Rabat- Since April 20, Rabat and Brussels have been negotiating the renewal of the Morocco-EU fisheries deal, but as of last week’s second round of talks, Morocco is driving a hard bargain for MAD 800 million in investments.
In February, the European Court of Justice ruled to exclude “waters in the southern provinces” from the Morocco-EU fisheries agreement, saying that the deal did not profit local populations.
In the current deal, Morocco grants fishing licenses to fishing vessels from EU countries, in exchange for MAD 400 million from the EU. Shipowners also pay fishing fees of roughly EUR 14 million.
Negotiations to renew the deal, which have been going on since Morocco challenged the ICJ’s ruling, are expected to be resumed on Monday, June 25, when officials from both sides will convene in Brussels. The meeting will be the third round of negotiations.
Last week, diplomats from both parties met in Rabat to try to find common ground on the political and financial aspects of the agreement.
The week-long meeting in Rabat was the second round of the renewal process, the first round having come to a satisfactory conclusion when EU and Moroccan diplomats agreed on general guidelines for the renewal process in Brussels.
At the Rabat meeting, however, the two parties failed to come to an agreement. While both parties quickly agreed to include the waters off the Western Sahara, they had a harder time finding common ground on the financial component.
While the EU currently invests MAD 400 million in the fisheries agreement, Morocco is now requesting 800 million for the new deal.
Moroccan officials have been reported to be firm on their position, with Rabat saying that it would not engage in any agreement offering less. Rabat’s firm stance comes at a time when the country has a strong bargaining chip, especially as the current deal expires on July 14.
Moroccan officials have asked European fishing boats to leave Moroccan waters should the EU fail to meet Morocco’s demands by July 14.
Consequently, EU fishermen have urged European officials to compromise to save the deal.
“It would be a great pity if the deal is not renewed by its expiry date, because Morocco has made it clear during the second roundtables that all European boats should depart from Moroccan waters,” said Pedro Maza, president of a fishermen’s association in Spain.