In an interview that aired last night on Moroccan TV (channel 2M), Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture Aziz Akhannouch discussed the ruling of the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) on the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement, emphasizing that it could be suspended (this week) if the verdict affects Morocco’s sovereignty over the southern provinces.
On February 27th, the ECJ decreed that the fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco is, “valid insofar as it is not applicable to Western Sahara or to its adjacent waters,” adding that, if the EU and Morocco included the Western Sahara region in their agreement, it would violate certain rules of “international law applicable to relations between the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco.”
In response to the verdict, Akhannouch pointed out that the court, “did not consult with the populations in the southern provinces, because the agreements [signed between Morocco and the EU] were in favor of these areas.”
He added that “If an agreement is reached within the framework of national sovereignty, which is a red line, [Morocco then] will negotiate with the Europeans.”
Akhannouch also said that nothing is more important than Morocco’s sovereignty. So the agreement, which is in favor of the European Union, might be suspended if it affects the sovereignty of Morocco over its southern provinces.
“Morocco does not need the 40 million EUR that the European Union would pay for Morocco in exchange for allowing European fishermen [to use Morocco’s waters]. There are agreements amounting to 35 billion EUR, all of which are in favor of the EU.”
When asked about the possibility of ending the EU-Morocco agreement, Akhannouch remarked that, “Anything is possible. It could stop [this week], but that depends on the position of the European Union because we are not part of the ECJ’s decision.”
The Moroccan official added that the ECJ’s decision did not recognize the role of the Polisario Front in this matter, as the separatist group has long-been appealing against the EU-Morocco Fisheries and Agriculture Agreements.
“The matter must be clarified, and the interests of Morocco and the Europeans require a review of the decision of the European Court, with the aim of reaching a final result. It is Europe’s duty to give Morocco the value it deserves,” Akhannouch added.“If the EU offers a positive interaction that meets Morocco’s conditions, we will work together, if not, we will abandon the agreement without any problem.”
Akhannouch has echoed statements made by Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, and Head of Government, Saad Eddine El-Othmani, in response to the ECJ’s ruling.
In an interview with news outlet Le360, Bourita said that “nothing in the [ECJ’s] verdict challenges the political legitimacy of Morocco to conclude agreements regarding the Moroccan Sahara with the EU.The Kingdom is equivalent to the sum of all of its territories from Tangier to Lagouira.”
According to El-Othmani, Morocco’s Head of Government, Saad Eddine El-Othmani, stressed that Morocco always strives to preserve its “sovereignty, unity, and sense of connection to its southern provinces,” in whatever agreements are approved and signed.