EU and Faroe Islands Aim to Strengthening Ties Amid Fish Trade Deal with Russia

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.14 - 2024 3:25 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The President of the European Commission is set to visit the Faroe Islands on Thursday, aiming to bolster cooperation on fishery matters and more closely integrate the islands with the European Union.

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This visit marks the first time an EU Commission President has officially stepped foot on the Faroe Islands. Ursula von der Leyen's trip is geared towards enhancing collaboration with the Faroe Islands, which have continued their fish trade with Russia despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as reported by the Berlingske newspaper.

A Decades-long Effort Culminates

During her visit, von der Leyen expressed her enthusiasm for the new agreement that has been a goal for the Faroe Islands for decades.

"With this new agreement, we can now discuss how to improve your access to our market, including your processed fish products," von der Leyen announced at a press conference in Thorshavn.

On Thursday, she signed a declaration of intent with the Faroese Prime Minister, Aksel V. Johannesen, concerning green transition, research, education, and trade.

Trade policy has indeed been a point of contention in the Faroe Islands, which have continued their fish trade with Russia after the war in Ukraine. The Faroe Islands have aligned with the EU's official sanction domains, but fisheries do not fall under this category.

The Faroe Islands have an agreement with the EU to export raw materials tariff-free, but once processed, tariffs are applied. The Faroe Islands have unsuccessfully attempted to secure a better deal for 30 years.

Aksel V. Johannesen, the Faroese Prime Minister, is aware that the declaration does not resolve the challenge. However, it is a step in the right direction.

"The declaration doesn't solve specific trade challenges. It's an area the Faroe Islands have been working on for many years. That's true, but I am convinced that the declaration of intent is a significant step towards strengthening cooperation with the EU," he said.

A Geopolitical Gesture

John Johannesen, a journalist and editor at the Faroese media outlet Kringvarp, explains that a deal on fish is important for the Faroe Islands.

"Now, a declaration of intent is being signed to engage in closer discussions, whatever that entails. I think it's related to the geopolitical situation," said Johannesen. He believes that sending the Commissioner to the Faroe Islands to sign the declaration is a minor gesture. She travels to Greenland later on Thursday.

"It's clearly about geopolitics and showing that Europe extends beyond Skagen. Up to the Arctic, Europe holds together," John Johannesen said.

Ursula von der Leyen makes no secret that her visit also pertains to geopolitics in light of Russia's war against Ukraine. Therefore, the EU and the Faroe Islands must strengthen their political partnership and stand united to ensure the Arctic remains a peaceful and secure region.

"Your location is extremely strategic. You are an entrance to the Arctic. Climate is no longer the only challenge. China and Russia are increasingly assertive, and this can impact the stability in the region and the broader European neighborhood," she said.

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