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Dr Joe Borg
Member of the European Commission - Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
"Common Fisheries Policy reform: starting now, starting together"
German Bundestag AGRI Committee
Berlin, 17 June 2009
Honourable Members of the Bundestag,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be speaking to you here today in this magnificent setting. Berlin will forever be synonymous with the momentous events of 1989 which opened a new chapter in both German and European history. Twenty years on, we can see how Germany and the European Union have proved to be capable of rising to the challenges of fundamental change.
Germany and the European Union are again being called upon to take up yet another challenge, albeit in a different context: a challenge that seeks to engineer change in order to deliver a sustainable future for our seas, coasts and fisheries. This is particularly important for Germany due to its lengthy coastline and fisheries interests not only in the North and Baltic Seas but also in international waters, particularly near Greenland and Iceland.
Germany has been a key player in building the EU Integrated Maritime Policy over the past few years. Two years ago, for example, during Germany's Presidency of the European Union, a conference was held in Bremen which proved to be an important milestone in this process. Following from that conference I think it is fair to say that we have today, an EU Integrated Maritime Policy that is up and running. We now have a policy whose key objective is to unlock the full potential of maritime activities for the benefit of jobs and the economy, while at the same time safeguarding the marine environment which provides the resource base for all such activities.
I am happy to see that in Germany, both at a federal and at a Länder level, policy instruments reflecting the integrated maritime policy have been adopted, signalling a clear recognition of the need to make use of marine resources in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Our work in the maritime field is spread far and wide. W e are witnessing a new awareness at a grass-roots level and a corresponding awareness by policy-makers. Maritime governance is now increasingly based on best practices that have been observed around the world. It calls for strong political leadership, cooperation between governments, participation of maritime regions, stakeholder involvement and co-operation at a sea-basin level.
Another important development in our approach is a focus on specific sea-basin strategies. Europe’s sea basins are very different in nature and, while the overall logic of integrating maritime matters remains valid, it can and must be approached differently in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Baltic or the North Sea. A first step in that direction was our Communication on the Arctic of last November which looked at the Arctic by taking into consideration its own peculiarities. Only last week, the Commission adopted a Strategy to boost the Baltic Sea Region and we will soon be coming out with something similar for the Mediterranean.
This integrated approach does not focus solely on a new governance framework. It is also proving to be a powerful catalyst to champion maritime affairs within a wide range of sectoral polices which impact on the oceans and seas.
In that context, I can list a number of achievements which include the Maritime Safety Package, the Maritime Transport Strategy for 2018 and our bold proposal for a European M aritime Transport Space without Barriers that have come to fruition in past months . In parallel, we have also adopted: the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which serves as the environmental pillar of our policy, the Green Paper on Adaptation to Climate Change, a Communication on Offshore Wind Energy, the Marine and Maritime Research Strategy, the Eurosur initiative for border patrols in the Mediterranean, and a proposal to reassess the Exclusions of Seafarers from certain Social Rights.
In the coming months, we will continue to identify the steps to be taken in the coming year with regard to the integrated maritime policy and we will make further proposals on better EU coordination in maritime surveillance, increased international cooperation to improve the governance of the seas, and the improvement of data collection and scientific cooperation.
As you know, we have also just recently launched a debate on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Germany played a leading role during the last reform of the CFP - promoting and staunchly advocating sustainable fisheries. The very interest you are showing today proves that Germany's support for sustainability has not abated, and I fully hope that Germany will again be at the forefront in the drive to bring about the changes needed for the CFP to make a real and lasting difference to Europe's fisheries sector.
Bringing about that difference cannot wait any longer.
Despite steady progress towards our goal of making fishing activities sustainable in environmental, economic and social terms since the 2002 CFP reform – a reform agenda which we continue to pursue vigorously – the situation remains far from perfect.
Almost 9 out of 10 stocks are overfished, and although some stocks have seen improvements, sustainable fisheries are a great distance away from being a reality. We have a European fleet with the capacity to fish two to three times what would be considered sustainable. And as a result, wealth creation, steady incomes to fishermen and the contribution of fish caught in European waters to overall fish consumption are all failing.
Citizens are becoming increasingly environmentally aware and in the case of fisheries, they want to know where the fish they buy comes from. They want it to have been fished responsibly. And, the CFP, at present, is unfortunately not perceived as being able to provide a sufficient guarantee of that.
This creates a legitimacy problem vis-à-vis our citizens.
Essentially, this reform needs to provide the means to help fishermen regain trust in the market. It must help them to become profitable and thereby shape their own future. It must therefore work towards creating a healthy and sustainable marine environment that is capable of generating wealth for our fishing industry and nutritious food for our citizens. Big retailers also need to play a part. I understand that some major retail chains in Germany, such as the Deutsche See and Frosta , are switching to certified products. This is also happening in other parts of Europe. I welcome such moves insofar as they provide renewed impetus towards sustainable fishing.
For sustainability to truly make headway, we need to analyse what the situation is and what exactly we must do to remedy it.
We have a legal obligation to review the policy in 2012. However, comprehensive reform is needed not just because the rules say so, but because the situation for European fisheries is serious. So serious that ad hoc solutions, as often employed in the past, will simply not do.
