By an overwhelming vote, 415 votes in favor, 189 against and 49 abstentions, the European Parliament (EP) adopted in a plenary session, the Morocco-EU Fisheries Agreement.
Immediately after the proclamation of the vote, Morocco expressed, in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, appreciation for “the collective action of European institutions and EU member states” and “hailed their continued commitment in favor of the strategic partnership” binding the two parties.
The adoption of the fisheries agreement that covers the maritime waters of the Kingdom including its southern provinces confirms if need be that “Morocco is the only country legally entitled, within the framework of the exercise of its sovereignty, to negotiate and sign agreements covering the Moroccan Sahara,” said the Foreign Ministry in the statement.
In its final version, the new fisheries agreement defines, among other things, the fishing zones and sets the conditions for access by the European fleet to Moroccan waters. It provides for an increase of 30 percent of the financial payment to Morocco, which will thus go up from €40 million a year to €52.2 million.
The text also provides for the implementation of improvement measures to increase benefits for the local populations in the concerned areas as these populations will benefit from the socio-economic advantages of the agreement, mainly in terms of infrastructure, basic social services, enterprise creation, vocational training, development projects and modernization of the fishing sector.
Besides, several technical conditions have been included in the new agreement in order to preserve the sustainability of fisheries resources and protect the marine environment.
Tuesday’s vote is the final stage of the fisheries agreement endorsement at the European level. Now, it will have to be adopted by the Moroccan Parliament before its entry into force in the next few months.
It is worth noting that the fisheries sector has always been an important component of the Morocco-EU partnership and that the agreement adopted on Tuesday “preserves, consolidates and develops the achievements of more than 30 years in this field.”
The fisheries agreement between Morocco and the EU, which sets the conditions for access for the European fleet and provides the requirements for sustainable fishing, was endorsed by the Council of the European Union end of last November.
It is worth noting that again that Rabat suspended ties with Brussels early 2016 after the General Court of the EU annulled on December 2015 the deal on the grounds that it illegally applied to the disputed Western Sahara.
The fisheries agreement allowing 126 EU fishing vessels from 11 EU countries to fish in the Atlantic fishing ground in Morocco expired July 14. Around 70 European fishing boats which were still on Moroccan coasts were given an ultimatum to leave the country following the expiry of the deal.
The last protocol with the Kingdom of Morocco expired on 14 July 2018. The new protocol gives EU vessels access to the waters covered by the agreement and the protocol in force.
The new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) is part of a broader relationship under the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco. It strengthens the bilateral relations and establishes a dialogue on fisheries governance.