Following the visit by the EC Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, to Rabat in April 2012, formal negotiations for a new fisheries protocol with Morocco have restarted. The Commissioner insisted that what was needed was a ‘renewed partnership that is in line with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and its external dimension, ensuring maximum benefit to both parties’.
The discussion had stalled following the rejection by the European Parliament in December 2011, of a proposed protocol over the controversial issue of the coverage, by the agreement, of Western Sahara waters.
Press articles highlight that Morocco is not interested in a ‘classic’ agreement, in which fisheries resources ‘are exploited and exported in raw form’. Morocco is asking its European partner to promote local job-creating investments, and participation in the development of the fishing industry in Morocco. According to industry experts cited in the press, ‘the country has nothing to lose if the agreement is not renewed’.
The interests, apparently voiced by the Moroccan authorities, in going beyond a classic agreement based on negotiating fishing possibilities and a financial contribution, find an echo in the current EU discussions as to whether, and how, to include investments as part of future partnerships. Promoting private investments and joint ventures through bilateral agreements is not new – it has been tried on various occasions over the last two decades. Experience shows that many of these attempts failed mainly because the conditions for these investments were not conducive to the establishment of sustainable fisheries (for instance, lack of adequate investment protection rules, lax fisheries management, etc.). If there is a common political will between the EU and third countries – like Morocco and some ACP countries – to revisit this possibility, it will be necessary to consider good governance as an indispensable ingredient in promoting sustainable investment in fisheries.