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Me mber of the European Commission - Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
A Stra tegy for European Aquaculture
Luxembourg, 23 June 2009
Dear Mr President, dear Ministers,
First of all, I would like to thank the Czech Presidency for all the effort and work it has put into ensuring that today I can welcome the Council conclusions on the sustainable development of European aquaculture.
After our previous discussions, I am very pleased to see your endorsement of the objectives we laid out in our Communication.
I am also pleased to note that you all recognise that EU aquaculture is in the general interest and that is a growing source of healthy and high-quality products, and that we, together, should help boost its potential and ensure that the aquaculture sector is sustainable in all respects.
The Commission shares your views on the importance of establishing a proper balance in the conditions for the development of aquaculture. I fully agree on the need to bolster the competitiveness of the sector by enhancing the position of aquaculture in the spatial planning and water management processes that are developed at national and regional levels. We also need to simplify and improve the coherence of legislative frameworks at all levels and to strongly promote aquaculture research and development.
Furthermore, we all agree that it is important to promote EU aquaculture products and technology and to ensure a level playing field for domestic and imported aquaculture products. But the Community must be consistent in the positions it adopts, particularly when discussing trade rules and possible associated conditions. In this context we all support the need to promote sustainability globally, in particular by advocating environmental protection, through the pursuit of international cooperation, notably on labelling and certification.
With regard to the operational parts of the Council conclusions, you invite the Commission to present a programme of actions as a follow-up to the Communication. I would like to recall that the Communication itself foresees a number of measures to be taken, both at EU level and, primarily, at Member State or local level, in order to remove the bottlenecks affecting EU aquaculture. In this regard, the Council emphasises that the development of European aquaculture must be market-driven. The Commission fully subscribes to this principle. In consequence most of the actions foreseen in the Strategy are not envisaged to lead to new proposals of a legislative nature. In any case to do so would be contrary to the objectives of simplification and the cutting down of red tape.
Most of the actions to be taken by public authorities to increase competitiveness – such as support for research and development – and the measures to improve governance and dialogue with all parties are non-legislative in nature and are ongoing. We intend to make our own contribution to that effect within the next 2 to 4 years. However, as your conclusions highlight, to be effective there has to be a similar commitment in Member States in the way in which national authorities shape the development of their aquaculture industry.
I would also refer in particular to two issues on which you specifically call on the Commission to take action: namely fish diseases and cormorants.
I am well aware of the risk that certain diseases pose to the sustainable development of aquaculture in the European Union.
In fact, fully harmonised Community legislation on the health of aquatic animals has been in place since 1991 and was updated in 2006 to give special emphasis to disease prevention. Therefore, measures aimed at preventing the transmission of fish diseases between Member States are already in place.
It is now primarily the responsibility of the Member States to ensure that these rules are implemented properly so as to prevent the spread of diseases within Member States, across Member States and from third countries.
I am also aware that there is a conflict between the increasing population of cormorants and fisheries and aquaculture interests in certain regions. I recognise the need for actions to be more coordinated, particularly on a regional scale, and the Commission is currently examining possible actions to help Member States improve the present situation. However, as was clear from earlier debates, a consensus does not exist amongst Member States on the need to set up an EU-wide cormorant management plan, and the Commission is therefore not planning to develop such a proposal.
As far as proposals and a timetable for legislative actions are concerned, the Commission highlights in its Strategy that the position of EU aquaculture and its needs will be addressed as part of the CFP reform process, in which the Commission will also include a review of the Common Market Organisation in fisheries and aquaculture products. This process will clearly also coincide with the establishment of the new EU financial support framework for after 2013.
In this regard various views have been expressed regarding possible additional financial support to aquaculture. The potential for additional or new EU financial possibilities is a very sensitive issue, which is not specific to the debate on aquaculture. I would like to recall that the Commission developed its initiative for an Aquaculture Strategy under the "no new money principle" within the present financial framework – hence the call, fully supported by all, to make full use of existing funding mechanisms.
Possible amendments to the existing funding possibilities under the EFF, such as allowing funding for new forms of risks or sanctioning Community-wide information campaigns for fisheries and aquaculture products, would require full and comprehensive evaluation beforehand. The ex-post evaluation of the former Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance was launched recently in order to assess the FIFG provisions that may not have met our objectives in the past. This assessment is still ongoing. Moreover, amending the EFF is quite a long legislative process, and it may not be very opportune to undergo such a process at a time when we are already beginning our reflection on the post-2013 financial possibilities.
Before I conclude, I would remind you of the need for a strong commitment on the part of the EU, the national and the local authorities to allow EU aquaculture to realise its full potential. All of us have to take measures at our respective levels. By addressing issues such as spatial planning, improving local acceptance, simplifying licensing and reducing the administrative burden, we can lay the groundwork for aquaculture in Europe to prosper.
Thank you for you attention.