Netherlands misled Europe to get more legume fishing licenses: report
Officials from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture deliberately withheld information from the European Commission and falsified numbers and calculations to secure as many legume fishing licenses as possible for Dutch fishermen, NOS reports based on documents received afterwards. have appealed to the Open Government Act.
The ministry only provided NOS with some of the documents requested by the broadcaster. According to the broadcaster, the ministry gave several explanations as to why other documents were kept secret, including that disclosure could lead to European criminal proceedings. And that the disclosure of certain documents could endanger the relations of the Netherlands with other States and international organizations. “I am of the opinion that this interest should outweigh the importance of disclosure, as disclosure could undermine the Netherlands’ international position on the impulses dossier,” NOS quoted, citing a letter sent by the ministry with the documents disclosed.
The documents received by NOS showed how the ministry had tricked Brussels into obtaining as many permits as possible, and with effect. The Netherlands have succeeded in obtaining permits for a quarter of the total fleet, which means that 84 Dutch vessels have been authorized to use the impulse fishing technique, in which the fish are surprised from the seabed with de small electric currents. Brussels originally only wanted to issue permits for 5 percent of the fleet, or up to 22 vessels.
The Netherlands managed to secure as many permits, which allowed Dutch fishermen to fish more efficiently than many of their European counterparts, rigging the numbers, according to NOS. The Netherlands claimed that 5 percent of the fleet was equivalent to around 42 ships, while 42 ships actually made up 12.5 percent of the Dutch fleet. This number was eventually doubled again. “Doubling an already very questionable number,” one official said on the matter.
In emails, Dutch officials expressed concerns that their methods were illegal and “questionable”. But they have been ordered to remain silent from the European Commission and the political summit of the ministry. Leaked documents showed officials have come under pressure from parliament and the fishing industry to get as many legume fishing licenses as possible. The fishing industry was in dire straits, so fishermen needed to be “supported in every way possible,” one official wrote.
Senior Agriculture Ministry officials said the Netherlands had the best chance of getting more permits from Brussels if the European Commission was not fully informed. “It is important that these issues are treated with as little attention as possible,” the broadcaster quoted from the documents.
Some officials have warned that this strategy could eventually come back to bite the Netherlands. And they turned out to be right. There was so much opposition to the Dutch pulse fishery from France and the European Parliament that the European Union decided to ban legume fishing. This ban will come into effect tomorrow, July 1.