If ever you doubted that putting the European Union in charge ofenvironmental issues is a bit like inviting the Taliban to run MissWorld, consider this story by Richard Northabout the characteristic blend of bullying, incompetence, corruption,greed, high-handedness, dishonesty and ineffectuality with which the EUis policing the fishing grounds of West Africa.
You’d think after the mess the EU had made in the waters of the NorthSea and the Mediterranean, where some species have been overfishedbeyond the point of recovery, that the very last thing any Africannation would want is to have it in charge of their fishing territory.Yet this, bizarrely, is what has been allowed to happen in theonce-fish-rich waters of West Africa, now being plundered under licenceby the vast factory trawlers of the EU member states. (The Dutch arethe worst apparently). In return for hundreds of millions of Euros(Mauritania alone has received nearly 500 million in the last tenyears), the EU’s subsidised fleets get to fish like they did in the goodold days before the supplies round Europe’s coastlines ran out.
There may be nothing wrong with such licensing deals in principle. Theproblem, as North notes, is the overwhelming hypocrisy of it all. On theone hand, the EU is acting as a predatory exploiter. On the other, ithas taken on the role of the region’s environmental policeman, highhandedly declaring – often, it seems, on a random basis – which rivalcountries are allowed to fish there and which ones aren’t.
Latest victim of this is South Korea. At the end of this month it isgoing to be designated by the EU an IUU – an Illegal, Unreported andUndocumented fishing country – because some of its vessels have beenfishing illegally in West African waters.No doubt one or two of them have. But so, North reports, have muchlarger Chinese and Russian fleets – without any complaints from the EU’smonitors (a supposedly independent green NGO called the EnvironmentalJustice Foundation which depends almost entirely for its funding fromthe EU) let alone any threat of a ban. So too have some EU vessels – butthe EU is hardly like to want to draw attention to overfishing by itsown member states. Could it be, perhaps, because China and Russia aretoo big for the EU to take on but that South Korea is just the rightsize and sufficiently far off for the EU to feel it can bully it withimpunity?
So, next month, at the stroke of a Eurocrat’s pen, South Korea will bedeclared IUU and banned from selling any of its fisheries products tothe EU – costing it perhaps £75 million annually in lost business.Yes, it’s mainly South Korea’s problem but it should be a concern toeveryone. In the last six years, EU taxpayers have spent Euros 4.3billion subsidising this Mafia-style fisheries racket. Maybe thiswouldn’t be so bad if the EU were upfront about it: “Yes. Our plan is tobe like the Chinese in Africa: grabbing what we can, while we can – andso everyone else.” But they’re not, are they? Their whole raison d’etre- so they keep reassuring us – is to make the world more just andeco-friendly and sustainable and renewable.
It’s one of the reasons we’re supposed to go believing in theEuropean Project: that it’s able to punch above the weight of individualmember states on the global stage and really make a difference in a wayno sovereign nation could.Well I don’t know about you, but I think the policing of West Africa’sfishing waters would be far better left in the locals. After all, whenit comes to corruption, incompetence and waste, small time players likeGuinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could never begin to compete with thereal experts in the European Union.