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FISHERIES COUNCIL : CFP REFORM: STATES SPLIT ON AID.

Things are gradually becoming clearer on the financial aspect of reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). At the Council's third debate on the subject, on 25 September in Brussels, focused on management of the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), division lines emerged between those backing the European Commission's proposal to abolish vessel modernisation and scrapping aid and the states that defend it tooth and nail. "It is contradictory to want both," said Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki. The solution will probably lie somewhere in the middle since everyone agrees that, in either case, an increase in fleet capacity is out of the question.

The discussion on aid confirmed differences of opinion already known to exist. Among those condemning scrapping and modernisation aid, Henk Bleker (Netherlands) maintained that these measures, used widely in the past, have not proved effective. "These are instruments from the past that must not be put back into the CFP. The reform is an opportunity to change things," he said. Backing this view, but with nuances depending on the type of aid in question, were Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and Finland.

Fleet modernisation aid may be saved in extremis: the majority of member states may endorse the principle (change to less polluting and more energy-efficient engines and investments in more selective fishing gears), on the strict condition that it does not result in capacity increases.

There is greater opposition to scrapping aid. The question is whether its objective is the withdrawal of the vessels concerned or their replacement by more modern vessels. France, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria and Lithuania defend the principle at all costs. For Damanaki, this measure has not proved its effectiveness in terms of restructuring or elimination of over-capacity. She wants facts and figures on the segments and types of vessels concerned. If this type of aid is maintained, it will also be under strict conditions.

These countries also support aid for the temporary cessation of activity but the commissioner maintains that such a measure cannot be used as a CFP implementing instrument. It might be acceptable only for the purpose of fleet adaptation, but in no case as a permanent measure. "But this is an option to be explored," she said, leaving room for discussion.

FUND MANAGEMENT

Broad consensus seems to exist among the 27 on seeking more flexibility on the shared management of EMFF resources. Member states want a greater share of responsibility. They agree with the commissioner that a certain amount needs to be reserved for data collection and control, but some, like Bulgaria, insist that this reserve must be "appropriate and sufficient". It is clear, though, that the majority of delegations want to keep control over the distribution of funds and choice of priorities. The regulation covers seven years and flexibility also means giving member states the opportunity to adapt their programming in terms of changing situations.

The member states also see eye to eye on rejecting any alignment of EMFF management with that of the European Agricultural Fund for Regional Development (EAFRD): for small funds - and like the current European Fisheries Fund, the EMFF is still a small fund at EU level (6.5 billion for 2014- 2020) - simple and effective management, without excessive bureaucracy, is best. The member states say they are pleased with the functioning of the EFF and see no need to switch to a more complex system. Damanaki will not fight over this point: it is for member states to decide. The next round of the debate, possibly with agreement on a general approach, will be held at the October Council.
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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Oct 5, 2012
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