WTO Panel to Review EU-Faroe Islands Dispute

27 February 2014

The Faroe Islands' dispute with the EU over restrictions on the archipelago's fishing fleets advanced to the WTO panel stage on Wednesday, after Tórshavn filed a second request with the global trade arbiter.

At issue in the case is a 2013 prohibition against Faroese-flagged vessels and vessels carrying Faroese-caught fish, which Brussels enacted after the Islands' fishing fleets caught over 100,000 tonnes of Atlanto-Scandian mackerel and herring that year. Under the joint management programme run by Norway, Russia, Island, the EU, and the Faroe Islands, the latter had been allocated a 30,000 tonne catch share.

Tórshavn had argued that the 30,000 tonne limit was not equitable, given the current distribution of fish stocks within its territorial waters. However, Brussels insisted that its sanctions were necessary to protect the long-term sustainability of the fish stocks.

Over the past month, Tórshavn has continued to criticise the Brussels policy. Prime Minister Minister Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen recently called the prohibitions "coercive measures" causing "significant harm," adding that the EU's economy is "more than 10,000 times bigger than that of the Faroe Islands." Fish products constitute more than 95 percent of Faroese exports.

The panel request, notably, was filed by Denmark, which is not only an EU member, but also a WTO proxy for the self-governing territory of the Faroes, located in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Faroe Islands are not part of the EU, but are members of the WTO through Denmark. As it stands, Faroese ships are banned from Danish ports.

ICTSD reporting.

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