voices – that they want a good agreement in the future. That is what I have been telling the Moroccans all the time. I am happy the Commissioner is saying that. Let us focus on that.

But, before that, we need to take a clear stance, live up to our responsibilities and vote on my report – which is not on a future protocol, it is on the current protocol.

Concerning the Western Sahara, I am happy that the Commissioner is looking for different arrangements, because it is clear that there are so many colleagues in this House that find the current arrangements very problematic.

Let me also say that there are many countries in the Council who are critical: the Austrians, the Swedes, and lately the Bundestag, the Dutch, the Finns, the Cypriots, etc. are critical. So we also have a very tough debate with the Council, which is not unanimous on this.

I am looking forward to a ‘no’ vote on Wednesday.

 
  
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  President. – The motions for resolutions tabled under Rule 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure will be announced at a later date.

The joint debate is closed.

The vote will not take place tomorrow, but on Thursday, 15 December at 11.30.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. – (DE) The Commission wishes to extend the fisheries agreement with Morocco, which has been found to be ecologically damaging and which, at over EUR 36 million annually, is not only one of the most expensive agreements, but also one which benefits neither the European taxpayer nor the domestic population. Yet some people still say that EU policy is not dictated by the big lobbyists! An extension to the fisheries agreement cannot be justified – particularly since the two parties to the agreement have drawn it up so as to include the fish-rich waters of occupied Western Sahara, which are now threatened with overfishing. In view of the economic crisis it is all the more important that the EU stops squandering taxpayers’ money in this way, which robs small fishermen of their livelihoods while benefitting maritime big business. If the EU looks the other way then we will shortly be cultivating a new generation of Somali-style pirates in Western Sahara. The agreement contravenes both international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The EU, which likes to cloak itself in the mantle of democracy, human rights and international law, would be well advised to pay heed to such matters itself – whether we are talking about CIA operations, Kosovo or Western Sahara. The EU’s legalised plundering of the seas off occupied Western Sahara, which contravenes international law, must come to an end.

 
  
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  Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa (PPE), in writing. (PL) The Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Morocco is an emotional issue in the European Parliament. However, I would appeal to my fellow Members to engage in an objective debate on this subject. I agree that the most controversial issue is the vague territorial specifications. However, these should not dominate the debate or be misused to block the agreement. I think that as long as the UN has not formally resolved the issue of the status of Western Sahara, the scope of the agreement should be kept as it is.

I would like briefly to remind you that the agreement complies with international law and does not violate any of its provisions. Moreover, it is cost-effective and environmentally responsible. It generates profits and benefits for both the 11 EU Member States and the people of Morocco; approximately 800 jobs for European fishermen, support for thousands of jobs in the processing and coastal industries in Morocco, and also, as the European Commission points out, in Western Sahara. The agreement is politically and economically necessary, and a rejection of the proposal to extend it, against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, would send out a very negative message to the Moroccan authorities which have already started the process of democratisation.

 
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