Rabat – A joint committee of Moroccan and Spanish fishery experts are exploring partnership and investment opportunities in the southern Moroccan city of Dakhla.
The four-day visit kicked off on February 15. The visit is an opportunity to “support and defend common interests in the framework of the Fisheries Agreement between Morocco and the European Union (EU),” Lamine Hormatallah, the southern provinces regional president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Entreprises (CGEM) told Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
He added that the committee is planning another meeting to examine developments in the sea and fisheries activities and the potential cooperation between the two parties with the aim of completing the project of the renewal of the agreement and to address the challenges posed.
Hormatallah has also underscored the importance of this meeting and the role of the marine fisheries sector as an essential lever for development in the southern provinces.
The Moroccan-Spanish joint delegation visited an industrial unit for freezing and packing fish in Dakhla, where they learned how the plant works and the processing of sea products.
A meeting was also held at the Regional Investment Center in the city of Dakhla, attended by economic operators from the region. During this meeting, the members of the delegation were informed of the potential for sea investments carried out by Morocco to develop the region, according to MAP.
Importance of EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement
The fisheries ties between Morocco and the European Union date back to 1988. The four-year fishing agreement provided annual permits without restriction, according to the European Union. Since then partnerships between the two parties have strengthened to involve protocols from different fields, including trade activities.
According to the director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), Willy Fature, the EU-Morocco fisheries partnership is an important collaboration. Quoted by the Brussels-based news outlet, Europa Reporter; Fature said that “the fisheries agreement is an important mechanisms for voicing and mainstreaming.”
The HRWF president added that Sahrawi people “have also benefited from the Fisheries Agreement between the EU and Morocco.” Fature, who visited the fisheries port in the city of Dakhla said that “there were hundreds of people, mainly women, working there in the factory,” adding that “fisheries are really a main source of employment for Morocco.”
The EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement is due for a renewal next July. Both Morocco and EU are ambitious to renew the agreement. In January, Morocco’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture held talks in Brussels with the European Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella, about the importance of the agreement. The EU and Moroccan officials have both agreed that the agreement is “essential for both parties.”
However, Morocco-EU agreement has long been denounced by Polisario, a separatist group from the southern Moroccan provinces. The front has been urging the European Union to compensate the Polisario for the “exploitation” of natural resources in Western Sahara without its permission.
The renewal of the agreement, however, is welcomed by many states, including Spain and Denmark.
On January 15, the Danish government informed its Parliament that it will accept the European Commission’s proposal to renegotiate the fisheries agreement with Morocco.
The legal advisor of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Melchior Wathelet, said in a January legal opinion issued on Wednesday that the Fisheries Agreement concluded between the EU and Morocco was “invalid” because “it applies to Western Sahara and its adjacent waters.”
The advisor’s opinion has been strongly denounced by Moroccan and Spanish professional Fishermen. To respond to Melchior’s remarks, the fishermen issued a joint statement, saying that the adviser’s opinion “this deal guarantees the respect of international law and human rights; and since the opinion of the general council is not binding, we hope that EU Justice Court will adopt a position in support of the deal.”
“Moroccan and Spanish fishermen are surprised by the political motivations of this advisor,” their communiqué added. They also called on the UE to favor the renewal of the fisheries deal, which will expire later this year, in July. They urged the UE representatives to guarantee and “preserve the atmosphere of friendly and beneficial relations” that have so far characterized the said deal.