Kiribati gains authorisation to access the EU market. What does it mean and how does it work?

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Kiribati gains EU market access - copyright francisco blaha
Kiribati gains EU market access - copyright francisco blaha Kiribati gains EU market access - copyright francisco blaha

Republished from Franciso Blaha’s blog, 26 June 2017

by Francisco Blaha


Since the 16 of June 2017 via Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2017/1089, Kiribati became the 4th country in the Pacific to be included in the list of third countries and territories from which imports of certain fishery products for human consumption are permitted. Yet, this does not mean that from now on fish caught by any Kiribati-flagged vessels can “instantly” access directly or indirectly the EU. It does not work just like that!

My post today is on how that process works and a bit of the inside story on how Kiribati got to be authorised from the sanitary side, yet the country still has a yellow card from the IUU side.

The EU’s Regulation (EC) 854/2004 provides that products of animal origin can only be imported into the EU from a third country (meaning non-EU countries) that appears on a list drawn up in accordance with this Regulation.  When drawing up such lists, an account is taken of EC controls in 3rd countries and guarantees provided by the Competent Authority (CA) of 3rd countries in regard to compliance or equivalence with the relevant EU (health) regulations.

If a country’s control systems are considered “equivalent”, then it is authorised for fishery products and added Annex II of Commission Decision 2006/766/EC. Then the CA of that country evaluates compliance against the EU regulations by their factories and vessels (they call then Food Business Operators – FBOs). If they are up to the standards and expected levels of compliances, it then lists them (by giving them an approval number) and sends them to the EU, to be added to the list approved establishments of that country.

At this stage, the 1st list of 5 vessels and one factory has been sent to the EU for the revision, and once this is done and the FBO would appear in the list, and from then on they can access the EU market.

This all process is quite complex, and it takes countries like Kiribati a long time and effort to get to this point.

The EU obliges compliance to its own requirements, and thus requires the 3rd country to prove that it operates a control structure applicable to its seafood exports that are equivalent to those existing in an EU member country, meaning than Kiribati has to prove that has systems and controls equivalent to those of Germany for example.

Yet many Small Island Developing States in the Pacific (SIDS) like Kiribati, remain in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDC) recognised by the UN. The 3 elements that define this status (poverty, human resource weakness and economic vulnerability) are at the same time key elements in the establishment and operation of a CA.

Until now, only three of Pacific Islands country members have been able to meet this requirement – PNG, Solomons and Fiji – all relatively large countries with substantial tuna processing industries. Even these countries face considerable challenges, both Fiji and PNG have been forced to suspend exports to the EU for a time in the last few years, and all of them continues to rely to a different extent on donor funding to maintain its CA.

For SIDS in the Pacific, the lack of EU sanitary authorization is a price disincentive for buyers of their fish caught in their waters, but not for same fish caught by vessels from EU authorised countries (like Taiwan, China or Korea) catching next to them, even if the inspectors of those flag states, may have never been on board! 

In principle, the processing countries can only provide “EU Health Certificates” for seafood products which are derived wholly or partly from raw materials products that:

  • Have originated from a third country eligible to export the animal product to the EU;
  • Have been derived from foreign premises eligible to export to the EU, (including vessels); and
  • Be eligible to be exported to the European Community;

This “eligibility” requirement, should be always applied, yet this is unfortunately no the case in all canning countries, in Thailand for example, this issue already got them into troubles with the EU.

A further challenge for Pacific countries is that in many cases, they do not have processing sites in their territory (nor the physical area and cost effective geographical situation to develop them), or if they do, the operational focus targets more regional markets and not the EU. For these countries, the CA needs to be developed and operated in a “vessel only” oriented manner. This would potentially imply a CA with officers either travelling to the foreign landing ports and/or establishing MoUs with the CAs of the unloading countries.

… Read the rest of the blog post here