Category Archives: Group 5

Iceland and EU face tricky accession compromise

 

Fisheries is the biggest issue in Iceland's negotiations to join the EU. Photo: Reykjavík, © EC


Low support among the Icelandic people and a difficult compromise on fisheries are among the issues threatening to make Iceland’s road to the EU very hard. Expert deems it unlikely that Iceland will vote to join the Union, unless presented with a lucrative deal

By Mads Nyborg Anneberg

Only one in three Icelanders want to join the EU, according to a recent opinion poll. At the same time, accession negotiations on fisheries are most likely to take place later this year – a delicate issue where Iceland fears giving up sovereignty. But in spite of the gloomy shadows cast upon Iceland’s candidacy, the accession talks go on with the next meeting taking place on March 30.

Iceland is on the fast track in the negotiations because they are already a part of the European Economic Area and Schengen. Eight of 35 chapters of the negotiations to join the EU have been completed. However, the biggest hurdle, the fisheries chapter, is yet to be opened. The negotiating parties are hesitant to predict the outcome of the negotiations, but it does seem that Iceland will be able to get some advantages when it comes to fisheries, which is the backbone of its economy.
“Iceland will join on equal terms, but there will be negotiations as to their individual concerns and priorities,” said Minister of European Affairs of Denmark, who holds the EU presidency, Nikolai Wammen.

Icelanders hesitate about joining EU

67,4 % of the Icelandic population would vote no to EU-membership. That’s the result of an opinion poll made by Capacent Gallup for The Federation of Icelandic Industries released in February. Asked about the issue, Nikolai Wammen said that all negotiations will take place, regardless of any opinion polls.
“The negotiations will have a merit-based approach, and at the end of the day, it will be up to the Icelandic people,” said Wammen.

Icelandic Chief Negotiator in the accession talks, Stefan Haukur Johannesson, said one should be careful in drawing to strong conclusions from opinion polls.
“We don’t get our mandate for the accession talks from opinion polls. In 2009, the Icelandic parliament gave us a mandate to apply and negotiate and it’s by this mandate we are working,” said Johannesson.

However, Mads Christian Dagnis Jensen, PhD with Centre for European Politics at the University of Copenhagen, underlines that numbers that clear will not change overnight.
“When the resistance is so substantial, it will take a long time to alter, unless Iceland gets a really lucrative deal with EU in the accession negotiation,” said Jensen.

Special deal on fisheries seems likely

If not a lucrative deal, it at least seems Iceland will be able to reach a compromise in regards to fisheries.
“We prioritize quality over time, so it very much depends on the willingness to reach the compromise that would reflect the Icelandic specificities and preferences but also will not be contrary to the EU principles,” said EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Füle.

Wammen chose his words carefully on the matter but did not reject the possibility of a special agreement on fisheries.
“One should notice that there has never been given permanent exceptions to new member states regarding common EU policies, but the EU has done what it could to take individual considerations in the negotiations,” Wammen said.

Stefan Johannesson points to the fact that some of the rules in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy are designed to suit specific geographical areas.
“Circumstances are also different in Iceland, so we think we need special solutions that recognize and take into account these specificities in Iceland,” said Johannesson.

Mads Christian Dagnis Jensen says it’s not even out of the question that Iceland can get permanent exceptions on areas as fisheries. Scottish MEP for European Conservatives and Reformists and Vice-Chair of Fisheries Committee, Struan Stevenson, however, states very clearly his opposition towards Iceland getting special agreements and opt-outs in particular.
If Iceland opt-out of the Common Fisheries Policy and become a member, I will be asking for Scotland to opt-out as well,” said Stevenson.

National and international resistance

There are circumstances in Iceland’s relations with some member states that make life hard for Iceland.
” UK and the Netherlands are still mad that Iceland chose not to compensate customers of the collapsed Icelandic banks during the beginning of the financial crisis. They can make the process harder, which they also say they intend to,” said Jensen.

