Will EU Voting Process Hasten Commercial WhalingLegal Experts and Conservationists claim there is ‘No legal basis’ for forcing EU Member States to abstain from voting’ to protect whale
At two recent international environmental meetings (CITES and IWC) held in March 2010 confusion about EU voting procedures resulted in EU Member States being unable to vote in favour of strong conservation measures for endangered species.
A new legal opinion from environmental lawyers ClientEarth who are working in partnership on this issue with WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, strongly counters an argument that Member States must abstain from voting in international environmental negotiations unless all EU member states agree unanimously.
The existing pressure on Member States, made without any written explanation, has not only prevented strong conservation measures being adopted, but it has also significantly weakened the EUs negotiating role in international agreements as well as tainting its reputation.
At the last Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), EU Member States were asked to abstain from voting on a proposal to protect the Atlantic bluefin tuna and the majority of EU Member States complied. Subsequently the highly endangered bluefin tuna was not listed for stricter protection.
At a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in March in Florida, USA, the EU Member States were instructed that they should abstain if a scheduled vote proposing the expansion of whaling in Greenland had taken place. Because Denmark, an EU Member State, made the proposal on behalf of a non-EU territory, Greenland, to allow for the hunting of humpback whales there was no chance of unanimity being achieved with many EU countries being in favour of stricter protection of whales.
In both cases effective conservation measures for endangered species were torpedoed by the EU’s stance. Those arguing for the abstention position quote the Treaty with respect to "the principle of sincere cooperation" as stipulated in Article 4(3) TEU.
The new legal analysis by environmental lawyers ClientEarth concludes that there are no legal grounds for the Commission and the Member States to act in such a way.
Sandy Luk, author of the legal study, concludes: “In the next meeting of the IWC, any pressure put on Member States to abstain simply because a minority of states does not agree, has no basis in EU law. In fact, in areas like the environment (for example in relation to the protection of whales) where the EU and its Member States share law-making power (competence), Member States can vote for stronger rules even if there is no common position”.Will the EU cause the collapse of the ban on commercial whaling in June 2010?
Unless the EU changes its stance, the same debate will now rage during the IWCs annual meeting in June. It is likely that the 25 EU Member States who are also Members to the IWC will not find a consensus on either the Danish proposal nor on the so called “Package”, - a proposal whose adoption would lead to the resumption of commercial whaling.
Conservationists expect the EU-block will be totally paralysed once again and unable to maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling as the EU public demand and the EU Common Position requires of them.
Chris Butler Stroud, Chief Executive at WDCS points out: "This absurd position, as claimed by some countries and individuals, effectively means that one Member State can block the conservation efforts of all other EU Member States in international fora like the IWC, CITES and other environmental treaty meetings. This is a backdoor high-jacking of democracy and the rights of governments to represent the European peoples’ strong anti-whaling stance.The European Public want to see their governments proactively engage in achieving strict protection of whales, dolphins and other wildlife, - not hamstrung by petty bureaucracy and navel gazing"
In the case of the IWC the votes of EU anti-whaling states would be effectively dismissed as irrelevant because of an unnecessary hunting proposal that does not even affect an EU territory (namely Greenland). The European members to the IWC make up for about 1/3 of all IWC members. This has also direct implications in regards to the "deal" which is set to reopen commercial whaling for the first time in decades.
For further information:
Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson at WDCS, T. + 49 171 1423 117, E-Mail. Nicolas.firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Luk, Marine Lawyer, ClientEarth, T. +44 (0)20 7749 5977 | M. +44 (0)7879 655779 | E-Mail. email@example.com
Michael Haines, Communications officer, ClientEarth, T. +44 (0) 207 749 5978 | M. +44 (0)7841918770 | E-Mail. firstname.lastname@example.org
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