Category Archives: Group 1

EU Agreement ignores illegal fishing and violation of human rights

A fisheries partnership agreement between the EU and Morocco allows fishing vessels to do illegal fishing in the occupied shores of Western Sahara. A violation to EU’s own human rights declaration. A huge failure according to different human rights campaigners. The current agreement will soon expire, but with national interest from memberstates standing in the way reaching an new agreement seems difficult.

By Sandra Meinecke

The first intension of the fisheries partnership agreement was to hand Morocco an annual €36 million in order to help the infrastructure on fishery. But the annual amount of euros given to the national fishing industry is failing to stimulate the development of Moroccos’ fishing sector, and is instead, allowing Morocco to continue fishing in the occupied shore in Western Sahara, according to a report done by the EU commission.

The fishery agreement between EU and Morocco which was supposed to end in February 2011 but was prolonged for one year, is soon expiring. The agreement was prolonged despite criticism on the partnerships disregard to the rights of the people in the disputed territory of Western Sahara next to Morocco.

A map of Western Sahara, the area has been occupied by Morocco since 1975

 

New agreement in slow progress

The fishery commission is now debating whether to prolong the existing agreement, or seek to develop a new fishery strategy between EU and Morocco. Despite many disagreements the EU fishing committee does agree that the partnership agreement which the Commission is now starting to negotiate with Morocco, but it must include improvements to the current agreement.

We hope for a better solution this time but it is hard, because the representatives from countries such as Spain also need to agree on a new fishery agreement as well, and they are under a huge pressure from the their Government, and their national interest. But it is a huge problem that the european taxpayers indirectly supports illegal fishing without knowing it.” says a member of the European Parliament Ole Christensen.

He is a member of the group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. The commission will vote on the recommendation at the Fisheries Committee meeting on 22-23. November, the actual voting will take place in December.

 

Mandatory report missing

Henrik Høegs (L) former Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries agrees with Ole Christensen but stresses the point that the European Parliament has to receive the mandatory report required when getting economic help from the EU. A report from Morocco proves that they are using the money they get from the EU to develop their fishing infrastructure, and that the illegal fishing in Western Sahara should stop immediately.

The report has not yet been received even though it is mandatory. Denmark will demand this before we consider voting for a new agreement with Morocco. We owe this to the European taxpayer” Says Henrik Høegs (L).

It is very important that we follow ICCAT (The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) guidance on fishing and the commission says among other things, that you must not violate human rights. It is unfortunately the case with the current partnership agreement when talking about Western Sahara.” Says Henrik Høeg, and underlines that this is one of the main reasons why Denmark last year voted against the adjournment of the current partnership agreement.

A Spanish Vessel fishing after tunafish

Violation of human rights

Both the UN and the Court in Hague has supported the Sahrawi demand for an independent Western Sahara. Despite this Morocco has illegally occupied the Western Sahara since 1975. According to different human rights campaigners the aid to Morocco from the EU is beneath all criticism. Especially the use of Western Sahara’s natural resources is according to the organization AfricaContact a big violation.

Mads Barbesgaard is an activist in the organization, in principle he is against all kind of fishing partnership agreements. “Not until they actually take the human consequences into account, or at least take the interests of the citizens in the developing countries seriously. This agreement has no benefits what so ever, to the people in Western Sahara” he says.

According to a Green Paper from the European Committee the agreement does not successfully reach out to the people, as it was suppose to, namely the citizens of Western Sahara. All though knowing this the agreement was still prolonged for a year.

 

Examination of the agreement

There has recently been a voting in the Parliament on whether the agreement should be sent for examination by a court, to make sure that no EU member states where fishing in the occupied area. An investigation made by the EU after the voting showed that the Baltic countries voted against an examination.

It is way to easy just to blame Spain whenever there is problems with the fisheries partnership agreement. The responsability as a whole lays with in the EU. And the people suffering from this is the Sahrawies.” Mads Barbesgaard says and adds “an other problem is that they are not able to regulate who is actually using the resources by fishing in the occupied water.”