The Commission's recent Green Paper on CFP reform has launched a comprehensive consultation on all aspects of fisheries policy. It analyses the current situation and poses a series of questions, to which all of Europe's citizens are invited to respond.
The initial signs are promising. Europe's fisheries ministers have welcomed our analysis and general approach to the reform. The media and other interested parties, such as NGOs, have also agreed on the need for a comprehensive reform, and the first replies we have received from European citizens, to questions in the Green Paper, have been encouraging.
We look forward to analysing these and many more yet to come before the end of the year.
At this stage, all options are open. That said, I believe that we can agree on a number of broad aims which should govern our long-term approach to fisheries management and help us deliver sustainability.
First of all, the CFP needs more sharply focused objectives. For many years ecological sustainability has been compromised so as to cushion short-term economic or social difficulties. This has led to a decline in the state of stocks – and eventually, of course, to an economic and social crisis for fishermen. The fishing sector has lost immense potential fishing opportunities because we have accepted, time and again, fishing far beyond what the stocks could take. This has to come to an end if we want to re-establish a fishing industry in Europe that is economically viable and robust. This has to come to an end if we want to provide Europe's consumers with fish from sustainable sources; and this has to come to an end if we really want to protect coastal communities.
It is crucial therefore, that decisions taken under the reformed CFP uphold the principle of ecological sustainability. Once this building block is in place, the economic and social sustainability that we rightly seek will follow. The future CFP also needs to recognise that the fisheries sector interacts closely with other maritime activities.
Secondly, the policy should be cost-effective, efficient, simple and easy to administer. We need to move away from short-term micro-management to a situation in which decisions can be taken at a level much closer to the people they affect. One option worth considering is giving the CFP a deeper regional dimension, where detailed implementing decisions respond more accurately to the specifics of our regional seas while being based on standards and principles decided at Community level. In this way, we can uphold the long-term focus in the policy and maintain a common policy at a European level, while moving many decisions closer to the people concerned.
Closely allied to this is the issue of how we can strengthen the involvement of industry. The current approach to fisheries management remains essentially top-down. Giving the sector greater ownership of the policy should encourage it to develop the much-needed solutions to the range of problems that exist. Encouraging the industry to 'self-manage' would involve it taking responsibility for sustainable fisheries, to a large extent.
This brings me to another important issue: rights-based management. We have to achieve an economically efficient balance between capacity and available natural resources. Experience shows that stronger rights in fisheries allow the capture sector to take greater responsibility to achieve this balance.
An effective management system building on individual rights relies on giving fishermen a right to fish which is secure enough to enable them to optimise the use of their vessels and maximise their income. Furthermore, long-term rights enable operators to better plan and secure investments. If we were to make these rights transferable, we could facilitate the long-term adjustment of the fleet and promote an economically self-reliant fishing fleet which would become less dependent on public financial intervention. Securing rights for the sector could also ensure that fishermen, who accept cuts in fishing opportunities to allow fisheries to rebuild in the short term, would be the ones who would benefit from healthier fisheries in the longer term.
Of course, a functioning fisheries management system also needs the support of a solid conservation policy, and proper control and enforcement of policy rules.
A number of Member States – Spain, Portugal, Estonia, the UK, Netherlands and Denmark – have individual transferable quotas in place for parts or all of their fleets. In many cases safeguards have been built in against, for instance, concentration of ownership. Similar policy initiatives and discussions are underway in other Member States.
In Germany you already have relatively strong rights in place as well, notably through individual quotas in the polyvalent and trawl fisheries. However, you do not allow the transfer of quotas on a permanent basis. I hope that a fruitful discussion can unfold, within the CFP reform debate, whereby the opportunity for further development towards rights-based management could be created. In my view, it also goes without saying, that any such discussion must also factor in safeguarding small coastal fisheries and maintaining coastal communities.
Discards – and how exactly to deal with them – is another important matter.
We have to end this unacceptable waste of valuable resources. Much of what is necessary can and should be done immediately; however, other changes also need to be effected as part of the reform. Germany has been one of the first countries to start addressing this problem. I am confident that it will continue to develop and support measures to eliminate this destructive practice in European waters.
Before I conclude, allow me to say a few words on aquaculture. The Commission has recently adopted a Communication to boost the sustainable development of the EU aquaculture industry. In order for this to be achieved, the role of national and local authorities is essential. By addressing issues such as maritime spatial planning, licensing, administrative bottle necks and burdens, and quality control, you can help aquaculture in Europe prosper while at the same time defining its role in the context of the future CFP.
Honourable Members of the Bundestag,
It is now up to all of us to shape the future of Europe's seas and coastal regions and to plan the path ahead for our fisheries sector. We need an Integrated Maritime Policy which works for our coastal communities and oceans and we need an ambitious Common Fisheries Policy able to respond fully to the realities and concerns of the 21st century.
I would therefore urge you, as Germany's elected representatives, to grasp this unique chance to listen to your constituents' views and channel them to your national and regional governments. Use your considerable influence to ensure that Germany does not take a back seat in this process. This opportunity to deliver a well-functioning and integrated maritime policy and sustainable fisheries in Europe for the benefit of all, is simply too great an opportunity to pass up.
Europe cannot afford not to have Germany champion this reform process and I hope that we will join forces so that we may together chart our reform course.