Saturday, April 24, 2004

New fishing commissioner a Latvian diplomat

If there was any confirmation needed as to why we need to reject the constitution, it is the news that the EU Fisheries Commissioner for the next term will be a Latvian. Sandra Kalniete, currently Minister for Foreign Affairs in Latvia, has been appointed co-Commissioner, working alongside Franz Fischler, and will take over fully in October.

The central issue here, is that the Common Fisheries Policy in the draft constitution is reserved as an “exclusive competence”, run by the Commission and wholly outside the control of individual member states, who can only respond to Commission proposals, which are approved by qualified majority voting.

This means that the UK, with 85 percent of waters in the EU bloc, but with only 13 percent of the vote, will have its fishing industry ruled by a former foreign minister of a country with a population of only two million (less than half the population of Scotland) and a fishing industry one tenth the size of the size of the British industry.

Furthermore, under the so-called CFP reforms, the key measure is to introduce multi-annual programmes which are approved by the Council of Ministers in the first year and then run exclusively by the Commission thereafter, leaving the UK with little control over its own industry or waters.

To add insult to injury, Kalniete has spent her entire political career working in foreign affairs. She made her name fighting for her country’s independence at the beginning of the 1990s before becoming Latvian ambassador to France, worthy enough occupations, but she has absolutely no experience of the fishing sector.

One wonders how the British might have voted in 1974 had they been told, in the fullness of time, that one of their most treasured industries would be run by a former Latvian diplomat.

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