In March this year TransparentSea sent a letter to the European Commission Directorate General of Maritime Affairs (DG-MARE) for access to all of the ex ante and post ante evaluations of fisheries agreements held with developing countries. The letter was supported by 22 other organisations. The request was refused, for reasons that were not clear or acceptable to us. Essentially we were told that the documents are confidential so as to protect commercial interests and the international relations of the EU.
With the excellent legal support of Client Earth, we have submitted a ‘confirmatory application‘ to the Secretary General of the European Commission, Mrs Catherine Day. This has been signed by more organisations, including the steering group of OCEAN2012 – a large coalition of European and international NGOs working to influence the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
This case is important to many organisations. Part of the reason is that people want to know how the EU has negotiated fisheries access in developing countries and they want more information on the environmental, social and economic impact of these agreements. But the case speaks to a much wider issue–the governance of commercial fisheries worldwide is secretive and purposely kept beyond public scrutiny. If we can convince the EU to be more open about its own access agreements, there may be a knock-on effect, with greater transparency for other access agreements, such as the recent agreement entered into between the Senegalese government and Russia.
What is encouraging is that the EU Commissioner of Fisheries, Damanaki has spoken out about the need for “radical changes” to the way in which the EU relates to developing countries, and that there is a need for “greater transparency in fisheries agreements” (see here for more details).
We therefore look forward to a positive response from the EC Secretary General.