Most of the EU`s financial support to Morocco under the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement has been spent on occupied land, new government report reveals.
Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) has obtained access to a recent report written by the Moroccan government, documenting how it has spent money that it has received from the EU as part of its current fisheries partnership agreement. Here is what it tells.
The report shows that the absolute lion’s share of the EU`s funding from July 2019 to October 2020 was not spent in Morocco proper, but in the part of Western Sahara that Morocco holds under illegal military occupation. WSRW`s detailed analysis of the report reveals that out of €45,35 million given from the EU to Morocco, at least €35 million (over 77%) has been spent in occupied Western Sahara. It is certain, however, that the exact amount is even higher: several projects funded by the EU are carried out partly in Morocco and partly in Western Sahara, but the report provided by the Moroccan government does not allow to determine to what extent these split projects were carried out at which location. As such, Morocco is spending most of the money accrued through its fish deal with the EU on developing its fish sector and on infrastructure projects in a territory over which it has no legal title.
The EU-Morocco Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) entered into force on 18 July 2019. It is implemented through a Protocol, detailing the technical aspects to the agreement for a period of four years. The current Protocol thus runs until 17 July 2023.
In return for the opportunity to fish in the Moroccan ‘fishing zone’, the EU has agreed to remunerate Morocco on an annual basis, with the added condition that Morocco is to annually report on how it spent that money.
In December 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that since Western Sahara has a separate and distinct status to Morocco, no EU Trade or Association Agreement with Morocco can be applied to the territory. The only way for any such agreement to lawfully affect Western Sahara, is through obtaining the explicit consent of the people of the territory. In 2018, the Court struck down the application of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement in Western Sahara over the same reasons. But the EU ignored the Court`s rulings and opened negotiations with Morocco to modify both its trade deal and its fisheries agreement so that they will incorporate Western Sahara. The people of Western Sahara were not included in the entire process, and their objections to having their land included in the agreements were disregarded. Adding insult to injury, instead of trying to obtain the Saharawi people`s consent to continue, the EU Commission misled the Parliament and Council by presenting false claims on the Saharawi people`s opinions. The entire process has been documented in WSRW`s report Above The Law, published in December 2020.
Not only do the people of Western Sahara object to having their land included - against their will - in the EU-Morocco fish deal. They`re not even reaping the potential benefits. Saharawis are traditionally not a fishing people. The fish sector in the territory was developed under the Spanish colonisation and taken over by Morocco after its invasion in 1975. To date there are but few Saharawis employed in the fish sector. They have often protested against the exclusion and marginalisation they face in the job market in favour of Moroccan settlers. Cables by US diplomats leaked in 2010 revealed that the fishing industry in Western Sahara was controlled by generals of the Moroccan army. This was corroborated by independent Moroccan media, which in 2012 published a list of the principle possessors of fishing licences.
The EU has funded Moroccan construction of storage spaces for fishermen in occupied Western Sahara, mostly used by Moroccan settlers. The photo is from Morocco`s expenditure report to the EU in relation to the Union`s 2019-2020 financial support.
Morocco`s report on its expenditure of EU funds illustrates the union`s diametrically opposite approach to the annexed territories of Palestine, Crimea and Western Sahara. The part of the funding going to the occupied territory seems even to have increased since the previous partnership agreement.
The Moroccan report can be downloaded here.
For the first operative year of the Protocol – from July 2019 to October 2020 (adding three months to accommodate for COVID19), €45,35 million was paid to Morocco. That money was not one single sum but was divided across three categories:
- The EU paid Morocco €19,1 million for access to fish in the ‘fishing zone’;
- In addition, the EU operators that have fished under the agreement, have paid €8,7 million in fees to Morocco.
- Finally, the EU paid Morocco €17,55 million as sectoral support: money that is specifically earmarked to develop Morocco’s fishing sector.
- There are conditions as to how Morocco can spend that money.
- The €17,55 million sectoral support has to be spent on projects to develop Morocco’s fishing sector.
- The other two categories combined - a total of €27,8 million in EU money for access and the operators’ fees - has to be spent by Morocco on projects that are to the socio-economic benefit of the ‘concerned populations’ - those living in the areas where fishing takes place.
WSRW research now reveals that Morocco spent most of the sectoral support on developing the fish sector in occupied Western Sahara and practically all of the financial compensation for access on infrastructural projects in the territory.
