Norway's Return to Whaling May Harpoon Bid to Join EC A TEST FOR THE COMMUNITY

By Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 12, 1992 | Go to article overview

Norway's Return to Whaling May Harpoon Bid to Join EC A TEST FOR THE COMMUNITY


Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


NORWAY'S decision to resume commercial whaling next year despite an international ban is likely to create difficulties for the Scandinavian country's expected bid for European Community membership.

With fundamental questions of economic impact, market access, and foreign policy dominating any country's negotiations on EC membership, whaling might seem an issue of secondary importance. But the alacrity with which some EC officials have warned Norway of the possible consequences of its decision indicates the international sensitivity to whale hunting in particular and the growing weight of environmental issues in general.

Norway's whaling decision could also show how far the EC is willing to go to force conformity with its positions and standards - or overlook a member's disregard for them. Denmark's "no" vote in June on the EC's Maastricht Treaty - the agreement that provides for comprehensive European integration - jolted the Community's interventionist spirit and prompted promises of greater respect for national norms and cultural differences.

Norway's announcement last month of its intention to resume whaling for "scientific research" immediately and commercial purposes next year was internationally condemned. Still, it seems at first an unlikely issue of contention with the EC.

Norway is not a member of the Community, and unlike Sweden and Finland it has not applied. At the same time the EC is not a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which agreed on a whale-hunting moratorium in 1985, although individual EC countries are.

But Norway, whose government favors joining the EC, is expected to apply for membership this fall. That expectation was enough to prompt the European Parliament to cite the whale-hunting decision as a potential obstacle to membership.

The Community's commissioner for cooperation, development, and fisheries, Manuel Marin, also reacted quickly, condemning Norway's decision as "shocking." The EC executive Commission, he said, considers the decision "deeply regrettable, notably following as it does the Rio summit where the challenges and importance of environmental problems were exposed at the planetary level."

Mr. Marin then convinced the EC Commission to seek membership in the IWC to allow the Community to make "a more active contribution to the conservation of whales." EC membership in the IWC would instantly make respect for the whaling ban a matter of EC business and thus an issue in EC membership negotiations.

Norwegian officials, eager to minimize the potential for confrontation with the EC, are quick to point out that Marin's opinion is not an official EC position.

"Mr. Marin has not expressed himself on behalf of the European Community," says Inguard Havnen, spokesman for Norway's Foreign Ministry. "We have not received any official indication from the EC that this {decision} could present a problem. …

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