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24 July 2018 EU Council adopts decision amending its Association Agreement with Morocco and concludes negotiations on the fishery agreement with Morocco

On the 16th of July the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, with the abstention of Sweden, adopted a decision on the extension of tariff preferences in the Association Agreement with Morocco to the Western Sahara that complies with the European Court of Justice’s ruling on the liberalization agreement on agricultural and other products of the 21st December 2016. Nevertheless, the EU recalled that “the Agreement states that it is concluded without prejudice to the respective positions of the European Union and Morocco with regard to the status of Western Sahara.” This follows a consultation process that was carried out in that zone in order “to raise awareness and obtain the approval and input” of the local population. The published report on benefits for the people of Western Sahara states: “the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) have consulted elected officials and public opinion in Western Sahara, where a large majority are in favour of tariff preferences being extended to products from Western Sahara.”

Four days later, and after months of negotiations following the judgement of the Court of Justice in February (which stated that “the Fisheries Agreement concluded between the EU and Morocco is valid in so far as it is not applicable to Western Sahara and to its adjacent waters”), a renewed fishery agreement has been presented by European Commission DG MARE and the Moroccan Government.  EU sources state that the agreement respects the court sentence while it includes an explicit mention to Western Sahara waters. Both the EU and Morocco jointly declared: “The two parties agreed on the provisions and improvements made to these texts in order to optimise their benefits and benefits for the local populations of the areas concerned, in compliance with the principles of sustainable management of fishery resources and equity.” However, the content of the deal regarding the conditions under which European fishing vessels are authorised in Moroccan waters (including the volume of the fishing and the economic compensation from the EU) should only be made public in the coming days. A consultation similar to the one carried out with the previously mentioned trade agreement, is expected to take place in the upcoming months. Under the previous agreement that expired on 14 July, about 130 European vessels were given the permission to fish in the established waters. Among these, around 90 are Spanish; the rest of it, generally those of more tonnage, are from Northern European countries. After this agreement, the Council and later the European Parliament will still have to back the deal. Until then, European vessels are not authorized to fish in those waters.