EU and Morocco close ranks over CJEU ruling

Rabat and Brussels issue a joint communiqué to show their acceptance of the ruling and prolong their fisheries and trade partnership
Borrell Bourita

PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell during a joint press conference in 2019.

The ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued on Wednesday morning has overturned the fisheries agreements reached in 2019 between Morocco and the European Union. The court considers that the parties have not taken into account the consent of the people of Western Sahara, as the pact included territories "pending decolonisation", according to the United Nations.

More than 90% of the catches under the fisheries agreement come from Saharawi waters. The EU pays Morocco some 50 million euros a year in return for allowing shipowners access to this maritime zone. The pact has been in place for four years, but it is only now that the European Court of Justice has ruled on the matter.

Hours after learning of the ruling, the highest foreign policy representatives in Rabat and Brussels issued a joint communiqué. In the letter, signed by the Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, they acknowledge that they have "taken note" of the court decision and will act accordingly for the future.

Barco pesquero Sáhara
PHOTO/FILE  -  Fishing boat in Saharan waters

"We remain fully mobilised to maintain cooperation between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco, in a climate of calm and commitment, in order to consolidate the Euro-Moroccan Partnership for Shared Prosperity, launched in June 2019," the communiqué states. So they intend to prolong a commercial union that has proved lucrative for both parties.

"We will continue to work to develop the multiple dimensions of this strategic partnership, in the same spirit of mobilisation, coherence and solidarity," announced Bourita and Borrell. A position designed to reassure the fishing sector, which expects to receive a severe economic setback with the revocation of the agreement. The Spanish economy, a major beneficiary of the terms of the trade alliance, is also likely to suffer.

The Court rejected the appeals of the member states, which undermined the legitimacy of the Polisario Front. On the contrary, the Court approved a minimum period during which the operations can continue to take place with the aim of preserving European external action "and the legal security" of its partners. However, this period may not exceed two months unless one of the parties lodges an appeal in cassation before the CJEU itself.

Borrell Marruecos
PHOTO/FILE  -  High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The Polisario Front's representative to the European Union, Ubbi Buchraya, declared to EFE that the judgement of the Luxembourg Court dismantles the arguments of the European Commission on the validity of the agreements. In any case, the European-Moroccan partnership does not seem to have been affected.

"This equal partnership is based on a solid bilateral relationship, based on trust and mutual respect, between the Kingdom of Morocco and the European Union, while contributing to the strengthening of this relationship and that of the Member States," concludes the communiqué. A message which also reveals the close ties between the Kingdom of Morocco and the EU. These relations are not only limited to this agreement, but also operate at the migratory and security level.

Another of the most important areas is economic, as the European Union is the Alawi Kingdom's main trading partner, and Europe reciprocates by recognising Morocco as its closest ally in the southern Mediterranean, despite its recent diplomatic clash with Spain. Rabat sends 73 per cent of its exports to Brussels; the reverse is true for 24 per cent of European exports, which are destined for the North African country.