EU ban on seal goods imports in place
The European Parliament announced the ban last year after public outcry over Canada's annual commercial seal hunt.
Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 07:25 AM
SEAL BAN: Sixteen groups including the Canadian Inuit group, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, filed cases with the court opposing the embargo. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
A European Union embargo on importing seal products went into effect Friday as planned though an exception was made for legal challengers to the ban, the European Commission said.
Following consultations with the EU members, the commission said the ban would not apply to the plaintiffs in a case before the European General Court.
The EU's executive arm was responding to a decision Thursday by the court, the European Union's second highest tribunal, ordering a suspension of the ban for groups which filed appeals with the court.
The decision by court president Marc Jaeger was made public on Thursday by a Canadian native Inuit group, catching the European Commission by surprise.
"The commission would like to clarify that the trade ban put in place ... still comes into effect today," Maria Kokkonen, a commission spokeswoman, said in a statement.
"However, it will not apply to the applicants in this court case until the General Court has had the opportunity to hear all parties involved," she added.
She said the parties have until September 7 to present their opinions to the court and a hearing would likely follow soon after.
The judge will then decide whether to keep the suspension in place until a final ruling is made on the legality of the ban.
Sixteen groups including the Canadian Inuit group, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, filed cases with the court opposing the embargo.
The European Parliament announced the ban last year after public outcry over Canada's annual commercial seal hunt, which animal rights activists denounce as cruel.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government is defending the sealers at the World Trade Organization, described the ban as "completely unfair" and "flagrant discrimination" against Canadian sealers who have been following established rules of animal husbandry.
Copyright 2010 AFP American Edition