EU lawmakers back fish deal with Morocco
* Greens condemn deal on political, environmental grounds
* Endorsement from EU ministers expected later this month
BRUSSELS Dec 10 (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers approved a fisheries agreement with Morocco on Tuesday, two years after rejecting an earlier proposal because of concerns the pact would strengthen Rabat's control over the disputed Western Sahara.
The decision will allow EU fishermen to fish in Western Saharan waters even though the government of Morocco has no right to sell the resources of Western Sahara under international law.
Critics have long questioned the sustainability of allowing fishing in these waters and whether - as mandated by the United Nations - it benefits the Sahrawi population living under Moroccan rule.
To become law following Tuesday's vote, the agreement requires endorsement from EU ministers, expected to be granted as a formality later this month.
Members of the Green Party in the European Parliament criticised the deal on political and environmental grounds.
"The EU-Morocco fisheries agreement is the most shameful episode in the EU's neo-colonial fisheries policy," Green fisheries and human rights spokesperson Raul Romeva said in a statement.
"In addition to the issue of Western Sahara, the same concerns remain as regards the unsustainable nature of the agreement from a fisheries perspective and its dubious economic basis."
Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara in 1975 prompted a rebellion by the opposition Polisario Front. The United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991, but subsequent talks have failed to settle Africa's longest-running territorial dispute.
European Parliamentary officials said the vote had been close as many lawmakers believed that the political situation had not improved since the 2011 vote that rejected a deal. But they said the cost-benefit ratio was more favourable.
A parliament briefing note said the new EU-Morocco fisheries partnership deal gave increased fishing opportunities for a reduced EU financial contribution, down to 30 million euros ($41.2 million) from 36 million euros per year.
Morocco will have to provide regular reports on the use of the financial contribution in terms of economic and social benefits. The deal also promises to promote sustainable fishing.
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