Besides, there is also a very current issue aggravating other EU member nations. Iceland negotiates its fisheries quotas with Norway, the Faroe Islands and the EU. However, Iceland  and the Faroe Islands have heavily raised its quotas on mackerel without consent from the other parties. A move that may even trigger EU sanctions.
“I think that this extremely bad behaviour is not the most credible way of asking for membership of the EU. There’s a long way to go, I think, before we can get an accession of Iceland,” said Struan Stevenson.

Within Iceland there is also heavy criticism of EU accession. Not least from The Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners, who oppose EU-membership.
“Even if we get a long transition period, that’s not enough. We would still have the inevitable outcome that we would lose control over fisheries,” said Population Ecologist from the Federation, Dr. Kristjan Thorarinsson.

Geopolitics at stake

Even though Iceland is a small country with approximately 300.000 inhabitants, there are still great advantages in sight for the EU if it joins. Naturally, it will be positive for the EU fisheries to include Icelandic territorial waters, but there are other issues at stake as well.
“China is interested in Iceland and its resources, and by having Iceland in the Union, it will have better possibility for geopolitical influence in that area,” said Mads Christian Dagnis Jensen.

Stefan Haukur Johannesson also believes that Iceland will contribute to the Union with knowhow and expertise.
“Fisheries is important for Iceland, and Iceland would be an important member state in regards to fisheries,” said Johannesson.

On Wednesday March 13, the European Parliament discussed the progress of Iceland's accession talks. Commissioner of Enlargement, Stefan Füle, and Danish Minister of European Affairs, Nikolai Wammen, also participated. Photo: Mads Nyborg Anneberg

EU member states lack to enforce rules on animal transport

Differences in the manner and speed of implementation compromise both the welfare of animals and the transport companies who follow the law.

By Josefine Nedermark

 

EU member states do not enforce legislation on animal welfare during transport. That is the conclusion from several reports looking into the current Animal Transport Regulation from 2005. A main issue is different interpretations of the law.

 

Huge differences

The lack in enforcement can be seen when some member states do not train official inspectors sufficiently or when they do not perform regular checks and give penalties for violations. A study report on the Regulation shows that there are huge differences between member states when it comes to the progress they have made in implementing the Regulation and in how they are implementing it. For example the member states should have implemented a navigation system for long journeys to improve the quality of the control on travelling times, resting periods and to reduce the administrative burden. But most member states have not done this yet, even though they have had years.

“Different countries interpret differently or some authorities do simply not know the legislation,” explains Leif Lykke, senior researcher at the Danish Meat Research Institute.

 

Complicated legislation

And one of the main reasons to the lack of enforcement is different interpretations of the requirements. Therefore the European Commission often has to intervene to clarify and guide the member states.

Furthermore, the EU Strategy for Welfare of Animals 2012-2015 from the European Commission states that variations in cultural views on animal welfare plays a fundamental role when it comes to meeting the requirements of the legislation.

The complicated legislation also gives some problems to the Danish transport companies, according to Lisbet Hagelund, secretary at the Animal Department of the Danish Transport and Logistics Association.

“In some places in the Regulation we have no chance to know what to do. How can we for example know when animals are sexually mature, when this happens over a longer period of time? Subjective rules are not helping.”

 

Unequal competition

According to the study report on the Regulation, the differences between Member States undermine the level playing field for operators, especially for transport companies.

“It is a huge problem that there is not as much control with competitors from other EU countries,” says Lisbet Hagelund.

According to a report from the European Commission from 2011, this can result in market distortions because the transporters who are compliant will have higher administrative costs. As an example, drivers in Denmark need a training course of five days every five years to get the certificate, while drivers in other member states only need one training course of half a day.

“Many Danish truck drivers are dissatisfied with the fact that they are in competition with some countries that go by different rules,” says Leif Lykke from the Danish Meat Research Institute.

