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A Dockside View of Europe

Christian Lequesne is a senior researcher at the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (FNSP) and deputy director of the Center for International Studies and Research in Paris (CERI, CNRS / FNSP). In a recent study, L'Europe Bleue: A Quoi Sert une Politique Communautaire de la PÍche?1, he chose to take the measure of European policymaking by listening to and observing European fishing industry actors.

Often when the subject of the application of European norms to local areas is raised it is to denounce their destabilising impact on regional identities. Is this the case in the fishing industry as well?
Christian Lequesne: No, not always. European regulation can at times serve the interests of local communities that even in national terms are isolated. Spanish Basque fishermen took advantage of regulations to get the technique of drifting nets outlawed in the Atlantic. French fishermen were using such nets to get albacore tuna while Spanish Basque fishermen still practiced live-bait fishing. Basing their appeal on world environmental norms and backed up by environmentalist NGOs, the Spanish Basque fishermen were able to make themselves heard in Brussels. In the face of the new regulation, French fishermen fought back by appealing to corporatist ties established within the French State, but to no avail. They were forced to recognize that their conventional advocates within the State no longer sufficed to defend their interests. European policy now depends, clearly, on the capacity of various actors to appropriate the policy mechanisms.

Do you find that French political culture has slowed down the process of adaptation by French fishermen to the European political system?
C.L.
Emphasizing the role of political cultures can be tricky business because a political culture should not be taken as something set in stone. They are constantly interacting, changing, subject to a learning process. That being said, I do think that coming from a tradition of a centralised State makes it more difficult to adapt to the fluid processes of European decision-making. The Spanish are more accustomed to the European system because within their State they are used to several decisional levels (the central level and that of the autonomous communities). Despite this handicap the French fishermen have shown they understand the importance today of establishing transnational coordination and are more open to change.


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Christian Lequesne
CERI
E-mail: lequesne@cefres.cz
or info@ceri-sciences-po.org

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