Home / Europe 2020 / Fishing, Senegal, the European Union and shame for all of us

Fishing, Senegal, the European Union and shame for all of us

by Harald Greib

Who will dare from now on to say that the European Union is absent from the major issues of the future and international politics?

This remark is inspired by a small piece of information, at first glance innocuous, heard by chance on the radio – nowhere found in the written press, proof moreover that the multitude of sources of information is the only guarantee of good information for the citizen.

This information? Senegal has decided to prohibit marine fishing off its coasts during periods of marine wildlife reproduction, for fear of overexploitation.

“Bravo”, we are inclined to say, “Bravo to this African country, which shows that even poor people can think about the future and conserve its natural resources so that future generations can hope to find something to live on the land we leave them, thus expressing a desire to prevent resources from being destroyed for short-term profit. Moreover, this decision rhymes perfectly with our intra-European discussion on sustainable development, i.e. professional activities that do not harm our environment.

What does the European Union have to do in this matter? Did she congratulate Senegal on its wise and responsible policy? Well, no, no. Far from it!

The European Union (including “the European Commission”), was pursuing the voice of the radio, putting pressure on Senegal to annul its decision, considering it incompatible with agreements concluded with the European Union. The information was provided without any comment.

This is where we have arrived: an administration with a lack of democratic legitimacy – which speaks for Europe, and for us, at least in the eyes of Africans – is pursuing a policy which, I am convinced, would not be approved by the vast majority of the European population; a policy based on a technocratic and legalistic approach to compliance with agreements, which is not well adapted to the reality of overexploitation of the oceans, in this case.

It is easy to imagine what an impression such a policy makes in an Africa that does not have enough to eat and is banned by its rich neighbours from developing a policy that would allow local populations to live better in the future, all for short-term profit for people who live very well. We Europeans look like stingy people, thinking only of money.

“Go pro toto” (from the detail to the whole – the question):

Why is it that such a policy that no government would have the (sordid) courage to implement for fear of domestic reactions, especially from ecologists, is almost inapt, when it is the work of the Brussels “thing”?

How is it that no government has the power to stop the Commission and tell it “stop this nonsense, we don’t want your fisheries policy to jeopardize our entire African development policy”.

It must be said that the European Union has become much more than all fifteen Member States. It has become independent, conducts its own policies, disconnected from national policies, and all this without any real political control and especially without any democratic control.

Imagine if you were really revolted… You want to act… You write to your government… He will kindly reply that it is not his fault, the European fisheries policy does not fall within his competence.

You are therefore writing to the European Commission to express your misunderstanding of such a measure.

Will the Commission take your opinion into account?

Of course not, of course not.

The Commission is independent, it conducts the policy that its civil servants-technocrats define as “European”, it is very poorly controlled by a European Parliament whose members are elected only on national campaigns and on national subjects, or by committees of experts that the Commission conducts by boat (see the mad cow crisis).

Admittedly, the policies of our national governments are not a source of daily enchantment. But at least, the dissatisfied citizen has the satisfaction of a possible electoral sanction after a few years, and therefore the hope of a change in policies. The European Union, on the other hand, hovers above the population, it is disconnected from it, not being subject to any electoral censorship… while taking more and more politically sensitive or unfortunate decisions, as here on the dual field of foreign policy and environmental policy. It is urgent that this deficit of democratic and political control be filled. We must create channels for citizens to control European policy… so that we can ensure that such acts do not happen again – acts that shame us all.

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