Photo: Scanpix
Photo: Scanpix

 

Extend journeys to avoid fines

Another consequence of differences in enforcement is that it can have a bad effect on animal welfare if some journeys are extended just to avoid the more stringent member states, where for example the amount of a fine can be up to 10 times higher compared to the member states with the lowest penalties.

Improper enforcement can also have other severe negative impact on animal welfare. Examples of poor compliance can be transport of unfit animals, overstocking of vehicles and longer travelling times than allowed.

It is up to the competent authorities to check and approve the journey logs before long journeys. This is to ensure that they are reasonable. But often, unrealistic journey logs have been approved, which can lead to journeys that last for several hours more than allowed.

 

The 8hours campaign

There is an agreement about that the implementation, enforcement and violation penalties should be harmonised and improved in the different member states, but there are different opinions on how to do it.

The Danish MEP Dan Jørgensen, from the Danish Social Democrats, initiated the 8hours campaign to stop long transports for animals for slaughter, which he thinks will help harmonising the rules.

“I want to change to a maximum of 8hours transport for welfare reasons, but of course it will also make implementation and enforcement easier,” says Dan Jørgensen and continues: “A change of legislation can change problems with enforcement. The current legislation is complicated and bureaucratic.”

The MEP Stuart Agnew, from the UK Independence Party, does not believe more legislation is the way to go.

“The solution is not yet more EU legislation. The laws on transport are adequate. I see a different solution to this all together and it is not EU rules. Consumers need to say they only want meat from animals who have been well treated,” Stuart Agnew said during a debate in the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee the 29th of February this year.

 

Journey time not a big issue

Søren Kent Pedersen, veterinarian and project manager at the animal welfare organisation Dyrenes Beskyttelse disagrees with Stuart Agnew.

“We also think that there should be journey limits. We are supportive of the 8hours campaign. But our main goal is 8hours for all animals.”

The length of the journey is not the main problem, according to Leif Lykke. His research shows that if the conditions during transport are sufficient and there is the right equipment, then travel time is not a big issue. A study from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at Aarhus University on effect of journey duration on animal welfare supports this.

“I have difficulty seeing the idea in the 8hours campaign. I understand that the longer you drive, the greater the risk of being involved in an accident. But a truck should just recreate a stable – and then it will not matter whether you drive for 8 hours or 80 hours,” Leif Lykke says.

He believes, that the focus should rather be on stops and high temperatures.

“That is more important than the actual length of the journey.”

 

A statement of intent

Leif Lykke does not think that the current EU legislation is good enough, but he would rather see changes concerning forced mechanical ventilation. He also thinks that all controlling authorities should take a course specifically on animal transport, also veterinarians. But he does not believe that will happen.

“Legislation is often a statement of intent and not complete with details – therefore it is necessary with a guide that can tell you what you should do if you want to follow the law’s intentions. This does not exist on EU level.”

Søren Kent Pedersen from Dyrenes Beskyttelse still thinks that 8hours should be the maximum limit for animal transport. But he also supports more targeted risk-based control.

“Trust is good but control is better. The control must be intensified. Right now it is ridiculously random and sporadic,” he says.

13 EU member states ignore laying hens directive

As of Jan. 1, half the EU member states were non-compliant with the laying hens directive that was established in 1999, leading to unfair competition in the egg market.

By: Simone Lai

 

Enriched battery cages in Lars Lunding's farm. Photo by: Simone Lai

 

Egg farmers in compliant member states are hundreds of thousands of euros behind the farmers across the 13 other member states that are ignoring the EU directive.

By the Jan. 1 deadline, the directive was supposed to imply better animal welfare and a closer single market.

“The system we have today will punish those who fulfill the rules and we cannot accept that. And for an example [as] the agriculture committee, we have condemned that the directive has not been implemented,” says Marit Paulsen, a Swedish Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe MEP, and vice-president of the Intergroup for Animal welfare.

Regardless of the unfair competition, Danish egg farmer, Lars Lunding, says, “You have to follow the rules, I think. And as animal welfare and so on, in Denmark we believe in the rules and we are going to follow them. If it is better for the birds and the laying hens then we have to switch over.”

