- European Union (EU) authorities will soon be able to make a first payment to Mauritania's military rulers in a four-year fishing deal, ending one month of delay and risk of agreement's collapse, EU officials said this week.
EU ministers struck deal with Mauritania in July, bloc's single largest such fishing agreement, committing to pay US$123.4 million by 31 August for right to fish in Mauritania's waters in year one.
But in early August, country had a military coup that deposed first democratically elected president. As yet, EU had not paid its first tranche of cash, saying it needs to be sure Mauritania's new rulers will abide by deal struck by previous government.
Fees vary from 70 to 76 million for following years.
Mauritania's government recently sent a letter to European Commission (EC), EU's executive arm, to confirm that it would "strictly observe terms of fisheries partnership agreement which was concluded just a few days before coup", EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg told media.
Mr Borg then secured backing of EU governments for him to initiate a commission process for funds to be transferred, before a mid-October deadline when Mauritania would acquire right to cancel entire deal because of EU's non-payment.
"We have endorsement of council (of EU ministers) to pay. There will now be a legal procedure over 10 days so we are fully within deadline," commission officials said.
EU has signed more than 20 bilateral fishing deals with developing countries, mainly in Africa. Its Mauritanian catch is reportedly set at 250,000 tonnes a year of octopus, crab and crawfish, as well as sardines, anchovies and lobster.
Fishing licences are allocated to several EU countries, of which Spain is by far the most significant.
Given that commission did not make any payment before 31 August, Mauritania has right under agreement terms to suspend entire deal if no cash is received by 15 October.
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