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Denmark to support Faroes in WTO case

With the EU sanctioning a part of the Danish Commonwealth, Foreign Ministry says it will not stand in the way of the Faroe Islands pursuing its case

Denmark could soon find itself in the middle of a messy lawsuit that pits the Faroe Islands against the EU.

The Faroe Islands has indicated that it is prepared to take a case against the EU to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over sanctions filed by the EU due to over-fishing. With the Faroes a part of the Danish Commonwealth, and Denmark a member of both the EU and the WTO, it puts Danish politicians in a tricky situation. But the government has announced that it will not stop the Faroes from pursuing its grievances.

”The government has made the decision not to stand in the way if the Faroe Islands decides to take its claim against EU at the WTO,” the Foreign Ministry wrote in an email to Politiken newspaper.

READ MORE: EU imposes sanctions on Faroe Islands

First time ever
A potential lawsuit would be the first time that Denmark has filed a lawsuit at the WTO, something that Lars Bracht Andersen, a lecturer and expert in WTO law at Aarhus University, found “highly unusual”.

Andersen went on to say that the move to support the Faroes is a natural one, aimed at preventing Denmark from having to impose sanctions against a member of its own commonwealth.

The ordeal began in August when the European Commission voted to implement sanctions against the Faroe Islands because of its decision to set independent fishing quotas for mackerel that are far higher than the EU recommendations. Denmark subsequently gave the Faroe Islands permission to appeal the EU sanctions.

READ MORE: Denmark supports Faroe Islands in appeal against EU fishing sanctions

Negotiations persist
The sanctions will mean that Faroese fishermen will not be allowed to land mackerel or herring in EU harbours or export fish to the EU. Fishing accounts for over 90 percent of the Faroe Islands' exports and the sanctions would debilitate their economy.

Andersen predicts that the process will be drawn out and in the meantime negotiations will persist in the hope of reaching some kind of agreement that both parties can live with.

The Danish government has attempted to persuade the EU to drop the sanctions against the Faroe Islands, but so far those efforts have been in vain.