Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whaling and CFP should not be an issue for Iceland's EU accession!

I am reading with a great interest the progress of Iceland's application for EU membership. Iceland might be a tiny nation, but has a great strategic importance. Located near the North Pole, can give EU and Europe access to the region until and if Norway ever wants to join.

It holds as well a good fisheries stock and a good expertise in finding alternative energy. Their infrastructure is very interesting and many other European states can learn a lot by them.

The fisheries is not the only issue that is a potential obstacle for Iceland's EU membership. The debate on the whaling practices of the small country also raise a case for concern.

It is no lie that EU's CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) is outdated, just like CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and in need of reforms. Some good policies exists in it, but I disagree with many others. The quotas that are set in the policy may not be always the right ones, but quotas are necessary. We need to control our stocks and managing them better. Because they are not going to last forever if we keep exploiting them like we do.

Nevertheless I do not agree with the way we handle our fisheries. Here in Ireland and in Greece, small fishermen complain and blame the EU for destroying their fisheries. In fact EU policies destroyed the small and medium sized fishing industries, as well as many local fishing communities almost completely.

 Large fleets from Spain come to Ireland to fish, and from Italy to Greece to do the same. Small fishermen have lost their jobs and livelihoods to big fleets from large fishing companies. Again it is the people that suffer the consequences, but that does not mean that Ireland or Greece as states have lost from the deals. When each country enters the EU, it negotiates what will give and what it will take from the rest of the Union's members.

From my knowledge, when Ireland entered the EEC, it chose to get support for it's farming industry and money for infrastructure in other areas, but it gave up completely its fisheries. In a way it exchanged them for better farming and development in the areas it was most interested in. So if the Irish want to blame somebody, then they should blame their then government who had no real interest in safeguarding their fisheries and the welfare of their fishermen, not the EU.

But Iceland's position is totally different. One of it's main industries are the fisheries so I doubt if they will abandon them as easily. Nevertheless I disagree with Europe's mentality on this issue overall. Why take all the fisheries from a nation and it's people, do not allow them to exploit them themselves according to quota you give them, so each state can then chose who and how much can catch.

Once a nation depletes it's quota, it can go and exploit another nation's that has not yet done so, and thus provide fish to the whole of the market. I watched a documentary recently about how smaller pacific nations exploit their fisheries, only catching what they need and want. I think it is time for Europe to do the same. Encourage smaller fishermen to work and provide for their families and local communities, following the national and European quota.

Fish are not just commodities to me. They are living organisms that belong to no one else but themselves and to all creatures that depend on them for their food. I disagree with the industrialization of the fisheries as it kills off many species and threatens them with extinction. EU should protect them so the quotas are needed after relative researches are done, to establish which species need protection. De-industrialization of the fish stocks and a new more eco and animal friendly fishing practices in Europe, is the way forward I am afraid.

The CFP should and from what I hear is meant to be reformed during the next few years. I will be certainly be watching the developments and Iceland's or Norway's reaction to them. 

Iceland should protect its fisheries, but it could allow other countries to fish in a percentage of their waters. Smaller fishermen and small fishing industries will have the exclusive rights to fish and provide the national and  European markets in a percentage of Iceland's fishing grounds, while other regions will be international. I hope that this will solve any issues on fisheries.

The whaling issue I think it is even simpler. In USA and Canada, they allow the native tribes to catch a quota of whales each year, even though both USA and Canada have banned whaling. They have allowed their native American population of the north to continue catching a small number of whales, for cultural and ethnic heritage reasons.

Though I love whales and I am sad to see them killed, I realize that there is no difference between a whale and a pig, an animal also intelligent that we kill it for meat. Though pigs are farmed and whales can not be, we could still after careful research point out which species have recovered and how many deaths can they support each year by humans. And so allow the Icelanders and a small number of Norwegians, the native populations of northern Europe, to continue catching a limited number of whales for the same reasons that the Innuit people do in north America.

Whaling is a part of the Icelandic heritage and I respect it totally, but I also want to preserve the whales. If the Icelanders agree to lower their quota each year on the number of whales caught and use their meat only for their internal market consumption and not for exporting, then I see no reason for whaling being an obstacle to Iceland's EU accession. 

They could agree on a quota given to them by a new EU whaling body that should be set up,especially for this reason. To monitor how many whales are caught by Iceland or Norway, in what way and how their meat is being used. Or perhaps the Fisheries Commissioner should have this responsibility, instead of creating a new position and it would be best if he/she was coming from a Nordic country.

Why should we always lift barriers when it comes to finding solutions in a problem in Europe? There is always a way around things, if we truly want to work on European integration. Imagine if Europe wanted to strike a special deal on farming with India that would benefit the continent, but the Indians found very upsetting that in Europe we eat cows, their holy animal.

So suddenly the Indians placed a demand out of us to stop eating cows, thus destroying a whole industry in Europe that focuses on turning cows into burgers! Should we comply? We have lost Norway in the past from becoming a very valuable EU member stated, because of the stubbornness of France's De Gaul. We are losing Turkey now with the reluctance of a few members in accepting the country in the club. Should we lose Iceland and the very important door to the North Pole, because of rejection of the Nordic diet?

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