Marrakech - While EU Commissioner Stefan Fule in 2012 hailed the EU-Morocco agreement on the liberalization of trade in agricultural products, fish and fishery products as a sign of the EU’s credibility in advancing relations with its southern neighbor. This credibility now seems to be in doubt.
Marrakech – While EU Commissioner Stefan Fule in 2012 hailed the EU-Morocco agreement on the liberalization of trade in agricultural products, fish and fishery products as a sign of the EU’s credibility in advancing relations with its southern neighbor. This credibility now seems to be in doubt.
Moroccan press today carried reports that yesterday the Council of Europe endorsed the adoption of the Common Agricultural policy (CAP).
The Minister of Agriculture Aziz Akhannouch described the impact of the implementation of the CAP, if it is followed to its full extent, as potentially “catastrophic” for sales of Moroccan fruit and vegetables.
How can the EU Parliament at one moment ratify an agricultural agreement supporting the sale of Moroccan fruit and vegetables in Europe and then just a year later seemingly abrogate it by adopting a new CAP?
The EU is a union of different states with different interests, and its parliament often sees many long drawn out arguments. It is quite capable of holding two views on the same policy. There is no doubt that the EU foreign policy commitment to the special relationship with Morocco is strong and sincerely held.
However, there was sustained opposition in many quarters, especially Spanish and French farmers, to the importation of Moroccan fruit and vegetables into the EU because Moroccan labor costs are much lower than Europe’s, and Spanish and French farmers are heavily subsidized by the EU.
The adoption of the CAP could mean that Moroccan tomatoes exported at a price of 2 dirhams could rise to 4 dirhams according to a report in Les Ecos and this would make the price of Moroccan products uncompetitive.
Historically the CAP has been a protectionist policy to benefit EU farmers and their produce. It started when food was scarce after the Second World War, and the goal of the policy over the years was to keep farmers on their land and to protect their way of life.
The policy was originally about food security, and then it became a matter of “butter mountains” and “wine lakes”—EU bureaucracy gone mad, the hoarding of surpluses and the selling off of surplus products at historically low prices—dumping, as it is typically referred to.
The CAP was deeply unpopular in England and hurt some farmers but helped others. The British fishing industry was destroyed by EU policy and even now there is a strong element in the UK, notably the UKIP party, which wants to leave the EU, and now is calling for a referendum on the UK membership in the EU. This may or may not happen.
Akhannouch and the Moroccan government stood its ground over the EU-Morocco fishing agreement, which was passed by the EU parliament and ratified by the Council of Ministers.
The Agreement on Moroccan fruit and vegetables was part of the same understanding and was also ratified. The Moroccan government will stand its ground again and hopefully a compromise will be reached. The EU’s director of agriculture Jerzy Plewa will be in Rabat for talks on 23 April.
The EU’s strong support for Morocco and the special relationship is there, but so is a very strong farmers’ lobby which is fighting for their markets in a recession that hit Europe. However, the European parliament has made a clear commitment to Moroccan fruit and vegetable exports and supporting employment for Moroccan agricultural workers.
The prospect of the CAP abolishing the advantage freely given to Morocco in an exchange of agreed benefits on either side should be honored. Otherwise the EU’s credibility that Stefan Fule hailed in 2012 would definitely be in question and would have severe consequences for the Neighborhood policy. There will most likely be a compromise. The EU is a world of often conflicting deals and negotiations.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed