The response represents another blow to Polisario’s claims, accusing Morocco of violating international law and exploiting resources in the region.
Rabat – The European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius, has reaffirmed the legality of the fisheries agreement between Morocco and the European Union.
Sinkevicius made his comments in a written note in response to a written question from Kira Marie Peter-Hansen, a Danish member of the European Parliament. Peter-Hansen notably asked about the legality of the activities of fisheries vessels operating in the waters of Western Sahara.
The MEP asked the commission about how the EU ensures that fishery products imported from the EU does not include products from Western Sahara following the ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU.
In his response, published on February 19 on behalf of the European Commission, Sinkevicius argued that the imports of products from Western Sahara to the European Union “are not subject to an import prohibition.”
Referencing the European Court of Justice’s ruling on EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, the EU official wrote, “Following the Court’s ruling, it was agreed by the Exchange of letters in the amendments of Protocols 1 and 4 to the EU-Morocco Association Agreement to grant trade preferences to products originating in Western Sahara and exported to the EU.”
In the same document, the EU commissioner reaffirmed the EU’s support to the UN-led political process to “achieve a fair, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution for this territory.”
According to Sinkevicius, the European Commission considers Western Sahara as a territory “whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government.”
The statement noted, “As the EU vessels activities in the relevant fishing zone are governed by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which is the object of still pending Court proceedings, the Commission refrains from providing further comments on this issue.”
The response from the EU Commission represents another blow to Polisario’s claims attacking agreements between the European Union and Morocco.
The Polisario Front and its supporters have long described the agreements between the EU and Morocco as a violation of international law.
In their lobbying campaign against the deal, Polisario supporters have often claimed that the deal does not benefit locals. But the large-scale socio-economic transformations witnessed in southern Morocco in recent years disqualify such claims.
Responding to Polisario’s campaign against the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement in January 2019, a group of Sahrawis officials and citizens petitioned for the renewal of the agreement.
“The theory that the Fisheries Agreement and the Agricultural Agreement do not benefit the local population concerned is not valid … To oppose these two Agreements would put at risk the thousands of families who are financially dependent on maritime and agricultural activities in our southern provinces,” said the petition.
The first fisheries agreement between EU and Morocco dates back to 1995. Despite Polisaio’s attempts to hamper the EU-Morocco fisheries deal, Brussels and Rabat renewed the agreement in 2019.
Replacing the previous deal that expired in July 2018, the new agreement sets out the conditions of access for EU vessels in Moroccan waters and lays down requirements for sustainable fishing.
It covers the fishing area from parallel 35 to parallel 22, from Cap Spartel in northern Morocco to Cap Blanc in southern Morocco, including the waters off Western Sahara.
As well as specifying the fishing areas and access conditions for EU vessels, the document increased the EU’s financial contribution from the previous agreement’s annual average of €40.0 million to €52.2 million.