Faroese Prime Minister Aksel V Johannesen arrived in Shetland today for a visit with the SIC and various industries, as well as, of course, the intention to see Up-Helly-A’.
Mr Johannesen was invited by council convenor Malcolm Bell, who visited Faroe last year. The Faroese leader met committee chairmen Cecil Smith and Alastair Cooper and Promote Shetland today and plans to meet officially with Mr Bell, Michael Stout, and Vaila Wishart tomorrow, as well as Shetland Fishermen’s Association representatives, in what will prove a hectic schedule.
In his first visit to Shetland Mr Johannesen emphasised that it was important to have a good friendship with Faroe’s closest island neighbour, a point reiterated by Mr Bell, who said that the social bond was as important as a political one.
Mr Johannesen said that Faroe Telecom hoped to have a major role to play in communications in Shetland through both mobile service delivery and broadband provision. But involvement with the mobile network requires licensing by Westminster. He emphasised the importance that Faroese autonomy has for such matters as it has been able to forge ahead delivering its own network without waiting for action by companies based in network.
The theme of greater autonomy was raised repeatedly by both leaders and Mr Bell spoke of the admiration and degree of envy that he had for the latitude given to Faroe in a whole range of areas like taxation, transport and communications.
On the thorny question of fisheries – Shetland and Scottish pelagic fishermen have been raging about a deal brokered by the EU which allows Faroese boats to catch 30 per cent of their mackerel quota around Shetland – Mr Johannesen said that he could understand the frustration of Shetland fishermen, but they would be more accurate to vent that on the EU negotiators who signed the deal.
He said that he expected mackerel to figure largely in tomorrow’s meeting with SFA executive officer Simon Collins, who has dubbed Faroe a “rogue state”, but said that there was a reciprocal mackerel access agreement plus considerable access for blue whiting and North Atlantic herring in Faroese waters. Almost all blue whiting are caught there, he said.
“I think our quotas are two low, if you consider all the species. 12.6 per cent is OK for us, (for mackerel) but we believe we should have even higher quotas of mackerel,” said Mr Johannesen, who also called for higher blue whiting and herring quotas for his islands. No agreement has been reached for these species yet.
Mr Johannsen and his two colleagues said they were also “very excited” to see Up-Helly-A’ and will be guests at Mareel which stands in for the Town Hall in tomorrow’s visit of the Jarl’s Squad.
See Friday’s Shetland Times for more details of the Faroese visit.