After a two-year hiatus the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement has been renewed. A couple of weeks ago the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, visited "the third edition of the Salon Halieutis, organised under the high patronage of King Mohamed VI, to underline the importance of the fisheries partnership and cooperation between the EU and Morocco".
The Agreement now comes under the supposedly reformed "new" but not that different from the "old" Common Fisheries Policy.
The new CFP seeks to improve the scientific knowledge underlying the fishing rights granted under the agreements, strengthen their governance and better promote sustainable fishing. As part of each of the EU's SFPAs, there is a significant investment in sectoral support, in Morocco's case EUR 14 million are earmarked to support the local fisheries sector, which seeks to provide increased job opportunities for local fishermen, help build a robust fisheries infrastructure, train up local seamen and get them working on EU boats, and exchange ideas and best practices.
In return the countries in question have to allow the far bigger and better equipped EU fishing boats into their waters.
Not all is plain sailing, though, as this article on EurActiv makes clear.
A respected international lawyer has published an article, claiming that the fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco is illegal, as it doesn’t contain a specific reference to the fishing zone off the coast of Western Sahara, and that the UN Security Council (UNSC) should examine the issue.
Hans Corell, Former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, writes in the International Judicial Monitor that UNSC should examine the legality of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement.
Corell, who, at the request of the UNSC delivered in 2002 a legal opinion relating to the Western Sahara, says that in the meantime, he has followed developments from a distance.
“A very serious question in this context is the fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco which does not contain one word – apart from the cryptic “sovereignty or jurisdiction” in Article 2 (a) – about the fact that Morocco’s ‘jurisdiction’ in the waters of Western Sahara is limited by the international rules on self-determination. Instead, the agreement and its protocols are replete with references to the “Moroccan fishing zones”, Corell writes.
He further argues that to be legal, an agreement of this nature would have to contain an explicit reference to the fishing zone off the coast of Western Sahara, defined by coordinates.
The Commission is denying that there are any problems.
The fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco is “in full compliance with international law,” said Enrico Brivio, the European Commission Spokesperson for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
“The Fisheries Partnership Agreement protocol is in full compliance with international law,” Enrico Brivio told EurActiv, the leading online media on EU affairs, adding that all of the EU’s agreements apply to the Western Sahara region.
“Detailed reporting obligations on Morocco on use of Commission sectoral support ensure that the protocol serves the interests of all local population,” Brivio pointed out.
He also stressed that the protocol’s clear reporting mechanism represents an additional tool to monitor compliance with international law.
Will that off-hand response be sufficient to deal with intricate international legal matters?