Daily Briefs

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NIAS Europe Daily Brief #03, 05 November 2021, Friday

The UK-France fishing rights row

EU military mission to Bosnia extended; Probe into tweets alleging Erdogan's death; EU-funded anti-discrimination campaign promoting hijabs sparks outrage; The UK approves first COVID-19 pill; Portugal President calls for snap elections

By Vaishnavi Iyer

France-UK fishing row: Pangs of Brexit

A dispute has developed between the UK and France concerning post-Brexit fishing rights, with France warning that if the dispute remains unaddressed, British boats will be barred from docking. These fishing rights were, in fact, one of the principal issues in the EU-UK post-Brexit negotiations late last year. Paris had responded to the UK's refusal to grant licenses by imposing checks on cross-Channel trade and pressurizing the UK's energy supply in an effort to persuade them into granting permits. Jersey was expected to continue working "closely" with the French, the UK, and the EU Commission to "ensure that vessels which are entitled to a permanent license can receive one and can continue fishing in Jersey's territorial waters under their historic track record." 

In an attempt to de-escalate the row, Jersey awarded an additional 49 licenses to French vessels. However, at the G20 summit, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that Britain had to capitulate first or face "retaliation." However, on 01 November, Macron withdrew his threat to block UK exports and ban fisheries. Discussions resumed after he lifted threats and insisted on further communication to resolve the problem. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson indicated that British retaliation would be triggered through a "dispute mechanism." The European Commission met with officials from the United Kingdom, Jersey, and France to seek an agreement on the dispute. The Jersey Fishermen's Association (JFA) demanded a six-week ban on dredging and trawling and closing the whelk and scallop fisheries to French boats. On 04 November, the UK's Brexit secretary David Frost met the Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune in Paris to discuss the resolution of the crisis.

Beaune stated: "...in the next eight days or so, we will announce response measures, retaliation measures, if necessary, national or European, if we do not have concrete British signals on the issue of licences." France furthered its threat by warning to cut electricity supplies to Jersey and extend retaliation to the financial and research sectors.

What is the row about?

After becoming an "independent coast state" in 2020, Britain began demanding access to shared fishing grounds with the EU in a greater capacity. The bloc has, however, resisted the request. Brexit negotiations before January 2021 overlooked fishing rights ascertaining "other aspects of trade are simply much more important for the economies of both the UK and the EU."

The dispute was furthered by the French accusation of Britain granting lesser fishing licenses than stated. French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin tweeted: "The figure of 98 per cent of licenses granted by the UK to Europeans is wrong. Only 90.3 per cent were. Obviously, the missing 10 per cent are for the French." The post-Brexit agreement provided for European fishermen to continue operating in British waters provided they proved they were "fishing there before." Disputed fishing zones exist between the six to 12 miles off the Channel Islands and the British Coast. London and Jersey have granted 200 licenses, with the French demanding 44 more. "This is not a French problem... It is a European problem," Beaune said. France is mobilizing support from its European partners, especially Belgium and Ireland, who are concerned over the same issue. 

France insists that all provisions within the Trade and Cooperation Agreement should ideally be met. Article 497 of the agreement states the Party must communicate in "sufficient time" list of vessels that wish to obtain authorisations and that the other Party would issue authorisations to fish. However, France contests the UK requirement of "proof of geolocation for vessels under 12 meters" stating that the provisions are not under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. 

What's the future?

France ascertains that the fleets seeking permission are small-scale fishing boats dependent on maritime zones. The fleets offer no possibility of any breaches, and the lack of permissions heavily affects their socio-economic future. Both countries met to reach a compromise with the British government spokesperson stating that discussions covered difficulties from the past agreements between the EU and the UK. They are said to have communicated their "positions and concerns." Further talks are set to take place next week. It seems that both the UK and France are unlikely to attain an early compromise given the AUKUS concerns. Moreover, Britain has stated that the retaliation would not be direct, but through other measures, in case the UK has to secede to French demands. 


"UK-France fishing row talks set to continue in the coming days," Euronews, 04 November 2021.

Marie Jackson, "Fishing row: France-UK talks' useful and positive'," BBC, 04 November 2021.

"Why Britain and France can't stop fighting about fish," POLITICO, 02 November 2021.

