BRUSSELS - Member states of the European Union agreed on Monday to start negotiations with Morocco to renew a fishing deal that includes the disputed Western Sahara in a new blow to the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
The Council of Ministers of the 28 EU member states, the European Union's highest governing body, authorized on Monday the European Commission to enter into negotiations with Morocco to sign a new EU-Morocco maritime fishing deal covering Western Sahara.
This authorisation, which was adopted without any objections from the member states, gives the official launch of the negotiations, which the EU executive body will start with the Morocco in the next few days, to conclude a new agreement as the current deal ends July 14.
This mandate confirms not only the continuation of the partnership between Morocco and the EU in the fishing sector, but also an additional guarantee of the legal security of the agreements linking the Kingdom with the European block.
It is also a new diplomatic victory for Morocco almost two months after the European Court of Justice said the fisheries agreement concluded between the EU and Morocco "is valid in so far as it is not applicable to Western Sahara and to its adjacent waters."
The Polisario Front filed the legal appeals against both the farm and fisheries deals that led to the two cases coming before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and maintains it is an integral part of the kingdom. Algerian-backed Polisario Front separatists began an armed conflict with Morocco for an independent state that lasted until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
Rabat has proposed a form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the territory. The proposal was rejected by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which insists on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination in a UN-monitored vote.