When El Youssoufi ordered the European vessels to leave the Moroccan waters.

On November the 4th 1999, the 1995 fisheries agreement signed by Morocco and the European Union expired. Prime Minister, Abderrahman El Youssoufi, took his time to renew the agreement, allowing Morocco to preserve its natural resources, reducing licenses by more than 75%, and developing the fisheries sector.

On the 19th of February, members of the European Union allowed the European Commission to negotiate a new fisheries agreement with the Kingdom. The go-ahead given to the EU institution responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU, did not find a clear solution to the situation. In fact, Spanish ship-owners alongside the Moroccan authorities are not being reassured as it is the European Court of Justice that will give its final word on the 2014 agreement renewal.

A few days before receiving a decisive ruling by the court on the primordial treaty, scheduled for February 27, the two sides are carrying out a strong lobbying campaign. «The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Aziz Akhannouch, is travelling frequently to Brussels. Moreover, he did not take part in Thursday’s government council. CNDH president Driss El Yazami is also at the EU headquarters for the same reason», a source told Yabiladi.

El Youssoufi unenthusiastic about renewing the 1995 agreement

Almost two decades ago, Morocco did not think twice before shutting the door on Europeans. On the 4th of November 1999, most precisely when the 1995 agreement expired, 430 fishing trawlers were prohibited from operating in the Moroccan waters. «All boats operating under this fisheries agreement are invited to leave the country’s territorial waters this Wednesday before midnight», the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

At the time, Prime Minister Abderrahmane El Youssoufi remained firm on the issue, throwing the ball in the European Union’s court. In October 1999, and in a conference attended by a huge number of Spanish journalists who came to cover negotiations regarding the partnership with Morocco and the EU, he announced that the new collaboration must help develop the Moroccan fisheries sector relying on the European know-how. El Youssoufi wanted to end the royalties’ regime (125 million Euros annually in exchange of the right to fish using a substantial fleet composed of 430 boats).

Although the Spanish government, headed at the time by right-wing José Maria Aznar, pressured Morocco through the immigration issue, El Youssoufi held firm and still. After his term ended in October 2002, European boats were allowed to fish in the Moroccan waters, which included the Atlantic zone and Western Sahara. However, the number of shipping vessels dropped moving from 430 to only 119.