Rabat – The European Union’s Court of Justice (CJEU) has shut down an appeal request from the Polisario Front contesting trade agreements between Morocco and EU, including the fisheries deal.
The court has decided that the separatist group is “not indirectly or individually concerned” by the fisheries deal, adding that it “cannot, in any, case, be regarded, on the basis of the arguments put forward, as a locus standi.”
Polisario had requested a review of the fisheries agreement between Morocco and the EU in order to prohibit fishing in waters adjacent to Western Sahara.
The EU court, however, decided that Polisario’s request was “inacceptable.”
The court’s decision added that Morocco’s authorities will allow European vessels to fish in Morocco’s waters, as set forth in the agreement signed on Tuesday, July 24, between the two parties.
All the vessels affected by the deal carried fishing licenses issued by European authorities. The EU has promised to take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that the vessels comply with the convention and international legislation in the law of the sea.
The number of Moroccan sailors aboard European fishing vessels will also increase.
The EU has also agreed to pay €52 million. The amount is higher than the €42 million in the initial 2014 deal, which expired July 14, 2018.
The new agreement was amended to include new technical requirements in order to preserve the sustainability of fishings and protect the marine environment, such as a review of catches of small pelagic fish in the south.
Significance of the agreement to Morocco’s position on Western Sahara conflict
Abdelfattah Elfatihi, an expert on Western Sahara and Sahel conflicts told Morocco World News today that “the agreement will further strengthen the position of the Kingdom” in the Western Sahara conflict.
Elfatihi also recalled Resolution 2414 adopted on April 28 by the UN Security Council.
“The agreement was in line with the spirit of the UN Security Council’s last resolution on Sahara No. 2414, which called for an objective and realistic comparison to facilitate a political approach to the Sahara issue,” he said.
According to Elfatihi, Polisario has lost one of its arguments that have long been used as a “maneuver” to undermine the partnership between the EU and Morocco internationally.
“The renewal of the fisheries agreement and the firmness shown by the Moroccan officials following the decision of the European Court of Justice shows that Polisario and Algeria failed to exploit the natural resources of the Sahara,” he added.
Towards further cooperation
Moroccan officials expressed their satisfaction with the renewal of the fisheries deal, which was concluded through seven rounds of negotiations spanning three months.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita told the press after the signing of the new agreement that the deal between the EU and Morocco has several dimensions: reinforcing the partnership between Morocco and the EU in the fisheries field, responding to maneuvers and attempts to disrupt that partnership, and to strengthen the fisheries sector.
According to the Bourita, the agreement also aims to ensure the sustainability of sea products in the region, through a number of mechanisms to fight the over-exploitation of fish in the area.