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Green Light For EU-Morocco Agreement Extension

EU and MOROCCO - The European Parliament should agree to extend the controversial EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, said the Fisheries Committee in an eagerly awaited vote on Tuesday.

If approved by the whole House, the new protocol would provide fishing opportunities for 119 EU vessels and allocate special funds to support sustainable fisheries in Morocco until the end of February 2012.

MEPs voted on Tuesday against the original report drafted by Carl Haglund (ALDE, FI) which called on Parliament not to extend the current arrangements, mainly for economic, ecological and legal reasons, and instead came out by 12 votes to eight, with one abstention, in favour of extending the contested protocol.

Mr Haglund had argued that the one-year extension of the current protocol was unacceptable under the terms proposed by the European Commission owing to its low cost-benefit ratio for the EU, the excessive exploitation of demersal stocks and the very limited contribution of EU funds to the development of local fisheries policy.

He said after the vote: "There are many in this committee who feel that the agreement is not satisfactory and we will continue to work on this. There is still a plenary vote ahead of us".

New protocol in numbers

The new protocol allocates fishing opportunities to 119 vessels for small-scale, demersal and tuna fishing. EU trawlers will also be able to exploit up to 60 000 additional tonnes of sardines, mackerel, horse mackerel and anchovy species for industrial pelagic fishing.

Around 22.6 million EUR will be allocated for access to Moroccan waters. To promote responsible fishing, the EU will provide additional funding of 13.5 million EUR. The money will support the development of local fisheries policy, introducing guidelines on how to meet sustainable fishing targets agreed by both the Kingdom of Morocco and the EU.

No court decision on the Western Sahara issue

Last September, an attempt to clarify the legality of the new protocol failed when a request by 77 MEPs to refer it to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) was voted down in the House. The bid's backers had wanted the ECJ to rule on whether the inclusion of the Western Sahara in the protocol reflected the wishes of the local population and whether it took their interests into account, as required by the EU treaties and international law.

What's next?

The new protocol has been applied provisionally since 28 February 2011. If approved by Parliament, it will remain in force until 27 February 2012. The vote in plenary is scheduled for the next Strasbourg session (12 - 15 December 2011).

the Fish Site Editor

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