The European Union (EU) and Morocco have expressed Tuesday their resolve to carry on and strengthen their strategic partnership, and to preserve their cooperation in the fisheries sector.
This came in a joint statement by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini and the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nasser Bourita.
The two officials pointed out in their joint statement that they “took note of the ruling issued today (Tuesday Feb.27) by the European Court of Justice concerning the fisheries agreement between Morocco and the European Union”.
The two sides confirmed “their commitment to the strategic partnership between Morocco and the European Union and their determination to preserve and strengthen it,” the joint statement said, adding that they agreed to “further strengthen their political dialogue and preserve the stability of their trade relations”.
The two sides also noted that “the close and earnest consultation spirit that steered the adaptation process of the farm agreement has created a valuable trust capital for the deepening of the partnership” and that they remain “determined to preserve their cooperation in the field of fisheries”.
In this connection, they expressed “their willingness to negotiate the necessary instruments relating to the fisheries partnership”.
Banking on this renewed confidence, the two sides confirmed “the richness and vitality of the relations between the European Union and Morocco and their full commitment to the continued development of these relations in all areas of mutual interest”.
The statement mentioned among these areas, issues of strategic importance such as migration, security, stability and regional development policy as well as scientific research, pointing out that the two sides have agreed to intensify or expand their various cooperation activities already underway.
On the other hand, the two sides reaffirmed their support for the UN settlement process of the Sahara issue and for the UN Secretary General’s efforts in order to reach a final political settlement to this issue.
The legality of the agreement, key to the EU-Morocco partnership, has been challenged by Western Sahara Campaign (WSC), a UK lobbying group supporting Polisario separatists with Algerian petrodollars.
The EU and Morocco successively concluded an association agreement in 1996, a partnership agreement in the fisheries sector (the Fisheries Agreement) in 2006 and a liberalization agreement with respect to agricultural and fisheries products in 2012.
The current 4-year fisheries accord, sealed with the North African Kingdom, will expire on 14 July 2018. An independent European evaluation study showed the positive impact of the current deal in terms of sustainable fishing and its socioeconomic contributions in both the EU and in Morocco.
The study also highlighted the clauses supporting economic development and benefiting local population, such as landings in ports and embarkation of local seamen (about 200 seamen being employed on board EU vessels).
About 120 vessels from 11 EU countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, The Netherlands, Ireland, Poland and United Kingdom) are operating in Morocco’s waters.
According to experts, both the EU and Morocco benefit from the fisheries agreement. Furthermore, over 75 pc of the socio-economic benefits of the agreement, such as creation of hundreds of new jobs and improvement of working conditions of tens of thousands of people, are enjoyed by people living in Morocco’s Southern provinces.
Similarly, the gains of the 11 EU countries operating in Moroccan waters largely exceed the €30 Mln the EU invests for the support of Moroccan sectoral fisheries policy.