We have mentioned before a certain organization that exists on the social network Facebook, called Reclaim Our Seas Alliance or ROSA. Its aim is to set up communication between various fishing groups in the relevant member states of the European Union.

ROSA TRI has been providing links to the story of the ongoing protests by Italian fishermen against fuel prices and tax increases. (As it happens, these were inevitable, given Italy's economic situation but the fishermen are a little fed up with being always on the receiving end of every new tax and regulation.) Two links are here and here though the provenance of the second link may not be to everyone's taste.

Some people might have problems with this video as well, Press TV being, notoriously, controlled by the Iranian government, but we think the content is worth watching:

 FAL sent its support through ROSA TRI and added words or warning:

The Fishermen’s Association Ltd (FAL) - a founding member of ROSA -has total sympathy with the Italian and French fishermen facing escalating fuel prices and stringent EU Regulations. However be warned.
You may believe that the current social and economic crisis faced by the EU fishing industries is of gigantic proportions for the coastal communities and the industries they support; BUT our bitter experience over many years is that those Regulations will only get worse as the ultimate objective of the EU’s strategy is realised – the elimination of the fishing fleets of the Member States and the creation of an EU fleet.
It is time to reclaim our future from those who are making detrimental regulations not only to the resource but to those who make a living from it and who protect it for their children.
Decision making powers must be repatriated to the Member States as a basis for a series of regional fisheries management arrangements between the relevant Member States.
We will be happy to meet with representatives of all Member States fishing organisations who share that objective.
However while we sympathise with the frustration and anger of our EU colleagues we can neither condone nor participate in any illegal action.
Roddy McColl
On behalf of FAL

So far the reaction has been positive. We shall see whether a real alliance between the various organizations can be built.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

What happened in 1970 - 2

Regulation 2141/70, the basis of the Common Fisheries Policy was adopted by October 1970 though, apparently, the FCO remained unaware of this or, possibly, insisted that it was unaware. The text we have linked to is in French as it was not published in English at the time, there being no English speaking country in the EEC. One imagines a translation was provided for the FCO eventually and for the negotiators. It was also published in Dutch, Italian and German.

A cursory glance through the Regulation shows that it establishes a common policy for the fisheries and the concept of commonly held waters or, in other words, equal access for all member states. In this Report the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated in Section 4.1:

Community control over fisheries is derived from explicit mention in the Treaty itself 2/, as enacted by the Council of Ministers through regulations in 1970 3/. They were consolidated in 1976 4/, with derogations provided for by the Treaty of Accession in respect of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Regulation 2141/70/EEC, established a common structural policy for the fishing industry and in particular aimed to ensure equal access to the fishing grounds of each member State "coming under its sovereignty or within its jurisdiction". 5/

2/ Article 38 - para. 1, and Articles 39-46, read in conjunction with Annex II which brings fisheries within the overall common agricultural policy

3/ O.J. 1970 L 236/1 and 5 - Council Regulations 2141 and 2142/70/EEC

4/ O.J. 1976 L 20/1 and 19 - Council Regulations 100 and 101/76/EEC

5/ Article 2 of Regulation 2141/70 and restated in Article 2 of Regulation 101/76

Actually, the references are not exactly accurate (we shall deal with later developments in other postings) because the Regulation does not mention Article 38, merely, Articles 7, 42, 43 and 235.

Article 38 of the Treaty of Rome states:

1. The common market shall extend to agriculture and trade in agricultural products. “Agricultural products” means the products of the soil, of stock-farming and of fisheries and products of first-stage processing directly related to these products.

2. Save as otherwise provided in Articles 39 to 46, the rules laid down for the establishment of the common market shall apply to agricultural products.

3. The products subject to the provisions of Articles 39 to 46 are listed in Annex II to this Treaty. Within two years of the entry into force of this Treaty, however, the Council shall, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, decide what products are to be added to this list.

4. The operation and development of the common market for agricultural products must be accompanied by the establishment of a common agricultural policy among the Member States.

The reason Article 38 is quoted erroneously is because it is the only one that actually mentions fisheries or, to be quite precise, the products of fisheries and the establishment of a common market in them all.

The Articles that are actually quoted as the basis for the infamous Regulation do not refer to the subject as was stated by Service Juridique of the Council of Ministers in its Opinion of 18/05/1970. The Opinion discarded Article 38 as it did not cover fisheries themselves, only their products; it discarded Articles 39 - 43 as these did not even mention fisheries; and it discarded Article 7 as it did not furnish a sufficient base for the Regulation.

That left Article 235, a catch-all one, so familiar to those of us who have had the misfortune to deal with EEC/EC/EU legislation.

If action by the Community should prove necessary to attain, in the course of the operation of the common market, one of they objectives of the Community and this Treaty has not provided the necessary powers, the Council shall, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the Assembly [European Parliament], take the appropriate measures.

Even so, fisheries are not mentioned so the argument that Article 235 is a sound enough legal basis remains doubtful.

In the end none of it mattered. Breaking its own legal structures, not for the last time, the EEC's Council of Ministers passed the Regulation. The British government denied as long as it could its existence, then trumpeted as a great achievement that a derogation for the 6 mile zone was agreed and even that was under Community rules. The 6 - 12 mile zone was to be under limited control but all of this was merely a 10 year derogation.

