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EU Agreement ignores illegal fishing and violation of human rights

A fisheries partnership agreement between the EU and Morocco allows fishing vessels to do illegal fishing in the occupied shores of Western Sahara. A violation to EU’s own human rights declaration. A huge failure according to different human rights campaigners. The current agreement will soon expire, but with national interest from memberstates standing in the way reaching an new agreement seems difficult.

By Sandra Meinecke

The first intension of the fisheries partnership agreement was to hand Morocco an annual €36 million in order to help the infrastructure on fishery. But the annual amount of euros given to the national fishing industry is failing to stimulate the development of Moroccos’ fishing sector, and is instead, allowing Morocco to continue fishing in the occupied shore in Western Sahara, according to a report done by the EU commission.

The fishery agreement between EU and Morocco which was supposed to end in February 2011 but was prolonged for one year, is soon expiring. The agreement was prolonged despite criticism on the partnerships disregard to the rights of the people in the disputed territory of Western Sahara next to Morocco.

A map of Western Sahara, the area has been occupied by Morocco since 1975


New agreement in slow progress

The fishery commission is now debating whether to prolong the existing agreement, or seek to develop a new fishery strategy between EU and Morocco. Despite many disagreements the EU fishing committee does agree that the partnership agreement which the Commission is now starting to negotiate with Morocco, but it must include improvements to the current agreement.

We hope for a better solution this time but it is hard, because the representatives from countries such as Spain also need to agree on a new fishery agreement as well, and they are under a huge pressure from the their Government, and their national interest. But it is a huge problem that the european taxpayers indirectly supports illegal fishing without knowing it.” says a member of the European Parliament Ole Christensen.

He is a member of the group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. The commission will vote on the recommendation at the Fisheries Committee meeting on 22-23. November, the actual voting will take place in December.


Mandatory report missing

Henrik Høegs (L) former Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries agrees with Ole Christensen but stresses the point that the European Parliament has to receive the mandatory report required when getting economic help from the EU. A report from Morocco proves that they are using the money they get from the EU to develop their fishing infrastructure, and that the illegal fishing in Western Sahara should stop immediately.

The report has not yet been received even though it is mandatory. Denmark will demand this before we consider voting for a new agreement with Morocco. We owe this to the European taxpayer” Says Henrik Høegs (L).

It is very important that we follow ICCAT (The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) guidance on fishing and the commission says among other things, that you must not violate human rights. It is unfortunately the case with the current partnership agreement when talking about Western Sahara.” Says Henrik Høeg, and underlines that this is one of the main reasons why Denmark last year voted against the adjournment of the current partnership agreement.

A Spanish Vessel fishing after tunafish

Violation of human rights

Both the UN and the Court in Hague has supported the Sahrawi demand for an independent Western Sahara. Despite this Morocco has illegally occupied the Western Sahara since 1975. According to different human rights campaigners the aid to Morocco from the EU is beneath all criticism. Especially the use of Western Sahara’s natural resources is according to the organization AfricaContact a big violation.

Mads Barbesgaard is an activist in the organization, in principle he is against all kind of fishing partnership agreements. “Not until they actually take the human consequences into account, or at least take the interests of the citizens in the developing countries seriously. This agreement has no benefits what so ever, to the people in Western Sahara” he says.

According to a Green Paper from the European Committee the agreement does not successfully reach out to the people, as it was suppose to, namely the citizens of Western Sahara. All though knowing this the agreement was still prolonged for a year.


Examination of the agreement

There has recently been a voting in the Parliament on whether the agreement should be sent for examination by a court, to make sure that no EU member states where fishing in the occupied area. An investigation made by the EU after the voting showed that the Baltic countries voted against an examination.

It is way to easy just to blame Spain whenever there is problems with the fisheries partnership agreement. The responsability as a whole lays with in the EU. And the people suffering from this is the Sahrawies.” Mads Barbesgaard says and adds “an other problem is that they are not able to regulate who is actually using the resources by fishing in the occupied water.”

The EU’s foreign and trade policy way of handling the occupation has unfortunately not helped the people of Western Sahara. Rather, the EU seeks to constantly expand its cooperation with the Moroccan kingdom and that way they support the continued oppression of saharawies” Mads Barbesgaard writes in an article on the AfricaContacts website