Saturday

20th Aug 2022

EU seeks to extend Morocco fish deal, despite legal opinion

  • Around 120 European boats fish off the disputed coast, for an annual fee of around €40m (Photo: Ross Thomson)

The European Commission will not stop work on a new fishery agreement with Rabat - despite a top EU legal opinion that invalidates the existing deal.

A European Court of Justice (ECJ) advisor on Wednesday (10 January) said the trade agreement violates the rights of people from Western Sahara.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Around 90,000 are thought to be living in the camps in Algeria (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

"By concluding that agreement, the EU was in breach of its obligation to respect the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination," advocate general Melchior Wathelet said in a non-binding opinion.

Morocco annexed the territory following colonial Spain's departure in 1975.

The ensuing conflict forced many of the indigenous Sahrawi to flee to neighbouring Algeria where they have been living in desolate refugee camps for some four decades.

While the war ended with a shaky ceasefire in 1991, some of the new generation are now threatening to take up arms. The forgotten crisis, food shortages, and a loss of faith in the Sahrawi leadership is leading the unrest.

Any hope for return to the annexed areas has also been frustrated by a French-led blockade at the United Nations Security Council.

Many others remain in the Moroccan-seized territory of the Western Sahara where they are treated as a second class citizens.

New fishery deal on horizon

But the EU commission appears unconcerned.

On Monday, it requested a mandate from the Council, representing member states, to launch a new fisheries deal with Morocco.

The current four-year pact expires in July. It allows 120 vessels from 11 EU countries to fish off the disputed coastline.

The 2013 deal costs the EU some €40 million annually in terms of access, support to the Moroccan fishery sector, and shipowner fees.

The commission will not comment until the final ruling of Luxembourg-based ECJ.

But a commission spokesman described its partnership with Morocco as rich and varied.

"It is our will not only to preserve the privileged relationship we share, but also to strengthen it," he said.

The political wing of the Saharwi, the Polisaro Front, has denounced the EU position.

Mohamed Sidati, Polisario's EU representative, said the commission's move to launch new trade talks ahead of any final judgment is a demonstration in deceit.

"Polisario view this as a clear and deliberate signal of the commission's empty commitments to support the UN-led political process," he said.

The Polisario in December 2016 had won a separate case against the EU commission at the EU court.

Judges at the time ruled that EU's association agreement with Morocco could not apply to the Western Sahara.

Wednesday's case on fisheries was lodged by the Western Sahara Campaign UK.

"It is time for the international community to enforce international law and allow the Saharawi, the indigenous people of Western Sahara, to decide for themselves who profits from the natural resources of their territory," said the British campaigners, in a statement.

Morocco-EU trade deal draws fire

The European Parliament has signed off a trade deal with Morocco which poses questions about the status of Western Sahara.

EU can't fish off Western Sahara coast, rules top court

The Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco, is off limits to a new fisheries deal between the EU and Morocco, following a verdict by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The current agreement runs out in July.

Opinion

EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy

Not extending the EU fisheries deal with Morocco to fish off the disputed coast of Western Sahara could deprive the Sahrawi people of much-needed income - and throw into question future EU foreign policy in the name of human rights.

Opinion

Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?

The former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have retained close ties with Russia since 1989. Yet this consensus may be shifting. At the UN, none of them supported Russia in the resolution condemning the Ukraine invasion.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

News in Brief

  1. China joins Russian military exercises in Vostok
  2. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  3. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  4. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  5. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  6. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  7. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  8. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us