Morocco, EU Agree to Renew Fisheries Agreement
Morocco and the European Union (EU) have agreed on the content of the renewed 2014 future sustainable fisheries agreement and its implementation of the protocol, the two parties announced Friday in a joint statement.
The previous four-year deal expired on July 14, forcing the EU ships to leave the Moroccan waters.
"The two parties agreed on the provisions and improvements made on the texts to optimize the positive impact and benefits for local populations in the concerned zones," the statement said.
The agreement "includes fishing in the waters of Western Sahara", which is disputed between Morocco and the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, a source from the Moroccan ministry of foreign affairs told AFP.
The negotiations on the new deal have been ongoing since April 20, when Morocco and the EU started a round of talks in Rabat, followed by a second round of talks in June after the decision of the European Court of Justice to exclude Western Sahara waters from the agreement.
Notably, the European Court of Justice decided at the end of February that this agreement "is not applicable to Western Sahara and to its adjacent waters.”
"If the territory of Western Sahara were to be included within the scope of the fisheries agreement, that would be contrary to certain rules of general international law," it said.
Morocco rejected that decision while the Polisario Front, the indigenous Saharawi independence movement, praised it.
The Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between Morocco and the EU is based on successive protocols of understanding, and it allows European vessels to fish in the Moroccan maritime area in exchange for an annual European economic contribution of 30 million euros.
The ships of 11 countries are active in the area, including Spain, France, the Netherlands and Lithuania.