EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement: an important step forward for both regions

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The new fisheries protocol between Morocco and the European Union, to which the European Parliament is due to give its consent on 10 December, will enable the resumption of sustainable, win-win fishing relations, argues Guido Milana.

Guido Milana is an MEP for the socialist S&D group and the vice-chair of the committee on fisheries. 

The fisheries protocol is intended to reactivate the existing fisheries partnership agreement through which the European Union has supported the modernisation of the Moroccan fisheries sector in return for fishing rights. The agreement provides for the authorisation of a limited number of vessels from EU member states to sustainably fish in Morocco’s waters, while EU financial contributions are put towards improving the local fishing sector. The newly worded protocol is a vastly improved agreement that addresses all of the concerns raised in 2011, when its predecessor was rejected by the European Parliament.

A good deal for Europe

Crucially, the new protocol provides a more balanced economic outcome for the EU. As a result of the Parliament’s position in 2011, the new text has achieved a 17% reduction in European Union funding, which has been made possible by a corresponding increase in the contributions of vessel owners. Equally, it provides for sustainable levels of additional fishing of surplus stocks for European vessels whilst ensuring an overall reduction in the number of vessels. Europeans can therefore be assured of the economic benefits of the new protocol.

A good deal for Morocco and the local populations

For Morocco, over 65,000 sustainable jobs are reliant on this agreement. The EU’s financial contribution from the previous agreement has facilitated important modernisation programmes geared toward raising the competitiveness of local Moroccan industries. The new Protocol would contribute towards improving the infrastructure of ports, and rejuvenating local fishing practices. Furthermore, the Protocol stipulates that the Moroccan authorities must provide regular reports to ensure that the funds are allocated in the most appropriate manner.

The new protocol also promotes higher sustainability and biodiversity standards in accordance with the EU’s common fisheries policy. Importantly, the new text concerns only the exploitation of surplus stocks, and introduces strengthened monitoring requirements for all vessels present in Moroccan waters.

Local populations

The protocol places strong obligations on Morocco to ensure that local populations benefit from the deal. Following the European Parliament’s demands, safeguards have been introduced to ensure the respect of human rights in the region. Sufficient checks and balances are now in place to provide local communities with the means to improve both socially and economically. If these standards are not met, there are mechanisms in place to provide for the possible suspension of the protocol.

In its vote on 27 November the European Parliament’s fisheries committee recognised these significant improvements by recommending the approval of the protocol. The vote in plenary is essential to improving economic relations between Morocco and the European Union but must also be seen as part of a wider strategy of reinforcing cooperation in the Mediterranean region as a whole.

I hope that during the opening of the plenary session this afternoon the Parliament will include in its agenda a resolution on Western Sahara human rights, calling on the European Union to be the main actor in finding a balanced solution in the region, and in overcoming the marginalization of part of the Western Sahara population.

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