The EU’s foreign and trade policy way of handling the occupation has unfortunately not helped the people of Western Sahara. Rather, the EU seeks to constantly expand its cooperation with the Moroccan kingdom and that way they support the continued oppression of saharawies” Mads Barbesgaard writes in an article on the AfricaContacts website http://afrika.dk/.

 

 

 

 


Weak enforcement abets illegal fishing

New fishery policy reform needs better decentralized management, parliament’s member said

by James Chan Kin-sing

Fishing in Spain. (Photo: AFP photo/José Luis Roca ; Scanpix)

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]RUSSELS – The proposal on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has come under the spotlight and sparked off intense debate on how to pursue “sustainability”. However, the unsolved conundrum of illegal fishing, seems to be one of the biggest obstacles to reach the consensual goal, which is regarded as “a serious threat to the sustainable management of fish stocks” said Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Being one of the world’s largest fish consumers, the European Union has 75 percent of the fish stocks that are overfished. Meanwhile, multiple reports show that illegal fishing is one of the factors that contributed to the figures significantly.

Member states not oblige to comply with regulations
Although detailed and strict regulations have been implemented since Jan. 1, 2010 at EU-wide level to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), illegal fishing currently is not monitored and restricted effectively at the national level, for instance, at the level of the country which received the largest amount from the European Fishery Fund – Spain.

[quote]“There is control, but it doesn’t mean that everyone will respect and really follow the rules,” said Amélie Malafosse, the EU policy advisor of the green group, Oceana.[/quote]

According to the investigative reports done by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Greenpeace, the Spanish fisheries industry has received more than €5.8 billion in subsidies since 2000 while lots of the fishing companies infringed a series of laws, including building overcapacity fleets, falsifying catch labels, using fraudulent identities, etc.

After the cases have been widely covered by the media, 80 percent of the convicted fishermen who failed to appeal could still continue to receive subsidies from the Spanish government after being penalized by the court. Meanwhile, the Spanish government continued to receive subsidies from the EU without obstacles, which kept the ball rolling.

A lack of prompt action
Moreover, illegal fishing is abetted by the incompetence of the EU to take immediate action. The EU usually takes legal action against member states who fail to fulfill their obligations – which is a tremendously long process. Regarding the court case against France in last month (Oct. 19), the General Court of EU eventually confirmed that France has to pay a fine for failing to regulate illegal fishing between 1984 and 1987, which is more than 25 years ago.

[quote]“We can sue a member state for misbehavior, but this procedure in fisheries takes a very long time,” said Oliver Drewes, spokesperson of Commissioner Damanaki. “In some case, it has been for 10 years.”[/quote]

Maria do Céu Patrão Neves believes that decentralized management would be a good way to improve the weak enforcement of regulation in member states. (Press Photo)

A better decentralized management
Dealing with the perennial problem of illegal fishing, Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, Portuguese member of the European Parliament (MEP), believes that decentralized management, which is mentioned in the proposal, should be one of the main focuses of the reform.

“A good decentralization could in a certain level give a right answer,” Neve, who is in the European People’s Party and the Committee on Fisheries of the parliament, said.

Neves believes that decentralized management, which is also called as regionalization, can solve the problem of illegal fishing by establishing goals at the EU level and requiring member states or different regions to meet the targets by their own different means.

“They [Member states] can have the liberty to find their own strategies, which are more adequate and more adapted to their needs to achieve the same goal,” said Neves. “However, they have to comply with the goal, otherwise, they can receive sanctions.”

Establish partnership between fishermen and scientists
Furthermore, Neves also believes that decentralization is an alternative way to change the hostility between fishermen and scientists in the past.

[quote]“We cannot go against illegal fishing just by reinforcing laws and surveillance, we have to educate the fishermen, we have to make them partners,” said Neves.[/quote]

Neves trusts that only a better partnership with fishermen can make the collection of scientific information easier, and it will change the attitude of the fishermen eventually.

“Because, if they have more power in deciding the management of the fisheries, they will become more and more responsible … and they will be much more aware of the problems that can be derived from illegal fishing,” said Neves. “They should be the first ones who are willing to combat it.”

Greater political power at the EU level
Sharing a similar opinion that the EU should implement sanctions, Saskia Richartz, EU Oceans Policy Adviser of Greenpeace emphasized the importance of the EU to have more power on penalizing the member states who disobey the regulations.

