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Faroe PM defends fishing stance during visit

Faroese prime minister Askel Johannesen meets Lerwick guizer jarl Lyall Gair - Photo: Chris Brownl

THE FAROE Islands’ political leader has strongly rejected any suggestion that its fishermen are abusing an international agreement on the right to fish mackerel in the north east Atlantic.

During a visit to Shetland, the country’s prime minister Aksel Johannesen said he was well aware of local concerns, but said fishermen should direct their anger at the EU, which had negotiated the deal.

Earlier this month, Shetland Fishermen’s Association figurehead Simon Collins described Faroe as a “rogue state”, a description Johannesen said he disagreed with.

“Fishermen need to speak to the EU if they think the EU did not negotiate a good enough deal for them,” he said.

“We on the other side believe that we should have an even higher quotas of mackerel.”

Increased fishing quotas – not just for mackerel – are driving the Faroese economy, which is growing by a staggering 7-8 per cent per year.

On the basis of that strong economy as well as enjoying wide-ranging autonomy from Denmark, Faroe has managed to create a dynamic society that is now also experiencing a growing population, much needed to cater for its ageing demographic.

Faroese prime minister Aksel Johannesen in Lerwick town hall on Tuesday - Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“We try to make it as economical to live in the Faroe Islands as it is in Denmark; that’s why we have cut the taxes on lower incomes, have introduced tax benefits for people with children and also higher grants for people in education,” the prime minister, a member of the social democratic party, said.

Hosting the visit of the Faroese delegation, council convener Malcolm Bell said the neighbouring island group was watched with “admiration” and a degree of “envy”.

While in Shetland, Johannesen will also witness the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, which takes place on Tuesday.

During a press briefing on Monday afternoon he confirmed that Faroese Telecom was still committed to applying for a licence to be able to enter the UK market in the hope of providing improved digital services for Shetland and Orkney.

He also expressed his hope that the introduction of a new direct air service between Shetland and Faroe this summer would help build community relations.

“We are geographically very close, so it is important that the people can also be close so that we can stay friends,” he said.