by Zacki Jabbar
The first fish exports to the European Union would resume in about two months time, says Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva.
Political integration had led to Sri Lanka reaping the benefits of economic fusion, de Silva told a meeting with the Foreign Correspondents Association in Colombo recently.”In eight weeks time, the first consignment of fish would be exported to the European Union (EU) after a lapse of about two years.”
Sri Lanka, which was previously the second biggest exporter of fresh and chilled swordfish and tuna to the EU with exports worth EUR 74 million in 2013, was issued with a yellow card in 2012 and listed by the EU Fisheries Council in February 2015, which it noted was due to a long standing failure to address serious shortcomings in the implementation of control measures, a lack of deterrent sanctions, as well as the failure to comply with international and regional fisheries rules.
The Sirisena- Wikremesinghe government on assuming office amended the legal framework governing the fisheries sector, strengthened sanctions and improved fleet control.
The Deputy Minister emphasized that foreign policy was agreed on at the highest levels with the President and Prime Minister heading the consultation process. “This has led to economic fusion, which is a direct result of political integration”.
The application to recover the GSP Plus facility from the EU, which was suspended in 2010 after the Rajapaksa government had refused to respect human rights and the rule of law, would be made in about a months time, de Silva noted adding, ” We have reached broad agreement and are down to 21 points. A lot of it is to do with rights and good governance. Legislation may be there, but the emphasis is on implementation.”
Despite the Rajapaksa government’s tough talking, public rhetoric and “don’t care attitude” aimed at impressing the masses, former Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris had appealed to the EU on the GSP Plus issue , but did not get a response, he added.
The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said on April 21 this year that their policies not only indicated a determination to fight illegal fishing globally but also showed that it can bring important players on board.
“Sri Lanka now has a robust legal and policy framework to fight illegal fishing activities. As the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is part of our commitment towards sustainability and good ocean governance, each third country that comes on board is an asset. IUU fishing is a major threat to global marine resources. It is estimated that between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally each year with an annual global value of up to 10 billion euros.”