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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06RABAT1576 2006-08-22 15:45:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

MOROCCO-EU FISHING AGREEMENT SPARKS CONTROVERSY

Tags:   EFIS MO PBTS PGOV 
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VZCZCXRO7704
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHRB #1576/01 2341545
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 221545Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4502
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 3287
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 2023
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RABAT 001576 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/10/2011
TAGS: EFIS MO PBTS PGOV
SUBJECT: MOROCCO-EU FISHING AGREEMENT SPARKS CONTROVERSY

REF: RABAT 248

Classified By: Econ Counselor S. Smith, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (U) Summary: The new Morocco-EU fishing agreement was
signed in Brussels on July 26, 2006, but must still be
ratified by the Moroccan Parliament before taking effect.
Ratification is expected to occur when Parliament reconvenes
in October 2006, with implementation by early 2007. The
agreement is much smaller in scope than its long-expired
predecessor, providing licenses for 119 EU member boats
(primarily Spanish and Portuguese), and setting an annual
quota of 60,000 tons over the course of its four-year life.
In return, Morocco will receive assistance totaling USD 186
million. This compensation complements the Moroccan
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) proposal, and is part of a
broad effort to modernize and improve its fishing industry.
The EU agreement sparked controversy because of its inclusion
of waters off the disputed Western Sahara, with some critics
charging it is tantamount to EU acknowledgment of Moroccan
administrative authority over the region. End Summary.



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Years of Negotiations Since the Last Agreement


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2. (U) The new EU accord comes seven years after the
expiration of an earlier agreement, and is less comprehensive
than its predecessor in terms of the number and type of boats
permitted. The earlier agreement allowed 626 European
vessels, 397 of which were Spanish, to operate in Moroccan
waters from 1995 to 1999. The new agreement provides only
119 licenses and excludes both the Mediterranean Sea and such
fragile species as cephalopods. The overall EU catch is
limited to 60,000 tons annually. (NB: Morocco's artisanal
fishing production in 2005 was over 750,000 tons.) In
return, Morocco will receive USD 186 million over four years
for restructuring and development of its fishing fleet. This
total is less than 1/3 of the USD 646 million the EU paid for
the 1995-99 period, and contrasts with the USD 666 million
the EU recently agreed to pay Mauritania for a similar
six-year deal.



3. (U) According to the text of the new agreement, the
compensation will be used to modernize and restructure
Morocco's fleet, cushion the impact of withdrawal of drift
nets on the fleets concerned, conduct scientific research and
training, modernize marketing and promotion of fisheries
products, and upgrade landing and handling of fisheries
products. For the first time, some of the assistance will go
directly to the sector itself, rather than to the government
for use in other areas. Another key provision stipulates
that the compensation must partly benefit residents of the
Western Sahara. When questioned about this and other
provisions, EU representatives explained that yearly reports
will be produced assessing the agreement's implementation and
enforcement.



4. (SBU) Commenting on the new accord's difficult seven-year
gestation, the Secretary General of the Department of
Fisheries, Mohammed Tarmidi told Emboffs that Morocco had
never left the negotiating table, but had been content to sit
back and wait until the Europeans were ready to accept its
conditions for a new agreement. In particular, Morocco
wanted to move away from the "catch for cash" nature of the
previous accord, achieve a more sustainable exploitation of
its fisheries, and target assistance to recipients
themselves.



--------------------------


Morocco Overhauling Its Fishing Industry


--------------------------





5. (U) The new EU agreement complements the recently
submitted Moroccan MCA proposal, with the two being integral
but separate elements of a broad plan to revamp and improve
the entire Moroccan fishing industry. In the MCA proposal,
fishing was one of three primary sectors identified by the
Moroccans as having strong potential for growth. Tarmidi
explained that the EU compensation package and the Moroccan
MCA proposal fit into the GOM's overall strategy to modernize
the fishing industry. Noting that the sector can be broken
down into three broad categories: small, unpowered artisanal
boats (totaling 15,000-- a part of the sector which has no
European equivalent), coastal vessels (2,000 total, the
equivalent of Europe's artisanal fleet), and a high-seas
"industrial" fleet of 300 ships, he said that the latter
sector has been able to rely on its own resources for
necessary modernization. The EU assistance will focus on

RABAT 00001576 002 OF 002


Morocco's coastal fleet, while the Ministry's MCA proposal is
aimed at the smaller artisanal fishermen, helping them
upgrade their boats while also improving the harbor
infrastructure that serves them.



--------------------------



--------------------------


De Facto Recognition of Authority Causes Controversy


--------------------------



--------------------------





6. (C) Particularly controversial in the new EU agreement
has been the inclusion of territorial waters off the disputed
Western Sahara. While EU officials here deny that the accord
in any way constitutes recognition of Moroccan sovereignty
over the region, and point to an EU legal opinion to that
effect, the question held up EU approval of the accord and
has led to its denunciation by the Polisario. While the
accord does not mention the Western Sahara, it does
repeatedly refer to "Moroccan fishing zones," which the
accord defines as the waters under the sovereignty and/or
jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco. These zones are
further defined geographically in the annex, some of which
clearly fall along the coast of Western Sahara. The
inclusion of the area (which EU officials are at pains to
emphasize also was true of the previous agreement) sparked
strong opposition in Nordic capitals, and held up EU
ratification of the accord. (Note: Nordic capitals
consistently support Sahrawis over the monarchy, reftel. End
Note.)



7. (C) Comment: In spite of its limited scope, Moroccan
officials characterize the new agreement as a victory for GOM
policy and vindication of their patient negotiating approach.
While, for the time being, the EU appears to have overcome
the complications sparked by inclusion of the Western Sahara
waters under "defacto" Moroccan administration, they are
likely to reemerge periodically, particularly in conjunction
with promised reports on implementation of the benefits the
accord promises the region's local inhabitants. End Comment.

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RILEY