Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Europe's fisheries: the main issues on the road ahead
Meeting of the EP Fisheries Committee with national parliaments
Brussels, 1 June 2010
Madam Chair, Honourable Members,
It is not often that I have the chance to meet European and national parliamentarians together. So I am especially pleased to be here today – above all as the Lisbon Treaty takes us into a new and improved co-operation. Today the European Parliament has a fully fledged role in decision-making on fisheries and maritime affairs and national parliaments' say in that process has also received a welcome boost.
Today I would like to give you an idea of where we are with the discussion on the reform of our Common Fisheries Policy and talk about issues that have been raised. Both during the consultation process and at our recent meetings with stakeholders and Member States, including at last month's informal Fisheries Council in Vigo, Spain.
I will begin with REGIONALISATION. The idea of regional bodies covering different sea basins has been widely endorsed. The form they take has yet to become clear. One thing that is clear in my mind, however, is that they must deliver the results we expect. We must not create new structures just for the sake of it. They must really make a difference.
Our regionalisation plans should be organised around Member States and involve industry, civil society, science and others, so as to adapt them as much as possible to the local reality. That is why we need the RACs, with their unique access to the expertise of fishermen and the views of civil society, fully on board. Bringing dialogue and discussions on the policy to the regions can really help us improve both the quality of our management and the credibility and acceptance of our policies. Going down the path of regionalisation means going down to the fishermen. This is why I believe we need to find ways to involve the industry as an active partner in policy development.
Some among you may now ask: "well what does regionalisation entail for us, the European Parliament". Here I would like to say loud and clear that of course the main and important policy directions need to be decided in CO-DECISION TOGETHER with the Parliament. So for example long term plans and their objectives as well as the harvest rule would continue to be decided by the Parliament and the Council. How to reach these objectives for example by using specific mesh sizes could be decided by the Commission in delegated acts. Technical specifications for nets, gear selectivity and design, temporary closures could be decided by the Member States and implementation measures. These are just a few examples and the list is by no means exhaustive.
Let me now turn to the MARKET DIMENSION OF OUR CFP. Here we are aiming at greater responsibility and strengthened producer organisations. We need to help producers better link fishing to market needs and realities and to get higher value for their products through improved marketing and consumer information. Of course, we will need to look at using financial resources efficiently in support of that policy. We should therefore get rid of all public intervention for the destruction of fish, especially given the fact that in a situation where many stocks are going down the drain this can simply not be justified anymore. Instead we should have a simple storage aid mechanism to help fishermen get better prices for their products and to help regulate the markets. Promoting sustainability means that fish that cannot be sold on the market need to stay in the sea.
Looking further afield, I am sure you will agree with me that we need to have the same high standards that we want to achieve for our internal CFP in EU waters also to INTERNATIONAL AND BILATERAL RELATIONS outside EU waters.
There would be a clause covering democracy, human rights and social issues. The external dimension must form an integral part of the CFP reform.
In my opinion, we must also enhance cooperation between the Parliament, the Council and Commission in this area – preferably as part of a trilateral arrangement in which Parliament is involved.
The next issue I would like to raise is that of INDIVIDUALLY TRADABLE RIGHTS, or ITRs. My view is that ITRs should serve a social purpose and provide a possible means for those seeking to sell their rights to earn financial compensation. I also believe that fish stocks are a public good. So we should only consider establishing user rights for a term of say 10 to 15 years. After this term the rights could be extended if the user shows that he used them in a responsible manner or else they could fall back to the state.
ITRs would also play a second role namely in reducing overcapacity. Our attempts so far to tackle overcapacity with publicly financed scrapping have disappointed us on two fronts: they were unsuccessful and very costly. On the other hand, national tradable rights systems have done much in many Member States to make fleets economically sustainable and encourage industry to take more responsibility.
Let's look at what ITRs at national level have achieved: in Denmark for example they reduced capacity in the pelagic fleet by 50% in just three years, in the demersal fleet by 30%. It seems that this had a positive effect on the profitability of the Danish fleet which rose by 16%. In Estonia tradable rights made the fleet melt by 40% over a period of nine years. The so called Spanish 300 fleet fishing in the Atlantic was reduced to 200 today, so again here a 30% reduction. And all of this was achieved without putting the burden on the taxpayer. Now if ITR systems managed at a national level can bring down capacity don't you think we should try them out in all Member States? Before you answer this question I need to stress that in the future there will be no more decommissioning of vessels with taxpayer's money. We are in the midst of a major economic crisis. I simply don't see any finance minister volunteering to come up with the necessary co-financing of scrapping programmes from the national budget. So be aware that if you say no to ITRs you may deliver a death blow to many fishermen. We have to realise that fishermen would prefer to have them as an exit option in times where no other exit will be possible.
It is true that I have received a lot of reservations about an EU-wide transferability and I understand the importance of maintaining relative stability. Therefore I do not intend to propose that rights can be traded between fishermen from different members states. The system of ITRs should stay on a national basis only, tradable within the Member States, but not across the borders.
Let me also face the fears on the effect for small-scale fisheries. These should be left outside such a system and join only on a voluntary basis. Even if they join for me one thing is clear: rights of small scale fishermen must stay within this segment and can therefore not be bought by larger vessels. And finally we also need to guard against too much concentration of rights.
On a more general note when SMALL SCALE VESSELS are concerned we need to foresee a system that is more advantageous to these, because they already have a disadvantage to larger vessels. They are much more limited in the fishing areas due to their size. On the other hand they are more labour intensive in relation to bigger vessels and create more jobs. Therefore enhancing the possibilities of these vessels for me is a logical thing. I know that you also attach a great deal of importance to this. But I do need to inform you that many Member States don't agree with us and don't want to have a special approach for small vessels.
Before I conclude, I would just like to say a few words on AQUACULTURE.
It goes without saying that aquaculture is indissociable from the CFP. So we must look at how to best integrate this important sector's needs in the CFP reform process. I will look very carefully at all the points raised in Parliament's upcoming report on our proposed aquaculture strategy. In the meantime, this debate today with you, the representatives of national parliaments is an excellent opportunity for me to listen to your views on aquaculture directly.
This is true of all of the issues I have broached here. As directly elected representatives you are placed to relay your constituents' views. Our fruitful discussions so far have given us a useful springboard for future cooperation. We may not always agree on everything; but we share the same desire for an economically more robust fisheries sector. It is precisely this fisheries sector which is so important for our coastal areas. It keeps jobs in regions where other jobs are scarce.