Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Monday, 12 December 2011

Commission defends EU-Morocco fisheries agreement

Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has defended the outcome of negotiations on the EU-Morocco fisheries partnership agreement against scathing criticism from MEPs.

During a debate on the agreement on 12 December 2011, British Liberal MEP Chris Davies hit out at the "subsidy of extraordinary proportions" paid by the EU for access to the "over-fished" Moroccan waters.

German Social Democrat MEP Ulrike Rodust said the agreement was bad for the environment and questioned its legality, citing a lack of evidence that it would benefit the Sahrawi population, living in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which is claimed by Morocco.

MEPs are being asked to pass legislation extending the protocol, which specifies the number of EU vessels allowed to fish in Moroccan waters, the quotas allocated to them, and EU fees for access to the waters, until February 2012.

Ms Damanaki accepted that the agreement may not be in accordance with international law.

But she urged MEPs to back the deal to enable her to negotiate a "better agreement" in future rounds of talks, which would ensure that the local population benefited and would have better environmental safeguards.

She pledged to "do my best" to make this happen.

But Finnish Liberal MEP and author of a report on the agreement Carl Haglund said: "I cannot agree with the principle that we have to agree with a terrible agreement just so we can have a better one in future."

The agreement is worth €36.1m, and will re-appear on Parliament's agenda again soon as the Commission is expected to propose a completely new protocol to enter into force after February 2012.

MEPs will vote on the agreement in the voting session on Tuesday.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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