Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: "The agreement with Morocco that the European Parliament endorsed today is good news for fishers on both sides of the Mediterranean. It is a real partnership in which both sides will benefit economically, contributing at the same time to more sustainable fishing."
Bilateral fisheries relations between the EU and Morocco go back a long way: the first agreement dates from as early as 1995. At that time, it was by far the most important fisheries agreement between the EU and a third country. Today, the EU has nine such bilateral agreements in force, which allow the EU fleet to fish surplus stocks that are not being fished by local fishermen. At the same time, these agreements support the partner countries by strengthening their administrative and scientific capacity through a focus on sustainable fisheries management, monitoring, control and surveillance.
This agreement with Morocco is good news for European fishers. For the coming four years, around 130 vessels from up to 10 EU Member States will be allowed to the fishing grounds of Morocco and Western Sahara to catch tuna, demersal and small pelagic fish such as sardines, mackerel and anchovies.
In exchange, the EU will pay a sum of €208 million euros, part compensation to access the fishing zone, part contribution to sectoral fishing support and part fees payable by ship-owners. This financial input will directly contribute to the sustainable development of Morocco’s, and Western Sahara’s fisheries sector. A Joint Committee will plan and monitor the use of these sectoral support funds.
The Agreement is also politically important, as it helps maintaining constructive relations with an essential partner of the EU in the framework of our Neighbourhood policy. The new protocol fully takes into account the EU’s Court of Justice Resolution of February 2018 on the Western Sahara consideration.
SFPAs: a real partnership
In any Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPA), the dimension of partnership with the coastal state is essential. SFPAs go beyond purely commercial agreements: they promote sustainable fisheries, based on the best available scientific advice. These agreements also focus on resource conservation and environmental sustainability, ensuring that all EU vessels are subject to the same rules of control and transparency. The financial contribution will support the partner country in developing and strengthening its fisheries sector and policy. And in the case of Morocco, it will help develop Morocco’s capacities for scientific research, surveillance, monitoring and control, aquaculture, processing industry, training and social protection.
Internationally, the EU’s SFPAs are recognised as a benchmark in terms of transparency and good governance. They support the EU policy to fight illegal fishing, and help to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs), in particular with regard to food security and environmental sustainability.
The Agreement includes a definition of the fishing zone with an explicit reference to the waters adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara. The SFPA however does not constitute a recognition of sovereignty of Morocco over the Western Sahara territory. The Fisheries Agreement does not affect the EU's position on this subject and the EU will continue to support all conflict resolution efforts.
In order to take into account recent judgments of the European Court of Justice concerning bilateral Agreements with Morocco, the European Union launched a consultation with the populations concerned by the new Agreement and included in the protocol provisions for the expected socio-economic impacts to benefit these populations proportionally for the entire financial contribution of the Union and its operators. Morocco is obliged to report on these benefits and on the geographical distribution of all sectoral support projects.
After today’s European Parliament vote, the Council will be now in a position to proceed with the final adoption of the agreement in the coming weeks.