Rabat – Morocco and EU negotiators finally signed the much-awaited EU-Morocco fisheries deal Tuesday afternoon in Rabat, following months-long rounds of negotiations.
On Friday last week, Moroccan and EU officials reached total agreement on the basic aspects of the deal, agreeing to include the waters off Western Sahara (which a February European Court of Justice ruling had deemed invalid) and to set financial compensation at €52 million.
The deal allows European fishing ships to fish in Moroccan waters for financial compensation.
The new deal was finalized this afternoon, July 24, in Rabat, with Moroccan officials saying that the agreement constitutes a brand new step and new spirit in strategic Morocco-EU relations.
The EU made an important compromise by reconsidering the ECJ’s February ruling on the inclusion of Western Sahara, and Morocco compromised on its financial demands. Instead of the €80 million that Rabat requested, the EU has agreed to pay €52 million. The amount is higher than the €42 million in the initial deal.
The deal, which was initially signed in 2014, expired earlier this month, July 14, when Rabat and Brussels failed to reach an agreement on the deal’s financial implications for both parties in time.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita and Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhannouch represented Morocco at the signing ceremony, while Claudia Wiedey, Brussels’ delegation chief in Morocco, signed the new deal on behalf of the EU.
In an interview following the signing, Aziz Akhannouch expressed his satisfaction, saying that the deal marks a new page in EU-Morocco diplomatic ties. “This [the deal] represents shared interests, as it was important for both parties to reconsider and renew their positions.” Akhannouch said the new deal is founded “on new bases that propel us towards the future.”
He added: “For us, the most important aspect [of the deal] is to guarantee fishing sustainability and protect Moroccan resources.” He also praised the EU’s compromise regarding the inclusion of Western Sahara’s territorial waters, saying that Morocco will play its part by ensuring that the large part of the deal’s benefits go to local populations.