UPDATE 1-EU parliament approves Morocco agriculture trade deal
* Deal will extend duty-free trade in food and fisheries
* Critics warn of impact on small farmers, Western Sahara (Adds Moroccan minister)
By Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers approved a new trade deal with Morocco on Thursday that will significantly extend duty-free sales of agricultural, food and fisheries products between the North African kingdom and the 27-nation bloc.
The EU's agriculture chief, Dacian Ciolos, described the deal as both economically and politically significant.
"It is a balanced agreement, which opens new opportunities for our producers in Europe paves the way for a real reinforcement in our relations with Morocco," he said.
But critics said the deal would threaten the livelihoods of small-scale agricultural producers in Morocco and Europe and prolong a decades-old dispute over control of the Western Sahara.
"Those MEPs who endorsed this agreement today should be under no illusion: the agreement is not in the interest of the average Moroccan citizen and not in the interest of the people of Western Sahara," French activist and Green EU lawmaker Jose Bove said in a statement.
"By failing to exclude the non-self-governing territory Western Sahara from the agreement, as the U.S. has done, the EU is adding to the difficulties preventing a peaceful resolution of this conflict," he said. Continued...