UK Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew DUFF and at least one-tenth of the whole European Parliament have tabled a resolution to refer the controversial EU – Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement to the European Court of Justice for an opinion on its legality under the EU Treaties and international law.
The resolution ‑ which is jointly promoted by Mr DUFF and Raul ROMEVA I RUEDA (Verts/ALE, ES) ‑ is the first attempt by the European Parliament to use its new Lisbon Treaty power to refer the EU’s international agreements to the Court for a judicial opinion before taking its vote of consent.
Announcing the tabling of the resolution, Andrew DUFF said: “The prolongation of the Moroccan fisheries agreement gives rise to legal uncertainty on both substantive and procedural grounds. Parliament has a duty to see that the EU’s Treaty obligation to uphold international law is fully respected.
“The resolution, which had to be co-signed by at least 74 MEPs, will now go for a debate and vote in plenary. I hope that MEPs will agree to give the Court of Justice the chance to examine the proposed Agreement more carefully than the European Commission seems to have done in its negotiations with Morocco.
“If the Court upholds our complaint, I expect the judges either to cause the Agreement to be suspended or to recommend that the non-self governing territory of the Western Sahara should be specifically excluded from its scope.”
Under the Agreement and its Protocol, the EU paysMoroccoover €36 million annually to fishMorocco’s waters. The International Court of Justice rejectedMorocco’s claim toWestern Saharain 1975. Controversially, the European Commission applies the Agreement to allow EU vessels to also fish the waters offWestern Sahara, an approach that lawyers at the UN and in the EU have said violates international law.
DUFF added: “Under international law, fishing off Western Sahara is supposed to benefit the people of that territory. The European Court of Justice must now say whether or not the Agreement meets this criterion.
“The Court will also be asked to confirm that the European Parliament has been fully informed by the Commission about the EU’s negotiations with Morocco.”