It cost Lunding between five to seven million kroner (approximately 670,000 to 930,000 euro) to upgrade the cages. There was no EU funding so he and his colleagues had to finance the projects through private bank loans.

Lunding has been producing eggs for the past 20 years and is now a prominent member in the egg industry. He has served on several committee boards, such as the Danish Egg Board.

When the new directive was established in 1999, the goal was to phase out old battery cages that are the typical wire cage. New rules outlined standards for “enriched” cages which were to include a separate nesting area, enough space for all hens to access feed at the same time, and perches for resting, and allow for 750 sq cm per hen.

Non-compliance elsewhere

But when 13 member states appear to be ignoring the directive, enforcement is left to NGOs to take the lead. Andreas Erler, political officer for the Eurogroup for Animal Welfare, said that it has worked with affiliated groups on the national level to see that these standards are being followed.

Old battery cages. Photo by: ITamar K.

For example, the Eurogroup has worked with Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV), an animal activist group in Italy, to close down an egg production farm defying the law.

“It’s really up to the member states to do something and the member organizations in the different member states to put pressure on their governments,” says Erler, “[animal welfare] is certainly not a priority on their national agenda otherwise it would be further than they are.”

The negligent member states that received their first warning of infringement late January are: Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Romania. In 2003, Austria, Belgium, Greece, and Italy were referred to the European Court of Justice because they did not implement the directive in national law.

Egg-conomics of the situation

Peter van Horne, a farm economist with a specialization and focus on poultry and animal welfare, says, “There is a larger difference in production costs if you have an advantage of ten per cent. It’s much cheaper in the old system.”

Van Horne has researched for the Dutch parliament because it was considering a complete ban on cages. But the reason why some of the countries may not seem as concerned with meeting the standards of this directive, and other animal welfare issues, is that the standard of human welfare is lower than countries like Denmark.

“The higher the living standard is, the more attention there will be for animal welfare,” says van Horne, “When you have a good income… [and] everything is taken care of then you’ll start to be more concerned about animal welfare, and that’s the situation in northwest Europe.”

New strategy for a fair market

Paulsen believes that a lot of information stops too high at the national level and never reaches the everyday farmer. That may be the case in some countries but Lunding, chairman of the Danish Egg Board, says that the board in Denmark manages to disseminate information to its 170 egg producers without much difficulty.

However, Paulsen also suggests that there should be “milestones” that member states must meet every couple years. The problem in this particular case is that nations were given 12 years to phase out the old cages but in-between that time, the Commission did not evaluate the progress.

She says, “[milestones will] give more power and tools to the Commission to check-up the implementation of the laws. And I cannot see what [else] you can do – we have no soldiers and no policemen on the European level, so it is depending on the member states and how the government of the different member states handle the common laws.”

But further action is limited

Lars's hens have all their feathers and beaks in tact. Photo: Simone Lai

“The Intergroup (for animal welfare) cannot do anything more than build opinions. And that’s the reason why we have the intergroup – to give the parliamentarians the knowledge and update[s]… and [for] the voters to [get] information to make their own decisions,” said Paulsen.

The Commission should receive a response from member states by the end of March. A spokesperson for the Commission said, “There’ll be another step in the procedure if the Commission still thinks that they have not fulfilled their legal obligations.”

According to Erler, it is not likely that the Commission will receive a response.

“The situation in many member states is [such] that it will be difficult for them to comply within the next month or so with the legislation.”

Regardless of what appears to be a lack of enforcement and interest from the Commission, Lunding will continue to farm the eggs with care and abide by the law.

“It’s difficult to get a relationship to them all [the birds]. But I have a relationship. Everyday [I go] in the house to check if they’re okay,” says Lunding.

“As you can hear, there is a sweet music in the house. They are singing to us.”

 

A look at Lars Lunding’s enriched cages