Fishing power Europe: examining the EU's normativity in its external fisheries action
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date22/07/2021
Vatsov, Mihail Petrov
The EU is a major fishing power, portraying itself as a normative actor and as a champion of sustainable fishing. In this thesis, ‘normative power’ denotes a powerful actor that acts in a principled way. This thesis examines how the EU seeks to act normatively in its external action in the area of fisheries - which covers many EU competences - and the legal challenges it faces in doing so. This examination reconceptualises the Normative Power Europe (NPE) narrative by identifying three interrelated elements – universality, use of instruments and legitimacy – as the key criteria against which to evaluate the normativity of the EU’s conduct in the area of fisheries externally. The universality element examines the level of international acceptance of the stated aims of EU action. The use of instruments element examines the EU’s participation limitations in relevant international institutions and the means (persuasion as opposed to coercion) through which it acts. The legitimacy element examines the substance of the EU’s action in terms of legality, protection of common or self-interests and coherence and consistency. The thesis draws upon extensive research into both the international and EU legal framework relating to fisheries and the EU’s practice in its external fisheries relations. The thesis starts by showing that the EU holds the necessary powers and institutional framework to act normatively and that the NPE elements are grounded in EU law in the area of fisheries. The thesis then moves on to inquire into the EU’s conduct, showing that the EU faces significant challenges to acting normatively. Most visibly, in international institutions in which it lacks membership, these challenges stem from its incomplete powers as a non-State actor. At the same time the thesis argues that these challenges predominantly relate to and are aggravated by obstructions from EU Member States at different levels (enforcing EU law, acting in the Council, acting in international institutions). Third States’ obstructions appear much less challenging, albeit still problematic. The thesis continues by arguing that even where the EU enjoys strong powers of action (exclusive competence and/or enjoying membership in relevant international institutions) it fails to act normatively again because of its Member States. The Member States’ involvement at different levels in the area of fisheries allows them to protect their fisheries interests, leading to incoherence and inconsistency, reliance on short-term self-interest and in some cases even possible illegality in the overall EU action. Accordingly, the thesis claims that while the EU’s normativity depends greatly on its internal and external powers, it is its inability to freely wield these powers that damages its normativity. In order for the EU to act normatively it needs first and foremost to be fully supported by its Member States for its present constitution prevents it from acting fully to their exclusion and independently from them.