Summary: Moroccan Ministers, politicians and fishermen alike are totally opposed to the renewal of the EU/Morocco Fisheries Agreement which authorises the presence in Moroccan waters of 600 mainly Spanish vessels in exchange for an annual payment of ECU125 million. Negotiated in 1991, the Agreement was extended for four years in 1995 and now expires in November 1999. But while Rabat has no wish to sign a new pact, it is reluctant to cut ties with the European Union having expressed a wish to negotiate a new partnership covering both fisheries and associated industries.

Thami Khiari, the Moroccan Fisheries Minister, recently recalled that the fisheries industry employs 400,000 people and accounts for about 15% of Moroccan exports, with annual production close to 800,000 tonnes. The Minister has often emphasised the industry's importance as one of principal vectors for economic and social development, especially in the poorer regions of northern Morocco, in dire need of new industries. He claims the Fisheries Agreement, which he believes to be having a disastrous effect on Moroccan fish stocks, is acting as a powerful brake on the drive towards development. The fisheries industry claims the European Union's contribution of ECU 500 million over four years has done little to help the economic and social development of the sector. Morocco has therefore called for the introduction of a new form of cooperation/partnership with the European Union, taking account both of the long-term management of fish stocks and the importance of these reserves in terms of the economic and social development of the country. Spanish discontent. The European Union appears to be sympathetic to the Moroccan position but is already coming up against pressure from Spain, concerned that the Andalusian fishing industry will face a serious crisis if the Agreement is not renewed...

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