MEPs from different political groups have signed a petition asking the EU Court of Justice to rule on whether the EU fishing agreement with Morocco – in the territory of Western Sahara – respects EU treaties and international law
The 2007 EU-Moroccan Fisheries Agreement was from the very beginning considered to be highly problematic, since the southern co-ordinates of the agreement were not stipulated, leaving it to Morocco as how to interpret where European vessels could fish. According to the agreement, fishing can take place in “the waters under the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco”. Problems arose because Morocco still illegally occupies Western Sahara, which contains fish-rich waters, and warnings that the agreement could be applied to waters within Western Sahara territory were ignored. Upon signing the agreement, the EU refused to clearly demarcate the area of its application.
The EU executive extended the bilateral agreement earlier this month, which will replace the existing agreement up to 27 February, 2012.
At least 77 European parliamentarians and groups are intending to submit a lawsuit to the Court against the illegal EU fishing agreement with Morocco.
MEP Raül Romeva – a Catalan Green MEP and a member of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group – said that the petition is “an initiative of the Cataluña’s Greens…and has enough support to present the lawsuit to the EU Court”, calling for “reviewing the agreement and excluding the Saharawi waters out of any deal with Morocco”.
The agreement stipulates a requirement to offer data to prove that the people of Western Sahara is benefiting from economic compensation for allowing European boats to fish in Moroccan waters. Romeva added that the EU “wants to learn first the regional impact of the agreement currently in action…if it [actually] benefits the local population of Western Sahara and if it meets the criteria for sustainable fisheries, before writing another proposal to negotiate the terms of a new agreement”.
"The only responsible way to act for the Commission is reviewing the agreement in order to exclude the waters of Western Sahara, on which the government of Morocco has no responsibility," Romeva insisted.