Echoing concerns expressed by local Mauritian stakeholders that there had been a lack of transparency and consultation in the negotiation of the new protocol, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the EU–Mauritius FPA sent a written question to the EC, asking whether the Commission believed ‘that the process of negotiations was conducted transparently, providing an opportunity for those concerned to be consulted?’
The rapporteur was worried that, if indeed it was the case, such lack of information and consultation ‘may affect the European Union's image and credibility in the area, at a time when the EU is concerned to build trust and develop mutually beneficial long-term relations.’
He also underlined that the EU’s international commitment, as signatory of the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental information, and Community commitments ‘require transparency and the dissemination of comprehensive environmental information’.
Such issues were commented on by the EU delegation in Mauritius in a press release providing elements of answers to the concerns expressed regarding transparency, consultation and participation of stakeholders, as well as accountability in the use of the financial compensation.
The EU delegation emphasised that the ex-ante evaluation for the protocol had been published by the EC, ‘in which the local stakeholder’s views were taken into account’. Commenting on article 11 of the protocol on confidentiality, which has been particularly controversial with local Mauritian stakeholders, the EU delegation emphasised the need to protect commercially sensitive data, such as catch data in real time, while ensuring they are shared with the Mauritian authorities.
A significant effort has been made in recent years by the EU, often under pressure from civil society interests, to publish information related to fishing agreements, minutes of joint committee meetings, FPA evaluations, etc. It should be recalled that such a level of transparency does not exist regarding other bilateral or private agreements signed by ACP countries, including Mauritius. Another aspect to consider is ‘stakeholder participation’. If efforts are being made on the EU side, particularly through the creation of EU stakeholder-led advisory committees, including one for external fisheries, there is still ‘room for improvement’ in terms of finding suitable ways for third-country stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process. This is something that should be reflected in the dialogue with third-country authorities, as stakeholder participation from both sides is an important element for building trust and developing mutually beneficial long-term relations.