A 2011 EU trade agreement with Morocco which lifted import restrictions upon foodstuffs from that country has been partially overturned by the EU Supreme Court after local farmers contested the treaty in court.
Almería’s farming union COAG had filed the complaint after realising that one of the included areas of Morocco able to produce fruit and vegetables for EU consumption was the Western Sahara area. This area, abandoned by Spain in 1975 and claimed by the Kingdom of Morocco, is the site of a decades long war of independence waged by the Polisario Front.
The EU Supreme Court agreed last week that the trade agreement does not permit consumers to correct identify between produce from Morocco or the Western Sahara regions, contrary to EU law. But the EU has yet to modify the trade agreement, and is preparing an appeal which will prevent the sentence being implemented.
Local farmers claim this trade agreement has caused severe economic damage to the province, as they are unable to compete with the cheaper costs of Moroccan farmers.
COAG celebrated the decision as a victory for local farmers. But the Junta de Andalucía has urged caution, as it is not yet known if the ruling will substantially modify the agreement.
Minister Ortiz from the Junta said it was “too early” to say whether the ruling would benefit local farmers. She also warned that it could adversely affect Spanish fishing boats.
In a conference held last Friday in Vícar, the minister said: “This is a very complicated court ruling, a 50 page decision. Our legal team must now read and understand this situation, but I suspect it will only affect produce and fish from the Western Sahara region, not the whole of Morocco. We are very worried about the fishing rights”.
Andalucian fishing fleets have the right to exploit fishing permits in Moroccan waters, including those off the Western Sahara, and would potentially loose these lucrative rights if the trade agreement is overturned.
The trade agreement was originally backed by Northern European nations eager for a fresh source of cheap produce for their markets. It was bitterly opposed by Spain, which feared its farmers could not compete with the North African market.
COAG claims that 350,000 jobs have been lost across Spain just in the tomato farms due to this trade agreement.