The future of fisheries cooperation between Morocco and the European Union (EU) remains uncertain, as the 2019-2023 fisheries protocol expired on 17 July. The Moroccan government has underlined the importance of the EU as a strategic ally, stressing that their cooperation goes beyond the fisheries sector.
Morocco World News reports that Mustapha Baitas, spokesman for the Moroccan government, expressed his satisfaction with the fisheries agreement between the two parties during a recent press conference. Baitas also welcomed the positive assessment of the 2019-2023 fisheries protocol, but stressed that the ongoing evaluation sessions will determine the future of the fisheries agreement.
Despite Spain’s optimism about the future of the agreement and its recognition of the essential nature of cooperation between Rabat and Brussels, complications have arisen. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared the EU-Morocco fisheries protocol off the coast of Western Sahara null and void. The pending ECJ ruling on the European Commission’s appeal could further affect the renewal of the agreement.
The Western Sahara issue has far-reaching implications beyond the fisheries sector, with possible effects on other aspects of EU-Moroccan relations. Morocco perceives Western Sahara as an integral part of its own country, which adds to the complexity of the situation, although it must be said that the significant international support received by Morocco for its Western Sahara proposal may be beneficial and helpful for a political solution to the Saharawi question.
As reported by Deutsche Welle, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita hinted that his country is looking for more advantageous partnerships, with clearer added value in relation to this issue.
As the expiry of the fisheries protocol affects EU trawlers, mainly those under the Spanish flag, Spain has a strong interest in the renewal of the protocol. The European Commission has offered financial compensation to those affected until the end of 2023, but negotiations for renewal could become a priority during the Spanish presidency of the EU Council until the end of the year.
The situation remains fluid, with both Morocco and the EU carefully considering their positions and seeking common ground amid diplomatic tensions and the unresolved Western Sahara conflict. The fate of fisheries cooperation is likely to be determined in the coming months, with the interests of all parties at stake.