Gothenburg, May 5th 2006.

Ministers today ensured the sad end to a once proud process of international cooperation to protect the North Sea. Today’s special meeting, the last in a long series of interministerial North Sea Conference events stretching back to 1984, was convened in recognition of the very significant threat still posed to the environment of the North Sea by the shipping and fishing industries.

Early in 2004, the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, took the Council of the European Union to the European Court of Justice in an attempt to annul that part of the Western Waters Regulation which in 2004 opened Azorean waters to fleets of other EU Member States. The Western Waters Regulation, a regulation under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), contains little in the way of environmental considerations and contrasts sharply with the more environmentally-friendly fisheries management regime that it replaced.In a ground-breaking development, Seas At Risk, WWF and Greenpeace applied and were granted leave to intervene in support of the Azores. The hearing on the case will take place on the 14th June 2007. If the Azores are successful with their environmental arguments, an important legal precedent could be set for the integration of environmental requirements into the CFP.