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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
EU abandons Morocco fish talks
Trawler
Spanish fishermen must look for new waters
The European Union and Morocco have abandoned hope of renewing a fisheries agreement after more than 15 months of talks.

The agreement would have given about 400 mainly Spanish and Portuguese small boats the right to fish in Moroccan waters.

Instead the EU will focus efforts on help for fishermen in the south of Spain and Portugal to restructure and find alternative jobs.

EU boats fished in Moroccan waters for more than a decade in return for which Morocco received millions of dollars worth of EU aid.

But the agreement expired at the end of 1999 and the two sides have made little progress since then, despite repeated meetings.

Last month talks collapsed over the restrictions Rabat wanted to impose on EU boats and the amount of EU financial assistance Morocco should receive in return.

Stalemate

Portugal had hoped to persuade other member states to continue talks aimed at securing access for small traditional boats, but other countries - led by Spain - appeared to have run out of patience.

The Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, said on Wednesday that Morocco was "not interested" in an agreement and urged the EU to negotiate instead with other countries, including Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania.

He also said the government would have to look at alternative employment for some fishermen.

Spain is seeking EU aid worth 540 million euros ($483m ) over five years to help its fishermen, but EU officials are reported as saying that this is too high.

Each fishing job is estimated to support four others in associated industries such as fish processing and boat repairs.

On Tuesday about 300 fishermen in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia took to the streets to protest at the continuing stalemate. A blockade of Moroccan products at the port of Algeciras caused only minor disruption.

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16 Oct 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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