The EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement was concluded in 2006, and entered into force the following year. It has subsequently been renewed on two occasions. A Protocol implementing the fisheries agreement was also renewed on two occasions, and expired in July this year.
Following a legal challenge, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a judgment in Court case C-266/16 of 27 February 2018, where the Court determined that the existing fisheries agreement and protocol were not applicable to the waters adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara.
In April 2018, the Council of the European Union authorised the European Commission to begin negotiations with Morocco to amend the fisheries agreement and associated protocol in order to implement the Court’s judgment. Following those negotiations, a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement, and a new Implementation Protocol were initialled in July 2018, and, last month, the Council of the European Union agreed to sign the Agreement and Protocol. For the proposed new agreement to enter into force and replace the current agreement, approval by the European Parliament will now be required.
Ireland has carefully assessed the final negotiated outcome, and has received assurances that it fully respects both international law and the Court of Justice of the European Union’s judgment of 27 February 2018 in Case C-266/16.
I must stress that the proposed new agreement, if adopted, would be without prejudice to the position of the EU on Western Sahara. In other words, there is nothing in the terms of the proposed agreement or its protocol which would imply EU recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty or sovereign rights over Western Sahara and the adjacent waters.