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EU Commission’s ‘lip service’ to Ireland

In the latest edition of Marine Times, Tom MacSweeney focuses on the EU Fisheries Commissioner’s promise to instigate a full evaluation of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and he rightly points out that, from an Irish fishing industry perspective, we shouldn’t expect too much to change.

Fisheries ministers from various member states, including Ireland’s McConalogue, welcomed the Commissioner’s ‘commitment’ to “look at” the CFP but the fact is that this promise is nothing more than an effort to pander to the growing discontent with a CFP which is clearly not treating all EU member states in a fair and just manner and, going to the old quote, that “everyone is equal but some are more equal than others”.

In these times of ultra slick commercial PR business models designed to fool the public into buying one product over another, selective and carefully chosen words in selling something can easily mislead the consumer.

There are many examples of this - - one of my favourites being, for example, that some brands of frozen beef burgers in supermarkets boldly proclaim to have “100% Irish beef” - but on closer inspection one discovers that this doesn’t mean the burger consists of 100% beef, but that the percentage of actual beef in the product (which can be as low as 40%) is indeed sourced in Ireland.

And of course we’re all aware of the many imported cheap seafood products on retail in Ireland that claim to be from “a sustainable source” but, on reading the small print on the packet, one discovers that this ‘source’ is actually from a shrimp farm somewhere in the Far East where mass overproduction is rife and the hygiene conditions of this food product is disgusting.

Therefore we must look closely and listen carefully to the actual words used when an EU Fisheries Commissioner promises to ‘look at’ the CFP, and why we shouldn’t get our hopes up too much.

As Tom MacSweeney points out, the term ‘evaluation’ refers to the systematic process of assessing what you do - - and so any of us in any walk of life could say at any time that we’re going go ‘evaluate’ the situation - - it doesn’t actually mean we intend to make any changes, just that we’re going to have a look at it.

You can have an unmade bed and promise to ‘evaluate’ the situation, which means you go into the bedroom, look at the bed and say “yep, that’s an unmade bed”, and walk out of the room again without doing anything - - whereas if you decide to ‘review’ the situation, you go into the room, see the unmade bed and decide action is needed to repair the situation i.e. make the bed.

While the Irish fishing industry has been crying out for a full ‘review’ of the CFP, the EU Commission is all too aware that such a step will involve “a formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary” - - which is extremely unlikely to happen when the current CFP is benefiting almost every single EU fishing member state (except Ireland).

In this day and age when the entire model of the European Union is supposed to based on equality and justice, in a scenario of two or more member states joining forces and launching an attack, either military or commercial trading embargos etc. against another member state, then all hell would break loose and immediate action would be taken against the offending nations - - - but, in the case of the system of the Common Fisheries Policy, this is exactly what is taking place on a daily basis and yet it has the full support of the EU Fisheries Commission.

Put simply, Ireland is sitting on a vast wealth of fish resources in its waters and, instead of the EU recognising this and accepting that Ireland should be entitled to at least 50% of the quotas in its sovereign waters (i.e. zonal attachment) and the remainder be allocated amongst other member states as an EU ‘shared resource’, the EU Commission prefers to strangle Ireland’s share in it’s own waters to 12% whilst other more powerful and influential member states scoop up the rest.

Not many years ago it was a widely reported fact that Ireland physically owned 11.5% of EU waters but were only allocated 3.8% of EU quotas - - but that was pre Brexit and since the removal of the UK from the EU, the percentage of EU waters owned by Ireland has geographically greatly increased and yet, due to the EU’s CFP system, Ireland’s share of EU quotas has decreased even further.

Not content with the wildly unbalanced division of quotas, the EU Commission goes even further by using the resources within Irish waters to barter with other non-EU nations in a disturbing system where Ireland foots the bill and other EU member states reap the benefit, as seen in a deal already done with Norway, an upcoming deal with Iceland, and the likelihood of a deal with the Faroe Islands at some point in the future.

So, it is obviously understandable when we hear that nations such as Spain and the Netherlands are voicing their support for the current Common Fisheries Policy system as it has been, and continues to be, hugely beneficial to their fishing industries.

It is however NOT understandable when we hear our own marine minister and his officials thanking the EU Fisheries Commissioner for a mild promise to ‘evaluate’ the CFP when surely they, like the rest of us, must be aware that the powers of the other member states that hold great sway at EU Commission level are going to ensure that nothing changes and that they can continue to have their snouts stuck in the trough that is Irish waters while Irish fishermen are tied to the piers due to lack of a fair quota.

Less than three years ago during a visit to Killybegs the EU Fisheries Commissioner openly stated that, aside from Ireland’s objections, there was “no appetite from the other members states for a review of the CFP - - so is our minister so naive as to believe (and expect us to believe) that the Commission is now going to suddenly backtrack and come out and say “oh gosh lads, you’re right, this is all so unfair - we’ll fix that straight away….”


Doing a bit of research recently I happened to stumble across this piece in “The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2012)” in which Article 2 (part 1) states: “When the Treaties confer on the Union exclusive competence in a specific area, only the Union may legislate and adopt legally binding acts, the Member States being able to do so themselves only if so empowered by the Union or for the implementation of Union acts.

A complicated statement that’s not particularly in reference to the fishing industry but nonetheless contains the alarming line that ‘member states are able to do so themselves ONLY if empowered by the Union” which epitomises the problem of ‘Irish’ waters - - this essentially means “you can do what you like as long as we give you permission first” ——— and the EU is basically declaring that there no longer exists such a thing as Ireland’s ownership of (it’s own) seas and that all waters are now ‘EU waters’ to do with as they please - - but its notable that such EU powers only seem to extend to Ireland’s waters and not so much the waters of any other member state.

Photo credit: reneweuropegroup

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