EU will not renew fisheries agreement with Morocco despite Spain's lobbying
The European Commission has confirmed that there are no negotiations planned to renew the fisheries agreement with Morocco, despite firm lobbying by Madrid, reported Europa Press Wednesday.
"The commission took the decision pending the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the legitimacy of the agreement that includes waters of the conflicted territory of Western Sahara," wrote Europa Press, citing confidential sources.
The case was brought to the court in 2021 by the Polisario Front, the movement seeking Western Sahara's independence from Morocco.
In the same year, the court determined that the Polisario Front was "recognised internationally as a representative of the people of Western Sahara," and that the EU did not ensure it secured the consent of the Saharawi people before sealing the agreements with Morocco.
Though, the EU decided to maintain the agreement until July "to preserve the European Union's external action and legal certainty over its international commitments."
At the end of this year, the European court is set to rule in regard to appeals the Commission filed against the General Court's ruling.
Morocco considers the vast, mineral-rich Western Sahara part of its "southern provinces" and rejects any actions it regards as a threat to its territorial integrity. The territory's status is one of the most sensitive topics in the North African kingdom.
However, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said Western Sahara isn't part of Morocco, and therefore its waters should not be part of the EU-Morocco agreement.
Morocco and Spain are the countries most affected by the ruling.
Morocco is set to lose about US$52 million annually, for four years, in exchange for allowing 128 vessels from 11 European countries to fish off the western African coast. Ninety-two of those vessels are Spanish.
In the best-case scenario, the agreement effects will stop for only a few months, yet nevertheless, lead to financial damage for Madrid and Rabat and their fishermen.
Spain's Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Luis Planas, who has been urging Brussels to approve "along as soon as possible" a new fishing agreement with Morocco, has promised that there will be aid for the affected fishermen.
If the court ruled against renewing the agreement that could damage further Rabat's relationship with the European bloc.
On 21 January, for the first time in more than 20 years, the European Parliament adopted a text criticising attacks on freedom of expression in Morocco. The resolution also stated that the parliament "is concerned about allegations that Moroccan authorities tried to corrupt members of the European Parliament."
In response, Rachid Talbi Alami, speaker of the House of Representatives, said the parliament in Rabat has "decided to reconsider its relations with the European Parliament and submit them for an overall evaluation", but did not specify any concrete measures.
Since then, public talks between Rabat and the EU stopped. Morocco has yet to comment on the fishery agreement stalemate.
Meanwhile, the non-renewal of the fishing agreement comes at the worst time for Pedro Sánchez's PSOE party. The polls for the early legislative elections showed that the leftist leader and his socialist allies are in a weak position and may lose this year's election for the right wing that promises tougher policies on migration.