Nearly half of the sectoral support was spent on projects implemented exclusively in Western Sahara, with an additional 16% spent on projects that are carried out in part in Western Sahara, and another 20% on projects that are probably also carried out - at least in part - in Western Sahara. Only 16,7% of the sectoral support was spent on projects that were fully implemented in Morocco proper. The support is described in the Moroccan document`s pages 1 to 76, and is analysed by us in the yellow box below.
Morocco`s use of the financial compensation for access and the operators` fees is even more astonishing. Only 4% was spent on projects in Morocco. An astounding 96% was poured into - mainly - infrastructural work in the territory it holds under occupation. As the money has to be spent in accordance with the locations of EU fishing activities, this is the clearest admission possible of where the EU is actually fishing through its fish agreement with Morocco: in the waters of the territory which, according the EU`s highest Court, is separate and distinct from Morocco.
The EU`s massive funding of the expansion of the Moroccan fisheries sector, owned and staffed by Moroccans, in the occupied territory of Western Sahara has to stop immediately. It constitutes blatant complicity in the acquisition of territory by force and in a dramatic process of demographic engineering. These are serious crimes under international law. The European support to Morocco`s settler enterprise in Western Sahara must end, says Member of the European Parliament Thomas Waitz (Austria, Greens/EFA).
More details on what the access money (point 1) and the sectoral support (point 2) were spent on, are included below.
1. 96% of the EU`s financial compensation was spent on infrastructure in occupied Western Sahara
The report that Morocco has provided to the EU Commission contains only 5 pages (document`s pages 84 to 89), added as an annex, on the “geographical and social division of the financial compensation in relation to access to the fishing zone and to the fees paid by the operators”.
“The two parties have agreed that the instalments will be distributed geographically in accordance with the activities of EU vessels in each of the six fishing categories”, the report states. Under the Protocol to the SFPA, there are indeed six different fishing categories that correspond to different geographical areas. During the first year of the Protocol, “EU vessels mainly frequented the areas of category 6 (industrial pelagic fishing)”, the report says. Category six geographically corresponds to occupied Western Sahara.
The report reads that out of the €27,8 million, “at least 26,6 million” was spent “in the regions of Dakhla-Oued Eddahab and Laayoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra”. Note that for Morocco, Western Sahara does not exist, and is thus referred to as either the ‘southern provinces’ or through the illegally imposed administrative division of these two regions.
The report includes a table listing the specific projects and the amounts spent on each of them. While €1,14 million was spent on projects in the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region of Morocco proper, the remainder went to projects in Western Sahara: €17,08 million to Dakhla-Oued Eddahab and €9,57 million to Laayoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra.
2. Most of the sectoral support went to developing the fish sector in occupied Western Sahara
In addition, the report shows how Morocco spent the EU funding that was specifically earmarked for the development of its national fish sector, the so-called sectoral support. Contrary to the 5 pages documenting how the access and operator fees were spent, the report is a bit more detailed as to how the sectoral support was spent. For each of the 31 projects that were started on during the first operative year of the Protocol, there is a short description, and an estimate of the degree of implementation. The Moroccan government must first present the projects it would consider eligible for EU sectoral support; the EU Commission then needs to expressly agree to fund these projects in arrears. Once granted EU approval, Morocco can proceed with the implementation of the projects, and the EU reimburses one year down the line, in accordance with progress made.
The report makes no mention of Western Sahara. But the figures can be deduced from examining the more precise location of the projects listed by Morocco as being funded as part of the agreement.
As compared to reports submitted under the previous EU-Morocco fisheries Protocol (2014-2018), this report is thus much murkier in terms of specifying locations. In the previous reports, projects were listed per Moroccan administrative region, making it more or less clear whether a project was implemented in Western Sahara or not: 2 of the 12 regions are located entirely in occupied Western Sahara; ‘Laayoune – Saguia El Hamra’ and ‘Dakhla – Oued Eddahab’. The administrative region ‘Guelmim – Oued Noun’, which overlaps the border between Western Sahara and Morocco, is not seen as relevant for fisheries related activities relevant for our assesment, as the boder overlap is in inland, and not by the coast.
For most projects, a specific location is mentioned. However, five of the listed projects do not specify the location of implementation or are too vague. As such, WSRW has below included a short description of the projects that were fully, partly or probably implemented in Western Sahara.
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Image on front page: Extract from the cover of the report. Source: WSRW. Image on this page: Chart indicating the distribution of EU Fisheries Agreement proceeds. Source: WSRW.