29 Sep 2011

Western Sahara EU vote today

I wrote to our SW MEPs as today the European Parliament will vote on a resolution to refer the new EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). I noted that:

    • Western Sahara is not part of Morocco; it is listed by the UN as a non-self-governing-territory
    • In a legal opinion for the UN Security Council in 2002, UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell concluded that exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara would breach international law
    • The Saharawi people have never been consulted on their wishes nor has the European Commission produced any evidence that the Saharawi have benefitted from the previous agreement
    • European Parliament’s Legal Service recommended in 2009 that the EU either suspend the FPA or ensure that EU vessels do not fish in Western Sahara’s waters

The campaign group, Western Sahara Campaign, that I have long supported notes - click read more to see more:

 The original 2005 agreement required the EU to pay Morocco €36 million per annum in return for the right for EU vessels to fish in “waters falling within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco.” In practice, and illegally, this has included, till now, the waters off Western Sahara.

As an illegal occupier, Morocco has no legal right to negotiate any agreement to allow fishing in Western Saharan waters or to exploit any other of Western Sahara's natural resources. In 2009 the European Parliamentary Legal Service confirmed that the application of the agreement to the waters off Western Sahara is inconsistent with international law, following confirmation from the European Commission that EU vessels were using licences under the FPA to fish Western Saharan waters.

With the first FPA Protocol due to expire on 27 February 2011, the European Commission rushed, in early 2011, to negotiate a renewal with Morocco. A new, one‐year Protocol was initialed by negotiators on 25 February 2011, and included a clause allowing its ‘provisional application’ from 28 February 2011 pending the full Protocol’s entry into force. The European Parliament was not consulted during this process, despite a requirement to do so. Under the new Lisbon Treaty, the consent of the European Council and the European Parliament, respectively, are required for an international agreement – such as the FPA Protocol – to be concluded and to enter into force.

Update - Only two replies from MEPs.

Lord Dartmouth replied to say he has already spoken on this and that I can depend on his support.

Lib Dem Sir Graham Watson MEP wrote: Thank you for your email of 29 September regarding the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement. The original agreement provided for European fishing vessels to fish in Morocco’s territorial waters up to February 2011. Earlier this year the Council (made up of the 27 Member States) mandated the Commission to negotiate an extension to this agreement for 1 year. However the agreement has allowed European vessels to fish in waters off Western Sahara; but Morocco’s claim over this territory was rejected by the International Court of Justice as far back as 1975. Lawyers at the UN and EU have highlighted the agreement violates international law  as it is unclear what benefits if any go to the Shrawi people. Under Article 218 of the EU Reform Treaty (commonly referred to as the Lisbon Treaty) Parliament has been granted special powers in the final approval of fisheries agreements, with rights to full information placing us on an equal footing with the Council. This far greater oversight and involvement of our directly elected Chamber on issues, such as this have often been missed in rhetoric over our accession to the Treaty. As a co-author of the Resolution to which you refer in your email, I of course fully supported this important motion. However at the vote on Thursday 29 September a majority of the House failed to support this move due to a coalition built by the Spanish fishing lobby and the Belgian friends of Morocco. Please be assured I will continue pressing this issue as it is vital International law is observed.

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