“Currently they don’t have a lot of power to withhold subsidies,” said Richartz. “However, I think the Commission need to have more immediate penalization.”

Richartz also suggested that some EU-wide similar principles should be set up, such as a minimum sanction that is significant enough to deter people from violating the regulations.

“For instance, the commission should penalize Spain … for not having the same level of access to fishing rights, because they are not able to implement the rules in their country, that they are not able to manage the quota properly,” said Richartz.

Amélie Malafosse thinks more discussions on the problem of enforcement are needed. (Photo: James Chan)

People tend to forget the importance of enforcement
Amid the heated debate among different interested parties, Malafosse from Oceana thinks that the discussions on how to guarantee 27 member states will comply with the new regulations are far from adequate.

“We are all focusing on details and forgetting the bigger picture about enforcement. It is not enough for the debate and we should bring it back,” said Malafosse from Oceana.

According to the Green Paper released by the European Commission in 2009, one of the structural failings of the reform of CFP in 2002 is the “lack of political will to ensure compliance and poor compliance by the industry”.

“If the 2002’s reform had been properly implemented, we would not be in the situation we are now in,” said Malafosse. “We can have a perfect proposal, a perfect CFP. But if the member states not do it, it won’t change anything.”

The proposal for a new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, which is the last package of legislation of the reform of CFP, will be announced by the European Commission on Nov. 30, 2011.[box][unordered_list style=”star”]

  • The EU fisheries subsidies were first introduced in the 1970s and led to the problem of overfishing, over capacity of fleet and stocks reduction since.
  • Spain has received more than €5.8 billion of subsidies from EU since 2000, which is the country receiving most subsidies in the EU.
  • Near one-third of the Spanish fishery industry is paid for by European tax money.[/unordered_list]

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More to read:
[ilink url=”http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/reform/index_en.htm”]European Commission: Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy[/ilink]
[ilink url=”http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/illegal_fishing/index_en.htm”]European Commission: Illegal fishing (IUU)[/ilink]
[ilink url=”http://www.cfp-reformwatch.eu/”]CFP-Reformwatch.eu, a website started by three MEPs to provide information of the reform of CFP[/ilink]

EU attempts to battle alarming drug rise with new legislation

The European Union’s (EU) war against drugs has reached another setback following the fast spread of new psychotic drugs that has not yet been made illegal.  A recent survey by Eurobarometer shows that a new drug has been created every week for the past two years.

By Laura Barrett

Following this alarming trend, the European Commission has announced an overhaul of the previous anti-drugs legislation in order to stop the increase in production of illicit substances known as Designer drugs. However this leaves the question of whether the new rules will be realised in time to prevent the widespread growth of this new drug trade.

In a recent press release Viviane Reding, Vice-president of the European Commission and Justice Commissioner, emphasises the urgency needed to stop this fast growing drug trade.“New synthetic drugs are becoming widely available at an unprecedented pace in Europe. In addition, drug trafficking has become one of the most important crimes committed cross-border in the European Union,” said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.

An alarming trend

The growing phenomena of synthetic drugs is increasing at a daily rate, where these drugs are created and sold legally under fake names such as bath salts and incense.  These substances imitate the effects of cocaine and ecstasy; they are extremely dangerous as the side effects and the risk of death are relatively unknown.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found in the 2010 annual report that 41 new psychotic substances were officially notified in the European Union that year.

“The number of new compounds reported in 2010 was higher than ever; the list of newly notified substances was rather diverse and included a plant-based substance, synthetic derivatives of well-established drugs, as well as substances that can be described as ‘designer medicines’” according to the  2010 annual report.”

 

A typical form of synthetic drugs that can be bought on the market

 Overhaul of legislation

Matthew Newman, spokesperson for Viviane Reding , explains the measures that are being taken to combat this issue. “What we are doing is reviewing the legislation about how synthetic drugs are controlled in the EU”

The two most important steps Matthew Newman’s believes are the reform of the rules for banning synthetic drugs and defining the different drug precursors.
“We are looking into the legislation and how we can reform it to make it faster to make sure these drugs deemed to be dangerous are off the market much faster… we are also looking at what we call drug precursors and these are the chemicals that are used to make drugs ” explains Matthew Newman.

