Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Moroccans can, we can't

The European Voice reports that the EU-Moroccan fisheries pact is off.

More than 100 Spanish boats will no longer be able to fish in waters off Morocco after the European Parliament rejected the extension of a deal under which the EU paid Morocco €36 million for fishing licences every year.

MEPs yesterday (14 December) narrowly rejected a proposal by the European Commission for a one-year extension of the agreement. The agreement had expired in February but continued provisionally to apply.

MEPs rejected a recommendation by Parliament's fisheries committee to approve the extension with 326 votes against, 296 in favour and 58 abstentions. The vote terminates the provisional application of the proposed extension with immediate effect.

Carl Haglund, a Finnish Liberal MEP, found in his report on the extension that the existing agreement created disproportionate costs to the EU, led to excessive exploitation of fish stocks and failed to provide benefits to the population of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco, in whose waters most of the fishing takes place.

There is a reason for these agreements - they are a way of relieving the pressure off the dwindling stock of fish in EU waters by directing the large and always growing Spanish fleet into the waters of developing countries. Unsurprisingly, the better equipped Spanish (mostly) fishing fleet drives the remaining local fishermen out of business. In return the EU hands over aid to the governments in question, aid that, on all available evidence, stays with the governments and officials, never reaching the supposed target, that is the fishing communities that are being destroyed.

Morocco has a chance of escaping from that trap. The UK, of course, cannot do so, as we are actually part of the CFP not simply someone who signs a bilateral agreement with the EU. The same will go for Scotland, should it ever have a presence in the EU that is separate from the UK, as the SNP would like.

Incidentally, the Spanish are not giving up easily:

RaĆ¼l Romeva i Rueda, a Spanish Green MEP who is his group's spokesman on fisheries, welcomed the vote. “Any future EU-Morocco fisheries agreement must exclude Western Saharan waters, over which the Moroccan government has no rights,” he said. “This agreement is a shameful stain on EU foreign policy and it is time it was consigned to the past.”

Does this mean Spanish Green MEPs have seen the light and will now oppose the CFP on environmental grounds?


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