The European Union is negotiating with Morocco a new fisheries agreement that would allow European trawlers back in Moroccan waters in exchange for annual payments.
So far, the European and Moroccan delegations held three rounds of talks for a new protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) which entered into force on February 28, 2007. Talks focus on conditions of access to Moroccan waters for European vessels, the species of fish prevalent in Morocco, the financial support the EU could grant to the Moroccan fishery sector and other political issues.
A fourth round of negotiations is currently taking place in Brussels from January 30 to February 1. According to some experts, the two sides agree, in principle, that the new deal must be sustainable and economically viable, environmentally friendly, and beneficial to local populations.
Under the first Protocol to the fisheries partnership agreement sealed between the EU and Morocco and that ran until February 27, 2011, the Union paid the North African Kingdom 36 million Euro ($47 Million) a year for the right to fish in its waters. A second Protocol, extending the previous one for another year, was suspended in December 2011 by the European Parliament which cited environmental concerns, unjustifiable costs and continued deadlock on the Western Sahara issue.
Morocco reacted swiftly to the European Parliament vote and ordered all European fishing boats to leave immediately its national territorial waters. After a one year ban, the EU’s 27 states softened their stand and agreed to resume the fisheries talks with the North African nation to enable their boats (mostly from Spain) to operate again in Moroccan waters.
According to some analysts, Morocco is not likely to lower its demands for a 36 million Euro compensation per year while the EU is expected to demand more fishing rights.
The first fisheries agreement concluded between the EU and Morocco dates back to 1995. At that time, it was by far the most important fisheries agreement between the EU and a third country. However, the parties did not reach an agreement to renew the protocol in 1999 until the current Fisheries Partnership Agreement was enforced in 2007.