Morocco-EU Fisheries Partnership: A Continuing Collaboration

From Brussels, Morocco and the European Union have decided, by means of a press release, on the fate of their cooperation in the field of fisheries this Thursday, July 13. Review of details.

A few days before the expiry of its protocol, the Morocco-European Union fisheries agreement was the subject of a meeting in Brussels between the Moroccan authorities and their European counterparts within the framework of a joint commission on fisheries. .

After an overall assessment of the implementation of the fisheries protocol which entered into force on July 18, 2019 for a period of 4 years, the two parties agreed to “continue their cooperation as provided for in the Partnership Agreement in the field of sustainable fisheries, which remains in force, so as to deepen their bilateral partnership”, indicates the joint press release published at the end of the 5th session of the said commission. This partnership, recalls the same source, essentially concerns “scientific campaigns, technical cooperation, the fight against illegal fishing, the economic integration of operators, safety measures at sea and the improvement of working and protection of seafarers”.

The same goes for scientific cooperation, which will continue, based on the recommendations contained in the report drawn up by the joint scientific committee. Common objective: to ensure the sustainability of fisheries resources in the region.

Beyond the expiration of the fishing protocol, which comes to an end on July 17, “projects for the development of the fishing sector in Morocco will be able to continue as planned by it”, due to the positive socio-economic impact on the sector, artisanal fishing, and sustainable aquaculture. These projects, which benefit young entrepreneurs and fishing cooperatives, have created jobs and brought women and young people into working life.

Satisfaction with Rabat and Brussels

The two parties, bound by an association agreement, signed in 1996 and which entered into force on March 1, 2000, have described their cooperation as exemplary, since it has allowed, in all circumstances, “operations of small-scale and industrial vessels , transparent and rigorous governance of the protocol, as well as continuous scientific monitoring of the state of the fishery resource”. The statement also highlights “a satisfactory implementation of the fisheries agreement and its protocol in its various dimensions”

On the Moroccan side, the Cherifian diplomacy reported a “positive and mutually beneficial” cooperation during these 4 years, during a press briefing at the end of the 3rd Ministerial Meeting of the Atlantic African States Process, Wednesday 12 July. “Preserving this important natural resource for Morocco and for Moroccans, and ensuring its sustainability”, such was the priority of the Moroccan Executive, during its evaluation of this fishing agreement, in consultation with its European partners.

The European side, for its part, has made it clear and unequivocal that it attaches “the utmost importance” to its partnership with Rabat in terms of fisheries. And to recall “the essential interest” that it attaches to its pursuit “in a spirit of trust, solidarity and mutual interest”.

The political dimension at the heart of the Morocco-EU partnership

The imminence of the expiry date of the fishing protocol, without any negotiations being undertaken for its renewal, has been the subject of much speculation in recent months, particularly on the fate of the Euro-Moroccan partnership in the field of fishing, and this for a reason: the verdict of European justice, on September 29, 2021, relating to the annulment of the decisions of the European Council on the subject of the agricultural and fishing agreements with Morocco, gave reason to a complaint filed by the Polisario. The 27 have since appealed against the decision of the European Court. However, Brussels and Rabat have agreed to continue their business partnership.

While the verdict would not be expected until 2024, the extension of the fisheries agreement between Morocco and the EU has been made difficult, as explained by the European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, speaking on this subject at the summit of the Ministers of the Environment of the 27 in Valladolid. “We want the renewal as soon as possible, but we need clarification from the court first,” says the EU official.

In fact, the fishing protocol allows 128 European vessels, including 92 Spanish vessels, in exchange for an amount of 208 million euros for 4 years, to access the fishing areas of Moroccan Atlantic waters, including off the Sahara. Being the main beneficiary of this regime, Spain, which derives 20% of its total fish production from Moroccan waters, found itself faced with an uncertain situation, which raised serious concerns in the country, since thousands of fishermen and their families live from this activity.

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