Norwegian media reports that the EU is considering sanctions against Norway over Svalbard Zone fishing rights as the dispute continues
It has been reported that the EU is considering sanctions against Norway of the escalating dispute in the Svalbard Zone.
Norway has claim sovereignty over the islands located in the Arctic Ocean and believes that it is has control over setting fishing quotas in the EEZ but the EU have disputed this claim, allocating a quota of quota of 28,431 tonnes of cod in the zone for 2021. The Norwegians have advised the EU that they are only entitled to a Total Allowable Catch of 17,885 tonnes, set by them.
The European Union sets out its claim below:
Fisheries in Svalbard
Svalbard and its waters are governed by the 1920 Treaty of Paris on Spitzbergen (Svalbard). Currently Norway, 22 EU Member States, and 23 other states are Parties to the Treaty.
Treaty of Paris
The objective of the Treaty of Paris, signed after World War I, was to resolve the “no man’s land” status of the archipelago of Svalbard and to ensure that all nations could share this area in peace and prosperity. The Treaty recognised the sovereignty of Norway over Svalbard, but qualified it with a number of obligations that Norway has to comply with. These obligations give rise to correlative rights for the nationals of other states that are Parties to the Treaty.
For fisheries, the most important obligations are present in the principle of equal access and the principle of equal treatment. Under the principle of equal access, vessels and nationals of all Parties enjoy equally the rights of fishing and hunting in the territory of the Svalbard Archipelago and its waters.
Under the principle of equal treatment, Norway is allowed to take conservation measures for the preservation of flora and fauna of Svalbard and its waters, under the condition that the measures must “always be applicable equally to the nationals of all the High Contracting Parties to the Treaty without any exemption, privilege or favour whatsoever, direct or indirect to the advantage of any of them”.
European Union and Svalbard
The European Union considers that these qualifications apply to all maritime zones of Svalbard, including the Svalbard Fisheries Protection Zone.
In line with the Treaty of Paris, the EU’s acceptance of Norwegian fishery regulations concerning conservation measures in the maritime zones of Svalbard is conditional on those regulations being applied in a non-discriminatory manner, based on scientific advice and being respected by all interested Parties.
The EU claims that under the Treaty of Paris 1920, they have established rights to set their own fishing quotas in the Svalbard Zone, even though Article 1 of the Treaty of Paris does not give full and absolute sovereignty over Svalbard to Norway because of the stipulations of the Treaty, which is laid out in Articles 2 to 9.
In the letter of 28 June, the EU pointed out to Norwegian delegates that there is an obligation to comply with international law and where Norway and Russia jointly determine quotas for the totality of the stocks’ distribution areas, without involving other nations fishing for those stocks in the high seas, that this is contrary to Article 63(2) of UNCLOS. Therefore, it is already in breach of international law.
Recalling Article 2 of the Treaty of Paris, the EU says that Norway has failed in its actions and although Norway is responsible for conservation in the Svalbard Zone, it can only apply them if they are applied without exemption to all signatory nations of the Treaty of Paris.
The EU has also told the Norwegian delegation it does not find that a decision by the Norwegian Supreme Court in any way are addressed or binding on the European Union, its Member States or to any party of the Treaty of Paris.
The letter of the 28 June does state however that the EU would like an amicable end to the current dispute but warns there may be consequences writing, “The European Union values the cooperation was Norway and considers that it has been fruitful and mutually beneficial and a number of areas. The European Union also hopes that this cooperation would be able to continue in the future and considers that the respect of UNCLOS and the Treaty of Paris by all parties, including Norway is essential for that reason. The enforcement of discriminatory provisions by Norwegian authorities in respect of EU vessels fishing their legitimate quotas would not contribute to the bilateral cooperation. Those discriminatory provisions may result and in overfishing of the respective fish stocks and, absent cooperation on the Norwegian side, the European Union may need to take appropriate measures, including for the conservation of those exhaustible living resource is, consistent with its international law obligations. There for the European Union invites Norway to give due consideration two to applicable legal framework engage with the European Union and bilateral dialogue and cooperation.”
Fiskeribladet, the Norwegian fishing website reports, “The EU describes Norwegian fishing restrictions as stupid and is considering restricting access for Norwegian fish in the EU. Norway replies that the EU’s unilateral quota setting violates Norwegian coastal state rights.”
The EU Commission contradicts this and claims, “The position of the EU has been made clear in the two Notes Verbales that have been presented to Norway, the first one in February and the second one end of June.
“The legitimate rights of the EU have to be respected in the Svalbard fisheries protection zone and access of EU vessels have to be ensured in a non-discriminatory manner in line with the Treaty of Paris. In the spirit of the EU’s long-standing cooperation with Norway, the Commission is fully determined to continue our strong efforts to come to a resolution. For Arctic cod, that means a return to a just share for the EU.”
By Oliver McBride