l THOSE who are indiscriminately critical of the 15 EU Commissioners sitting in Brussels should look at the work being done by Franz Fischler, the Agriculture and Fisheries Commissioner. After an all-night negotiating session ending yesterday morning, Herr Fischler emerged with an unanimous agreement on new fishing quotas in order to preserve stocks, especially those of cod which have dropped to one-tenth of 1970 levels. The agreement was not reached easily. Germany and Sweden wanted acceptance of the scientific advice that there should be a total ban on cod fishing in some key areas such as the North Sea, the Irish Sea and off the west coast of Scotland, and big cuts in other catches; Britain, Denmark, France and Spain wanted only a partial ban in order to protect the interests of their fishing communities which have been hard-hit by earlier EU restrictions. The compromise worked out by Herr Fischler will permit boats to work on 15 days of each month with increased quotas for haddock and prawns; in return the fishing fleets will guarantee not to take cod from some of the most vulnerable areas where stocks are close to extinction. Environmental groups have said they are disappointed with the outcome and warn that cod could disappear altogether as it did in the waters off eastern Canada in the 1990s as a result of over-fishing. However politicians have to think of the effect of draconian measures on the livelihoods depending on fishing - reckoned to number some 200'000 people in the European Union. The balancing of the natural, enviromental, economic and social concerns of 15 nations is not an easy task but it is achieved by the European Union more often than gets credit for.