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Debates
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Agreement between the EU and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products and fishery products (debate)
MPphoto
 

  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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