* EU sanctions still require final endorsement
* September meeting to debate Atlantic fish stocks
* EU officials have said herring sanctions a first step
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Aug 16 Iceland and the Faroe Islands
accused the European Union on Friday of violating international
maritime law, ratcheting up the tension in a row over fishing
At the end of last month, EU member states in principle
supported sanctions against the Faroe Islands in protest at its
government's decision to treble the limit on herring fishing.
Measures could include an import ban or closing EU ports to
Faroese vessels, but they still require final endorsement from
the executive European Commission, which is expected over the
EU officials have said herring sanctions are a first step
towards similar measures against Iceland and the Faroe Islands
in a long-running dispute over mackerel quotas.
The row has drawn comparisons with the "cod wars" of the
1950s and 1970s, and helped to derail Iceland's EU membership
A statement from the Faroese prime minister's office said
the government had requested an international tribunal to
declare the European Union "in breach of its obligations" under
the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It asked for EU authorities to be "ordered to refrain from
the threat or adoption of coercive economic measures on the
A separate statement from the prime minister of Iceland also
accused the European Union of breaking U.N. maritime law, in
particular the obligation on coastal states jointly to agree on
measures to protect and develop shared fish stocks.
The five coastal states in question are the European Union,
the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation,
which are scheduled to hold talks in London on Sept. 2-3 over
the management of herring stock.
The Faroe Islands, a self-governed territory within the
Danish Realm and not part of the European Union, says the EU
rules do not give it a sufficient share of the herring catch and
that a higher quota is justified by an increase in the number of
herring in its waters.
Both Iceland and the Faroe Islands say only multilateral
negotiations between all five states can agree management of the
fish stock known as the Atlanto-Scandian herring.
Faroe Islands Prime Minister Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen said
the threat of EU sanctions jeopardised those talks.
"The EU's intention to impose unilateral coercive economic
measures against the Faroe Islands has already compromised the
spirit of mutual respect and cooperation which is crucial to
ensuring that real progress can be made on joint management of
this valuable shared fish stock," he said.
No one from the European Commission could comment
But in July Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said the
European Union had no option but to take "all necessary steps"
to ensure sustainable herring fishing.
(Editing by Alison Williams)