The need to reform drug trafficking and the cross border sanctions for drug trafficking is another pressing issue. “Right now there is an existing framework on drug trafficking but its applied rather inconsistently by the various member states” Matthew Newman explains

“We are looking at that as an important way of fighting drugs and drug trafficking “says Matthew Newman.

 

Too long a process

These synthetic drugs are coming onto the market at an increasingly fast rate, but the slow legislation within the EU is halting the process of preventing this issue.

Matthew Newman explains that the process right now takes many months to get drugs and new drugs banned.

“It first comes from a recommendation from the individual member state… they consult with the drug agency in Portugal which monitors illegal drug use in the EU…they make a recommendation to the commission…then the commission evaluates it and we make recommendations to the council, then the council bans it.”

He believes that it’s a very lengthy, multiple step process that needs to be streamlined. “We have to have a much easier, faster way to react. We have banned drugs in the past like Mephedrone but that took 18 months to ban and by then people are moving onto other drugs, such as the party drugs and smart drugs”

Will it be too late?

Researchers are worried that by the time the new legislation has been realised which could be as late as the end of next year, that the synthetic drug industry would have become more popular and widespread by then.

According to the Eurobarometer survey,new synthetic drugs are increasingly popular with 5% of young Europeans saying they have used them. The figures are the highest in Ireland (16%), followed by Poland (9%), Latvia (9%), the UK (8%) and Luxembourg (7%).
Matthew Newman believes that there these are a package of measures that need to be taken as it’s such a broad, fast moving area where consumption of drugs changes very quickly.

Growing threat.
Marianne Linnet, who is completing her European Master of Drug and Alcohol Studies, describes the process these synthetic drugs go through that makes them such a threat to society.

“If the people who produce these designer drugs just alter a minor group or a minor part of this chemical then it is a new drug, and then they can give it a new name. It might potentially have almost the same effect and it might have the same side effects but nobody knows; its trial and error” she explains.

Psychotic drugs include legal ingredients which make them legal products that can be sold anywhere, making it harder for the EU to ban them. Matthew Newman says that these drugs are extremely toxic and dangerous.

“People will take these drugs and think that they are harmless as they are legal and you can buy them on the internet. There have been reports of death.”

The side effects of these drugs are relatively unknown along with the number of drugs that is available to be purchased. “It’s a very big issue, they make new drugs every month, it’s very scary” says Marianne Linnet.

Where to now
Marianne Linnet believes that the problem in solving the drugs issue lies within the EU. “I think one of the reasons why it’s so difficult in Europe to make these bans is because Europe is not a uniformed geographical area, definitely not uniform in terms of drugs.”

In order to change this ever growing problem Marianne Linnet thinks there needs to be more reforms on social problems within member states rather than just focusing on the legislation.

A lot of the social issues are much more important, if you made an effort on all the youth that are unemployed there would probably be fewer drugs. Unemployment gives more drug addicts, bad schooling gives more drug addicts” says Marianne Linnet.

Blaming without actions for the poor

 Struggles about the European Program of Food Aid for the Most Deprived Persons (the so-called EU Food Aid Scheme) are still ‘present-continous’. Both member states including the Minority-block and EU institutions are eager to shifting the responsibility to each other, at the expense of 18 million recipients. This issue illustrates another example of EU’s buck-passing. – By Taeyoung Kim

Six member states consisting the minority-block; Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom are still stick to their position. They insist this scheme should be dealt in member states’ level as a welfare program. While other member states and EU are forcing this minority-block to consider the devastating situation. “We are trying to force the Commission and the Council to ‘act’. We hope that even one country will change its mind.” Paolo De Castro, the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament, pointed out.

The estimated deadline for resolving this issue will be around Christmas. However, the prospect is still in doubt. “Situation is very pessimistic, even though both the Commission and the Parliament urge the Council to take action.”, an EU official pointed out. If the plan is not accepted by Christmas, then the budget for this scheme will meet drastic cut and the future of 18 million EU people’s lives will be questioning. Continue reading Blaming without actions for the poor