Friday, 9 August 2013

Iceland's case

On the whole, we do not consider it necessary to quote politicians at length. It is enough to note what they say and move on. However, in this case, we do recommend our readers to read the article by Sigisrdur Ingi Johansson, Iceland's Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, in the Wall Street Journal. As we have pointed out before (too often to link to) the EU's behaviour has not been rational or politically sensible; it has been the behaviour of a greedy, peevish school bully but, at least, there is some sign that sense might, if not prevail, at least get a look in. Talks are planned for early September.

Iceland's recently elected government has a renewed sense of purpose to resolve the international dispute over mackerel catch levels in the northeast Atlantic. Yet rather than pushing toward a fair outcome, aggressive talk of trade sanctions from Brussels is harming the effort to seal a lasting shared-quota agreement.

Iceland is dealing with an unexpected explosion in the number of mackerel in our waters. Cooperation and diplomacy, not illegal sanctions, are needed to manage the stock together. Our position is clear and unchanged: We want to sit down and reach a fair, lasting solution for all of Europe's coastal states. The EU's decision last week to move forward with sanctions against the Faroe Islands sets an unfortunate precedent.

Since 2010, Iceland has repeatedly offered concrete proposals that would have solved the dispute, including five public requests this year to reconvene the relevant coastal states—Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway and the European Union, which represent Scotland and Ireland, among others, in this dispute—for urgent talks. These efforts were rejected.

Given the lack of action from other countries, Iceland's new government, which took office after April's election, decided to take bold action to restart negotiations. We reached out to our counterparts with the offer to host multilateral talks as soon as possible. We are pleased that the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands have confirmed they will attend these new talks, which are scheduled for early September. Norway's participation is especially encouraging: The Norwegian government previously stated that it was not in a position to negotiate until after September's elections.

Sadly, the UK will not be there negotiating though the issue is of some importance to this country and its fishermen as well as consumers. But then, we have handed over our rights to the EU and submerged our interests into the Common Fisheries Policy. How well that has served us!


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