Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Letter from The U.S. Congress to the EU Fisheries directorate

Congress of the United States
Washington DC 20515

The Honorable Joe Borg
Fisheries Directorate
European Commission
B-1049 Brussels

February 28, 2006

Dear Commissioner Borg

We are writing to express our concern regarding the upcoming vote on the
Fisheries Agreement signed by the government of Morocco and the European
Community. Our concern stems from the fact that the conflict over Western
Sahara has not yet been resolved and therefore any exploration and/or
exploitation of resources in that territory would be inappropriate and in
violation of UN legal opinions and international norms regarding
territories in dispute.

As you may know, despite the 1975 International Court of Justice ruling
stating that Morocco has no legitimate claims to the land of Western
Sahara, and numerous UN Security Council actions to resolve the conflict,
the Moroccan government maintains that Western Sahara is part of Morocco.
In addition, on February 12, 2002, Mr. Hans Corell, Legal Counsel, sent
the following legal opinion to the UN Security Council on the exploration
of mineral resources of Western Sahara, stating that if “exploration
activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the
people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international
law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in
Non-Self-Governing Territories”.

Our understanding is that the European Fisheries Agreement does not
include a provision that would prohibit EU fishing vessels from fishing in
the waters linked to Western Sahara as there is nothing that specifies the
boundaries of Morocco, particularly in the South. As a result, any fishing
licenses granted could cover the waters of the disputed territory. In
addition, approval of the Fisheries Agreement could also lead to EU
funding development projects for Moroccan settlers residing in the
disputed territory.

In 2004, the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement with the Kingdom
of Morocco; however, this Agreement clearly stipulated that the area
included only the land within the internationally recognized boundaries of
Morocco. Without a clear definition of the territorial boundaries covered
by the EU Fisheries Agreement, the Kingdom of Morocco could issue fishing
licenses for Western Sahara waters and resources from those waters could
be exported to ports around the world. Should fish from those waters be
exported to the United States, such an importation would be a violation of
our Free Trade Agreement with Morocco. Such is the seriousness attached to
this issue by the United States.

While trade and cooperation between nations is an important policy, we
strongly believe that trade should not be in violation of international
agreements and norms and in the case of the European Fisheries Agreement
it should exclude the territory of Western Sahara. We respectfully urge
that a section be added to the Fisheries Agreement clearly delineating the
territory covered by this new Agreement.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to
hearing from you on this issue, preferably before the Agreement is
submitted to the European Parliament for approval.


Joseph Pitts
Member of Congress

Donald M. Payne
Member of Congress

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