Rabat - After three months of negotiations, Morocco and the EU signed their long-anticipated fisheries deal July 24 in Rabat. Criticism of the agreement, however, indicates a brewing legal battle: the Polisario Front has said it will fight the fisheries deal.
Rabat – After three months of negotiations, Morocco and the EU signed their long-anticipated fisheries deal July 24 in Rabat. Criticism of the agreement, however, indicates a brewing legal battle: the Polisario Front has said it will fight the fisheries deal.
EU-Morocco fishery ties date back to 1995. Strong pushback against this particular deal—from the Polisario Front, the European Court of Justice—failed to block the EU and Morocco from moving forward in negotiations.
The Polisario Front stated its intentions to pursue legal action against the EU and the fishery deal in April.
On Sunday, Polisario Front Envoy to the European Commission Mohamed Sidati said, “[The deal] only encourages the Moroccan occupation… Morocco steals the resources of Western Sahara people, who largely live in exile and in poverty, deprived of their land and sea. And the European Commission is accomplice to this robbery.”
Western Sahara Resource Watch Coordinator Sara Eyckmans asserted the imminent failure of the deal.
“As no effort has been made to seek the consent of the people of Western Sahara, a new deal with Morocco for these waters will be illegal.”
In February the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against the inclusion of Western Saharan coastal waters in the fisheries deal. ECJ Advocate General Melchior Wathelet asserted that the deal’s inclusion of the Western Sahara undermines its legitimacy and warrants the agreement should be declared null and void.
Former Policy Advisor at the European Parliament Jeanne Laperrouza explained, however, that this ruling is significant but does not hold jurisdiction over the legal outcome.
“The ECJ court does not have the authority to conclude that Sahara waters do not fall within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of Morocco,” she said.
In July, the EU rejected a proposal by European Parliament members to block the deal. Concerns include the notion that involving territory not globally recognized as part of Morocco in this arrangement contradicts international law.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita emphasized the geographic provisions of the law, including waters off the coast of Western Sahara, during a statement to the press.
“The answer is clear, since Article 1 of this agreement stipulates that the fishing area extends from parallel 35 to parallel 22, meaning from Cape Spartel in northern Morocco to Cap Blanc in the south.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita and Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhannouch praised the agreement’s inclusion of Sahrawi waters. Morocco, expressing satisfaction with the deal, issued a statement applauding the EU’s compromise to include the Western Sahara despite “maneuvers by our enemies to question the unity of Morocco as a nation.”
“Attempts by the opponents of Morocco to question this exclusive jurisdiction have been foiled and rejected,” the statement declared.
Before entering into effect, the deal must pass through the European Parliament and receive ratification by all 28 EU member states.