By Joeana Cera Matthews and Padmashree Anandhan

UNSC extends European military mission mandate in Bosnia
On 03 November, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) extended the mandate of the EU's military mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The UNSC vote came amidst rising speculation of separatist tendencies triggered by Bosnian-Serb leader Milorad Dodik. Overcoming the disagreements offered by a report suggesting a secession possibility in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the decision was arrived at unanimously. The UN's top envoy to Bosnia Christian Schmidt was prohibited by Russia from presenting a report on Bosnia-Herzegovina facing an 'existential threat' due to the increasing separatist threats. Russia commented on his report stating that it was an "extreme (ly) biased and anti-Serb document". The existence of a high representative post to Bosnia is also rejected by Russia. In response to such comments, France's UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere highlighted the importance of the post, saying: "(it was an) essential role in support of Bosnia and Herzegovina." ("UN renews EU Bosnia military mission as separatism fears grow," Deutsche Welle, 04 November 2021)

President announces 30 January snap elections 
On 04 November, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced the decision to conduct snap elections on 30 January 2022. Over a televised broadcast, de Sousa said: "In moments like this, we need a solution without fear and without making a drama... This is the only way for the Portuguese people to choose what they want in the coming years." The call for snap election follows the failure of the 2022 budget proposal put forth by the Prime Minister Antonio Costa's government – an event unseen for many decades. The budget was rejected by a rare coming together of the Communist Party and the larger Left Bloc. The elections were announced after de Sousa consulted with the parties and his Council of State. (Paul Ames, "Portugal heads for snap election in January," POLITICO, 04 November 2021; Alison Roberts, "Portugal's president calls snap election," BBC, 04 November 2021)

Legal proceedings against 30 for tweets on Erdogan's death
On 03 November, an 'olmus' hashtag concerning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan trended on the country's Twitter. The hashtag which roughly translates to 'is said to be dead,' triggered the authorities as they launched investigations into the 30 people who used this hashtag. A police statement declared the offenders to be accused of spreading 'disinformation and manipulative content' as well as of insulting the President. Lately, concerns regarding Erdogan's health have increased. His aides intend to dull down such speculation by releasing videos that show the President in the prime of his health - sometimes walking quite quickly, otherwise playing basketball. The latest round of speculations is expected to have risen due to Erdogan finding it difficult to walk in a video released on 29 November. He had also cancelled his trip to the Glasgow Summit claiming to have had security concerns. ("Turkey probes 30 for Twitter posts suggesting Erdogan died," Deutsche Welle, 03 November 2021; "Erdogan: Turkey investigates posts about president's health," BBC, 04 November 2021)

Anti-discrimination campaign on hijab promotion receives backlash
On 04 November, multiple media houses reported the severe backlash received by an EU-funded anti-discrimination campaign promoting hijabs. The posters and advertisements on the same were eventually taken down. The online campaign initiated under the supervision of the Council of Europe's (CoE) anti-discrimination division, included members from the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations' (FEMYSO) along with other Muslim and non-Muslim groups. The campaign's content comprised of split-screen portraits and videos with women wearing hijabs on one side while the other side had women with uncovered hair and no hijabs. It also included slogans which read: "Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in hijab." In response to the outrage, the CoE's secretary-general Marija Pejcinovic Buric said: "(the campaign) reflected individual statements from people who took part in one of the project's workshops and doesn't reflect the position of the Council of Europe." The campaign was primarily criticized by France, hosting Europe's largest Muslim population, that follows a strict compliance of secularism from all religions. The campaign, however, brought together the left and right wings of French politics. Refusing to agree that the hijab symbolized freedom, far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted: "It's when women take their veil off that they become free, not the other way around." (Jack Parrock, "EU-funded hijab campaign sparks outrage," Deutsche Welle, 04 November 2021; "Hijab campaign tweets pulled by Council of Europe after French backlash," BBC, 04 November 2021)

The UK; First COVID-19 pill approved
On 04 November, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that MSD (Merck & Co's international trade name) and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics had won the UK's authorization on a new antiviral coronavirus cure. The oral pill, molnupiravir, which will be used to tend to adults suffering from mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19, is the first to have successfully treated the disease. Termed by the MHRA as a "safe and effective" treatment, MSD's application for an 'emergency use authorization' for the pill is also under review at the US Food and Drug Administration. Announcing the approval, the UK's Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "... we have become the first country in the world to approve an antiviral for COVID-19… (it is a) historic day for our country." ("COVID: UK greenlights Merck antiviral pill," Deutsche Welle, 04 November 2021; Douglas Busvine, "UK approves first pill to treat COVID-19," POLITICO, 04 November 2021

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