In its negotiations, the British government accepted the basic premiss of the fisheries being a common resource and that, inevitably, meant equal access to the waters allowing for temporary derogations. 

That goes both for the World Wildlife Fund and the Guardian that dutifully reports the organization's every move, report and statement. It is, of course, disgraceful, that through those Third Country Agreements fleets of EU member states fish out the waters of developing countries (except those, like Namibia or Morocco, who have metaphorically speaking have shown the EU the door).

The reason for that is not the fact that European fishermen are particularly evil, though you would never guess that from the WWF's attitude but the Common Fisheries Policy itself. By turning the whole of the EU waters and fishing stock into common resource to be shared out between countries according to centrally decided rules voted on by all 27 members, the European Union has ensured that sustainable fishing as well as sustainable fishing communities has become a thing of the past.

At the same time the problem of heavily subsidized large fleets in some member states has remained. Essentially, those agreements are a way of passing on those problems to the countries outside the EU waters. But you would never guess that, either, from the article.

We are now living under a Danish Presidency in the European Union as the system of rotation goes on. Its work programme on the fisheries was presented  at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting. In parenthesis, it has to be noted that the European Union does not go in for mundane matters like legislation through elected legislative assemblies, however one calls them but through administrative work programmes that continue regardless of electoral cycles.

Regarding the fisheries policy reform, the Council will aim to conclude the debate on the reform package, which consists of a new basic regulation, a new common market organisation and a new European maritime and fisheries fund for 2014-2020.

Not a particularly ambitious programme and no mention of the real CFP that should come into its own this year.

Monday, 23 January 2012

An interesting thought

If Scotland votes to leave the UK (not that it will but let us suppose) they will, presumably, have to apply for EU membership, which is what Alex Salmond longs for. However, the country they will leave behind will be very different from the one that became member of the then European Economic Community, which gradually transmogrified into just the European Community and, after the Maastricht Treaty, into the European Union. Will the remaining parts, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to reapply? That could be interesting.

Monday, 16 January 2012

FAL Chairman's letter published

Sandy Patience, Chairman of FAL had a letter published in The Press and Journal on January 14 of this year. Here is the full text:

The letter on Scottish Independence in yesterday’s Press and Journal by Ian Walker is absolutely correct.

It is pure fantasy for Alex Salmond to hoodwink the Scottish people into believing that we can have an independent Scotland within the European Union.

We need to waken up to the undeniable fact that the European Union exists for the benefit of the European Union, not for the benefit of the member states.

EU law demands that new member states must accept existing Community legislation in its entirety and subscribe to the common policies. No exceptions can be allowed other than those agreed upon for a transitional period.

So what does the future hold for the fishing industry in an independent Scotland within the EU? - the continuation of the deliberate and decisive destruction of the Scottish fishing fleet, under the pretence of the need for more and more conservation, while at the same time allowing a seal population to explode and consume more fish than the EU allows the industry to catch.

And what does the future hold for us all with so called independence in the European Union?

There would be nothing but political intrusion, suppression and diktat while commanded to hand over billions of pounds a year for illusory benefits

The idea that Scottish fishermen will, somehow, do well out of that weird status of "independence within the EU" is, as Sandy Patience, says, complete fantasy. Unsurprisingly, many other people in Scotland may realize this truth. According to the top news story in the same newspaper:

VOTERS across northern Scotland have said no to independence in a survey commissioned by the Press and Journal.

And they want to have their say on the issue now – not in 2014, when the SNP says it will put the question to the nation.

Nearly 45% of those polled said they would reject the chance to let Scotland go it alone.

That may be why Alex Salmond wants to postpone the referendum.

Friday, 6 January 2012

What happened in 1970 - 1

It is time, we have decided, to go back to basics and trace some of the elements of the Common Fisheries Policy. It is no great secret that the policy and its incarnation, EEC Council Regulation 2141/70, was cobbled together hastily and illegally according to the EEC's own laws (more details in another posting) a few months before the applications of four countries with the richest fishing waters, UK, Ireland, Denmark and Norway were put in. Since applicants have to negotiate on the basis of the acquis communautaire, that is existing legislation, the CFP had to be shoe-horned into it.

Whether by design or, more likely, incompetence the FCO and the relevant politicians did not wake up in time to realize how serious that problem would be for Britain and its fishing. Rather desperately Edward Heath negotiated a derogation up to the 6 mile limit, then found that Ireland and Norway demanded control of waters up to the 12 mile limit. The story is told in The Great Deception by Christopher Booker and Richard North.

There is an interesting aspect to that sorry tale. Norway, as the authors point out, passed a law that limited the size of vessels allowed into the 6 to 12 mile zone. This was a blow to the British deep sea trawlers. They then add a note:

A question which inevitably arises when looking back at the fisheries episode is why Britain and the other applicant countries did not band together to insist that the 'equal access' rule was unacceptable. It is clear from the FCO papers that this was rejected because Britain's distant-water fishing companies, then the biggest players in the fishing industry, saw in 'equal access' a chance to win greater access to Norwegian waters. In the end, of course, Norway did not join and within a few years most of those companies disappeared. 
The tale of this country's membership of what was then the EEC and is now the EU is complicated with such details. It is not a tale of simple foreign domination but a disastrous one, nonetheless.