The future of cooperation between Morocco and the European Union (EU) in the fishing sector will be determined through comprehensive assessments conducted by the Moroccan government in consultation with European partners.
This is the statement by Morocco’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita while addressing the third Ministerial Meeting of the Atlantic African States Process.
Nasser Bourita clarified that while the Morocco-EU Fisheries Agreement remains in effect, the Fishing Protocol, which was established for a four-year period from 2019 to 2023, is set to expire in four days time, on July 17.
It is doubtful if the agreement in its current operation will be renewed without modification as there is currently no political census on its renewal. The suspension of the agreement would carry a toll on the EU’s fisheries sector, especially in Spain.
Out of the 138 licenses that operate from Andalusia, Galicia, and the Canary Islands, 92 are Spanish fleet. The situation is compounded by France’s anti Morocco lobbying within the European Parliament.
Many analysts and political observers frown at the series of French resolutions accusing Morocco of spying on and harassing journalists and activists. Other political analysts said France’s ambiguity in the Western Sahara dossier also triggered the recent tensions between Rabat and Paris.
The future of Morocco=EU Fishing agreement is in peril
While speaking to the press, the minister said that the cooperation between Morocco and the EU has been positive and mutually beneficial throughout these four years, adding that to evaluate the four-year period, Moroccan authorities will hold a meeting this week with their European counterparts in Brussels as part of a joint commission on fisheries.
Regarding the future of the Fisheries Agreement, Minister Bourita explained that the Moroccan government is engaged in ongoing discussions that have been considering three key parameters.
The first parameter is of a “doctrinal nature,” Bourita said, referring to the need to make sure that the deal aligns with Morocco’s foreign policy. Morocco aims to prioritize partnerships that provide a clearer added value, seeking more advanced collaborations where Moroccan interests are strongly represented, he explained.
Bourita’s remarks on foreign policy likely refer to the details of a ruling by the European Court of Justice regarding the inclusion of waters off the Western Sahara region in the Rabat-Brussels deal.
Rabat’s desire to know more about the ruling comes after the EU Court of Justice ruled in favor of the Polisario Front in 2021. The separatist armed militia, which claims independence for the Western Sahara region in southern Morocco, has long claimed that the EU’s agreement with Morocco had been concluded without the consent of the Sahrawi people.
The EU Court of Justice is expected to give its verdict in September, months after the agreement’s expiry date.
In addition to foreign policy, Bourita said that Morocco will take into consideration the deal’s impact on the country’s vision for the sector’s development.
The third dimension that Morocco will look into prior to renewing the deal would be preserving its natural resources using a data-driven approach to evaluate the environmental impact of the deal.
Bourita underscored that Morocco will engage with the European Union to find common grounds before renewing the deal.