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Member of the European Commission Responsible for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Priorities for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
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European Parliament Fisheries Committee meeting
Brussels, 17 May 2010.
Dear President Fraga, dear Honourable Members,
I am very pleased to be back here at the European Parliament to continue our discussions on matters of importance to Europe's fisheries and maritime sectors.
Today I would like to inform you about our initiatives for maritime affairs and fisheries in 2010; then give information on Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform and especially discuss Individually Tradable Rights (ITRs) and add some points about our relationship and changes related to the Lisbon Treaty.
Next months initiatives:
Let me start with work programme 2010: today adopted in Commission Communication on fishing opportunities for 2011, where Commission sets out its approach and explains how it applies scientific advice; then in fall we will adopt annual proposals on fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, North Sea and Atlantic and for deep sea species; we have a few long term plans to adopt in 2010 namely for Baltic salmon, haddock west Scotland north or Ireland, herring in Celtic Sea, southern hake and nephrops; we are also in the process of amending the shark finning regulation and we will launch an action plan to mitigate the by catch of seabirds.
On Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) we hope to issue roadmap on integrated maritime surveillance 2010.
Furthermore we need to ensure funding for IMP and I appeal to you to support swift approval of proposal for an IMP Financial Regulation; we can then work to bring the regulation into force in early 2011.
Let me now turn to CFP Reform where I would like to inform you about outcome of Vigo informal Council; I would highlight following important elements:
Regionalisation was discussed intensely; direct stakeholder involvement and bottom-up approaches were endorsed by many colleagues in Council; on creation of regional entity per sea basin, I made it clear that I believe in such bodies, as long as they can really make a difference.
Different options were voiced – from loose, informal structures where Member States meet, via advisory bodies, to entities that have real powers, while of course respecting the Treaty; we received significant support for a regional approach; we therefore need to keep on searching for a way to create regional bodies that can deliver, avoiding bureaucratic structures that will not bring about the results we expect; I will report back to Council in June on possible options we can develop, and am happy to share these with you as well.
On fisheries partnership agreements Council agrees that we should find new balance for funding, with an EU budget for development component to contribute to partner country's fisheries governance and support for local fisheries economy; on other hand we need the industry contribution for access to resources. We also introduce a new clause covering notably democracy, human rights and social aspects.
Finally I made clear that we need to improve cooperation between Council and Commission, and that it would be desirable to develop a trilateral modus operandi in which European Parliament (EP) is also involved.
Individually tradable rights (ITRs)
I would now like to focus on an issue that is quite controversial, namely individually transferable rights, or ITRs; I am grateful to Parliament for accepting my request to discuss this issue.
You can look at ITRs from different sides; you can see it as a purely capitalistic approach to overcapacity and fisheries management; in my eyes Iceland is the best negative example, where fishing rights are now owned by banks and insurance companies and traded like commodities; for me this is clearly an example to avoid under all circumstances; on other hand you could look at ITRs as a social instrument and as a possible way out to get financial compensation for those that want to rent out their rights or sell them.
Some want to continue tackling overcapacity through current entry-exit regime in combination with publicly financed decommissioning. We have tried this over recent decades, but with very limited effect on capacity reduction, and at high cost to public funds; this approach has not been able to support our conservation policy adequately – nor has it helped the sector to achieve sustained profits and self-sufficiency.
Many Member States, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Estonia, Sweden and the UK, are positive about the way tradable rights systems function at national level; individually tradable rights (ITRs) have reduced active pelagic vessels in Denmark by 50% in just three years between 2003 and 2006, so that in the end half of the participants have sold their rights inside Denmark and the other half that was left was better off financially because they got more fishing rights; the demersal fleet in Denmark was reduced by 30% since 2007 with an ITR system; we looked at figures and on average whole Danish fleet increased its profitability by 16%; similar example in so- called Spanish 300 fleet, that has shrunk to 200 vessels today, so again a 30 % reduction and in Estonia we had a similar effect with tradable rights introduced on a national basis where fleet shrunk by 40% (2001 – 2009); this shows it can bring fleets to economic sustainability and create incentives for a more responsible industry; therefore it is only logical to aim also at common standards in this respect; I am fully aware, however, that the great majority of Member States voiced doubts about an EU-wide transferability and have stressed the importance of maintaining relative stability and therefore wish to avoid a single EU system.
I take such reservations seriously; if ITR systems managed at a national level can bring down capacity, I believe there is a case for trying them out in all Member States; furthermore, would it not be fairer in social terms to offer ITRs as an option to fishermen who would like to leave the sector to rent out their rights or to sell them, instead of not offering them anything and thereby forcing them to continue fishing, even if they are not profitable?
I have also taken on board the concerns as to ITRs' possible effects on small-scale fisheries; indeed, all well-functioning ITR systems provide for a special regime for small-scale fisheries. Therefore we should not make tradable rights mandatory for small-scale fleets; hat said, these fleets should have the freedom to join such schemes on a voluntary basis.
In any case we would need safeguards to protect the small-scale fleets from negative effects such as buy-outs by large-scale fleets. We should look to guard against too much concentration of rights or moving of rights from one port to another.
Relation with EP
Let me now turn to our relationship and things that have changed with Lisbon treaty; I am referring to ongoing negotiations on long term plans.
I had very good meeting with political co-ordinators on 27 April on this issue and would like to inform you as well of our discussions; on Northern Hake have agreed with President Fraga's request to come with new proposal since there is new scientific information on this stock and our current proposal is therefore not up to date anymore; on anchovy and horse mackerel I value the hard work done by the rapporteurs and your committee and will therefore not come with new proposals; instead I propose amending them in our negotiations; would however point out that Commission position on these plans does not constitute precedent for future Commission proposals on long-term plans.
For all plans that are adopted for first time the whole plan is co-decided by EP and Council; question is what should be in co-decision and what under delegated acts as of year one after their adoption; clear that harvest rules in long-term plans are essential element to be decided by European Parliament and Council; however single elements of harvest rule, such as weighing factor in horse mackerel plan or exploitation rate in anchovy plan are determined by scientific advice; since this is the case would it not be better to consider these as non-essential and to take them out of political process? For me it really is about following scientific advice; therefore I propose that changes to these elements as of year one after adoption should be done by Commission in delegated acts.
Parliament and Council have safety net; if they do not agree with delegated act, they may object to it and also revoke delegation given to Commission; I propose that we set date for a trilogue meeting for each plan to discuss among the institutions on what should be an essential or non-essential element in long-term plan.
As regards Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMO) proposals on the table, internal discussions are underway in Commission about overall approach to transposition into EU law of international measures under the Lisbon Treaty. Depending on the outcome of these discussions, Commission may have to come back to Parliament and Council; until then, proposals will remain on negotiating table.
Doubts raised by EP Legal Service on Norway agreement and Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quotas regulations; I propose that legal experts from the three Institutions get together to clarify this
Overall message I would like to give you is that we are looking at new ways to work together and you can count on me to be an inclusive Commissioner who is keenly aware of how integral the European Parliament is to all aspects of maritime and fisheries policy; bottom line is that we owe it to our citizens to work together and act responsibly in the broader European interest.
I look forward to hearing your views on all these issues.