EU Norway, Second Round, Brussels 24th to 28th November 2008

1st December 2008 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

The second round of EU Norway talks for a reciprocal agreement in 2009 concluded on Friday 28th without a settlement.

A Third Round

The second round of EU Norway talks for a reciprocal agreement in 2009 concluded on Friday 28th without a settlement. Both sides were eager to stress that the need for a third round of negotiations reflected the complexity of the issues this year rather than any fundamental obstacles to a deal. The new round of talks will be held in Oslo or Bergen, beginning on 8th December.

Discards: A quick fix v. good governance

Although the reduction in the TAC for blue whiting (a traditional currency in the negotiations) has made finding the cod equivalent balance more of a challenge than in recent years, it was the Norwegian’s determination to go home with a timetabled deal on discards that seems to have been the main sticking point to a conclusion within the advertised timeframe. Although the elimination of discards are high on both the EU and Norway’s agendas, the different approaches to fisheries management in the EU and Norway, the different legal systems, different fleets, and different mix of target species makes this a complex policy area.

The crux of the issue lies in the question of timing. The Norwegians want a firm EU commitment to a discard ban with a definite timetable, focused on 2011. On the other hand, the EU has made clear that it has processes for stakeholder involvement and policy formulation that might seem ponderous from the outside but when multiple fleets, gears and member states are involved, it is important that adequate time is allowed to get things right. The EU is consulting at present on a revised technical conservation regulation, an innovative discard regulation based on pilots in the North Sea flatfish and Area VII nephrops fisheries, and a new control regulation. In addition, a new EU cod recovery plan has just been agreed by the Council of Ministers, the core of which is a major 25% cut in fishing effort which can be offset by cod avoidance and discard reduction measures. All these have a bearing on the issue and need to be carefully coordinated. We have, to our cost, experienced measures dreamed up in late night negotiations that in the cold light of day have been impractical, costly and sometimes perverse in their consequences.