Fishing: Western Sahara sinks EU-Morocco accord

15 December 2011
Presseurop
El País

"European parliament vetos fishing agreement with Morocco over Western Sahara," headlines El País. On 14 December, MEPs decided not to renew the agreement, set to expire in February 2012, that allows 119 European boats (100 of which are Spanish) to fish in Moroccan waters. In exchange, Rabat receives 36 million euros per year.

The European Commission wanted to renew the agreement for a year, while holding talks on a new compromise. However, the Madrid daily explains that "concerns over Western Sahara and the environment" were deemed more important by Strasbourg “which expressed scepticism on the issue of respect for Sahrawi rights."

The vote in parliament was largely based on a report by MEP Carl Haglund, who raised the question of the legality of an agreement that included fishing rights off the coast of Western Sahara, a terriory annexed by Morocco, which is not recognised by the EU, and the question of the benefit to the Sahrawi people. The liberal Finnish parliamentarian also expressed concern over the “excessive exploitation of fishing resources” and the “poor cost-benefit outcome” of the agreement.

El País points out that the decision, which "goes against the opinion of the European Commission and EU member states," has prompted opposition from the Spanish government. Morocco immediately ordered all European boats to leave its territorial waters, including waters off the coast of Western Sahara.