Fish Fight! Faroe Islands Will Take the European Union to UNCLOS Arbitration

by Julian Ku

The Faroe Islands has announced it has filed a referred the European Union to arbitration under the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea.  Apparently, it is a dispute over herring.

“The Faroe Islands have today referred the use of threats of coercive economic measures by the European Union, in relation to the Atlanto-Scandian herring, to an arbitral tribunal under Annex VII of [UNCLOS],” the Faroese prime minister’s office said on Friday.

On July 31, the EU’s fisheries and aquaculture committee approved a proposal to use trade sanctions against the Faroe Islands over their unilateral decision to triple their quota of Atlanto-Scandic herring for 2013.

OK, so this is not exactly Philippines-China, and much as I enjoy my herring, I can probably survive without it.  Still, to an international lawyer, this arbitration it is an unusual example of non-state entities invoking international dispute resolution mechanisms.  The Faroe Islands are a self-governing entity within the “Realm of Denmark”. So they are not a fully sovereign state, but apparently they are not just a part of Denmark either.  Still, it is Denmark, and not the Faroe Islands, that is a signatory to UNCLOS.

Similarly, the EU (or the European Communities) is not a state but it is a signatory to UNCLOS for certain competences that EU members have transferred to it. Oddly enough, Denmark has transferred its competence for these matters to the EU, but not for the Faroes.

Confused? I certainly am. In any event, the result is that a non-state subnational entity is seeking arbitration against a non-state supranational entity before an international arbitral tribunal created under the auspices of an international organization (the UN).  Why the Faroes didn’t seek some internal European mechanism to resolve this is beyond my understanding  It would be like Puerto Rico bringing a case against the U.S. in an international court. Sounds like a messy fight is brewing.

http://opiniojuris.org/2013/08/20/fish-fight-faroe-islands-will-take-the-european-union-to-unclos-arbitration/

One Response

  1. Well. A simple check could have asserted the author that the Faroe Islands are legally not part of the European Union. It is not a question of “competence transfer”, but of membership. Hence, they have no locus standi before any ordinary EU court or tribunal. Does this help the understanding?

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