Croatia at odds with Brussels over fishing policy
Croatia's plan to modernise its fishing fleet has run afoul of EU officials, who say it conflicts with rules governing fishing in the Adriatic.
By Kristina Cuk for Southeast European Times in Zagreb-- 21/03/06
The Croatian government is planning to build 26 fishing boats to help the struggling fishing industry. However, the idea has run afoul of EU officials, who say it is a bid to compete with neighbouring Italy, which currently enjoys a near-monopoly over fishing in the Adriatic.
With its vast fleet, Italy now catches around 90 per cent of fish in the area, while Croatia catches around 7 per cent.
Mutual fishing policy bars an increase in the Croatian fleet. Money from the EU budget assigned for the fishing industry is to be used solely for education and modernisation -- or for converting fishing boats into vessels for tourism.
However, Zagreb argues that the building of new boats amounts to reconstruction and modernisation of its antiquated fleet, not an addition per se. Moreoever, Croatian officials say, the ships would be used for fishing of small bluefish, which are not endangered in the Adriatic, and thus the project does not conflict with the EU's environmental criteria.
Strengthening Croatian fishing is a part of the Sanader administration's stated goal of strengthening the maritime component of the country's economy. At the same time, however, the government has made a pledge to observe EU principles. Once it becomes an EU member, Croatian fishermen will be subject to regulations from Brussels that stipulate the type and quantity of fish they may catch.
The main thrust of the EU's policy is to protect the fishing industry from depletion, especially in the North Sea. Some 270,000 families on EU territory make a living from fishing, and vanishing stocks threaten their livelihood, as well as endangering biodiversity.
However, the policy has repeatedly come under fire by conservationists and other opponents -- who say it continues to set unsustainable quotas and is used by some countries to protect their interests at the expense of others.
Objections to the EU policy have been voiced in Croatia, with some saying it puts the country's fishing sector in a poor position. However, a working group tasked with studying the problem concluded that the country could move ahead with modernising its fleet up until the time of its entry into the bloc.