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Home » Press Releases » 2009 » European Union Knows Proposed Seal Ban Would Be Unlawful

European Union Knows Proposed Seal Ban Would Be Unlawful

Ottawa, Ontario – March 27, 2009 – Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC Canada) today revealed that the Council of the European Union (EU) has been told by its own legal advisors that a proposed EU-wide ban on seal product imports would contravene both the EU’s own Charter and the EU’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The conclusions of the advice given to the Council of the EU by its legal advisors are annexed to this press release.

“We are not surprised to learn of this legal advice,” said national Inuit leader Mary Simon, President of ITK, “and we note that it has been given in very clear and categorical terms.”

President Simon added, “Inuit know that the European Union was founded out of the tragedy and chaos of World War II to create a new and peaceful Europe anchored firmly in cooperation among neighbors and respect for the rule of law. We have great respect for the project of a united Europe and we are confident that the EU and its peoples will be anxious to ensure that both the EU itself, and all its member countries, conduct themselves in full conformity with both EU and international law.”

Duane Smith, President of ICC (Canada), said: “The Canadian Government is now equipped with compelling evidence that the EU knows that it cannot just unilaterally impose a ban on the trade of seal products. We expect that the federal government will do whatever is needed under international trade law and other avenues to insist that the EU and its members respect their international commitments.” Smith underlined that it was revealing that the legal opinions offered the EU could find no valid conservation arguments for a ban in seal products trade.

For more information contact:

Stephen Hendrie
Director of Communications Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Cell: 613-277-3178 Email:

Carole Simon
Executive Assistant
Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada

Phone: 613-563-2642


Legal Opinion Conclusions to the Council of the European Union
On the Proposed EU-Wide Seal Ban Regulation

EC Treaty Conclusions:
In conclusion, the Legal Service is of the view that:

Article 95 EC could, in principle, be the legal basis for banning the placing on the market of seal products in the Community if the aim and effect would be to improve the functioning of the internal market for a category of products wider than those concerned by the ban; since no mention of any such effect can be found in the proposal or the accompanying documents, Article 95 EC cannot be the legal basis of the proposal as currently drafted; Neither Article 175 EC, nor Article 37 EC, nor any other Article of the EC Treaty could be used as a legal basis for the adoption of the proposal.

Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement and GATT ConclusionsIn conclusion, the Legal Service is of the view that:

a) Either a regulation establishing a prohibition with the possibility to obtain derogation, or a regulation imposing an almost total ban on trade in seal products:

  • would, if it contained exceptions, fall under the TBT Agreement and infringe Article 2.1 thereof;
  • would infringe Article I GATT if it contained an exemption for seal products from Inuit hunting;
  • would infringe Article III:4 and/or Article XI: 1 GATT if it imposed an import ban, with or without the possibility to request a derogation;b) In theory, one could consider the possibility of relying on the exception contained in Article XX (a) regarding the protection of “public morals” of GATT 1994 to try and justify an infringement of the abovementioned GATT 1994 Articles. However, insofar as the regulation prohibits imports of some or all seal products to the Community’s internal market, the proposal would arguably not pass the necessity test required under that Article.

The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization (IPO), founded in 1977 to promote and celebrate the unity of 180,000 Inuit from Alaska (USA), Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). ICC works to promote Inuit rights, safeguard the Arctic environment, and protect and promote the Inuit way of life. In regard to climate change, we believe that it is crucial for world leaders and governments to recognize, respect and fully implement the human rights of Inuit and all other Indigenous peoples across the globe.