WTO to hear Faroes case on EU herring ban

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has agreed to convene a panel regarding the ongoing dispute between the European Union and the Faroe Islands over Atlanto-Scandian herring quotas, and the E.U.'s recent trade ban levied against the Faroese.

The WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed at its 26 February meeting to hold the panel. According to the WTO's website, the organization acted on a request from Denmark on behalf of the Faroes to study the E.U.'s trade ban, handed down in August 2013, effectively banning the import and sale of herring from the Faroe Islands. The Faroese, through Denmark, argued that the ban violates "basic provisions" of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, along with WTO law.

While the request to the WTO does not mention mackerel, the E.U.'s trade ban includes Faroese mackerel as well, and E.U. officials have said they are considering a similar ban against Iceland.

Both Iceland and the Faroes have been locked in a bitter dispute with the E.U. and Norway over allegations that Icelandic and Faroese fisheries are overfishing mackerel and herring stocks, in a dispute that has been dubbed the "Mackerel Wars." The recent ban and E.U. threats have prompted all involved parties to sit down to renewed talks to resolve the issue, but so far there has been no progress.

The Danish government first requested a WTO/DSB panel on 8 January, but E.U. objections blocked that request, leading to a second request, which the DSB is obligated to honor, no matter what the objections.

The Faroe Islands are a territory of Denmark, subject to Danish government and considered a part of Denmark regarding WTO membership, but concerning the E.U., the Faroes are considered a separate entity. As a result, the Danish government was required to file the WTO requests on behalf of the Faroes, despite officially being an opposing party in the dispute.

The DSB is scheduled to meet again on 26 March.

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