When Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Prime Minister of Iceland, visited Brussels last month, he tried to teach the European Union a lesson about the scientific analysis on fishing stocks of North Atlantic. Seemingly, European Commissioner Maria Damanaki responsible for Maritime and Fisheries Affairs didn’t learn anything. Yesterday, she decided to adopt trade measures against Faroe Islands and Iceland to allegedly protect the Atlanto-Scandian herring and mackerel fish stocks. The sanctions include a ban on Faroe Islands and Iceland fishing vessels to call on European Union ports or sell herring and mackerel catches and products to EU.
Given that herring and mackerel fishing constitute the main source of income for Iceland and the Faroe Islands the EU is practically condemning the island nations to starvation. As far as Iceland is concerned, the measures adopted by Damanaki may have a revengeful character, because tiny Iceland didn’t follow the ‘orders’ of the European Central Bank back in 2008 and let its banks go bankrupt, without the tiny state undertaking to repay foreign depositors. In short, Iceland refused to nationalise the debts of its bankrupt banks (Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir). British and Dutch depositors to those Icelandic lenders were then repaid by the British and Dutch governments never forgiving Reykjavík for that. Later on, Iceland was vindicated for that by the Commercial Court of Paris.
At the time, this decision was considered as a clear alternative to the path followed by Ireland. To be reminded that the Republic of Ireland undertook to repay in full the huge obligations of its bankrupt banks, sending the country to its worst crisis and placing its economy under the directions of the European Commission and the ECB. The result is that Ireland has still a long way to recover and the country’s taxpayers will be paying for the Irish banks’ exposure to toxic assets and placements. All that under the pressures of the EU Commission and the ECB.
Today, Iceland is totally free of any foreign obligation and is about to even withdraw its application for a full EU membership. The obvious reason is the sure prospect that once Iceland becomes a full member of the EU, the Union will place the Icelandic fishing grounds under its own jurisdiction, depriving the tiny state from its basic source of income. European Sting writer Dennis Kefalakos on 17 July stressed that “The European Union accuses Iceland of overfishing the mackerel stocks in the North East Atlantic. The island country almost laughs with this, actually challenging the EU’s scientific calibre and questioning its honesty. Not to forget that fishing is the lifeline of Iceland. On many occasions during the past decades, a number of European countries like Britain and Ireland have declared ‘troller wars’ against Iceland’s fishermen. In the 1970s and the 1980s, Iceland fought with Britain and the European Union the ‘cod war’ over the fishing rights of this delicious bite”.
In any case “The European Commission has adopted a package of measures to address the continued unsustainable fishing of herring by the Faroe Islands. The measures include the ban of imports of herring and mackerel from the Atlanto-Scandian stocks that has been caught under the control of the Faroe Islands as well as fishery products containing or made of such fish”. This decision doesn’t name Iceland but nobody else catches mackerel in the North Atlantic.
The EU decision states that the ban for the Faroe Islands and Icelandic fishing vessels refers only to boats implicated in the fishing of herring and mackerel. But who is to say which boat is and which is not. In reality, the ban includes all fishing vessels of the two tiny states. What is even more embarrassing, though, is the fact that the European Union forbids not only the sale of such catches to its markets but all Faroe Islands and Icelandic products containing even traces of such fish. Knowing how cunning the European Commission could be, it’s more than certain that all fish products from the two island states are from now on banned from the European Union. No need to mention that the EU is the main market for Faroe and Icelandic products.
It is deplorable that Commissioner Damanaki, a left-wing socialist politician, accepted to condemn two helpless tiny democracies from their basic source of income. Possibly, there is much truth in EU allegations for overfishing of herring and mackerel in the North Atlantic. But it’s not only Faroe and Iceland fishermen the only culpable parties. The huge EU fishing fleets are equally responsible for that. The EU could at least have included some compensation for Faroe and Iceland in the negotiations for the reduction of catches. Unfortunately there was not such a proposal.