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EU Council discusses future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

EU Council for Agriculture and Fisheries 
Luxembourg, 22 October 2012

Commissioner Maria Damanaki intervened at the EU Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries, in the framework of the debate on the Commission's proposal on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund  (EMFF).


Dear President, dear Ministers,

I would like to thank the Presidency for putting this very important issue of how we are going to use the money in the future EMFF on today's Council agenda.

Let me start off by saying that I welcome today's discussion on the future of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. I very much hope that we can achieve a major step forward in our common aim of a balanced reform. For the EMFF, the objective is simple, it needs to act as a financial instrument to support the reform. It needs to help put an end to the vicious circle in which the fisheries sector is trapped, characterised by unsustainable fishing, overcapacity and a dependence on subsidies. Doing so will be fully in line with the Europe 2020 objectives.

An over-haul of the public support policy is a fundamental piece of a successful reform. Public support without any condition is not a right of any sector. Its reason of being is to address market failures when and where they exist; that is, to foster desirable behaviour and to disincentive damaging practices -like unsustainable fishing.

After months of discussions, I realise that many Member States still prefer a fund which, in essence, is the continuation of the current public support instead of a real reform. This is not consistent with the Union's policy on how to use public funds. I need to point out to everyone here around the table that there is a huge risk involved. If the Council decides to simply continue public support then this policy is going to loose money, because of the global direction the Union policy is currently going with public funds. Of course on this point the Council is divided. There are many other Member States that support our proposal and ask to go for a completely different use of our funding without any kind of subsidies.

We have to work together today to find a viable compromise. But this compromise must be a reasonable and balanced one. I don't want to confront you, but our money is not unlimited. So if we prioritise the subsidies of the past, the innovative measures of the reform will not have enough funding.

Let me start with scrapping: between 2000 and 2015 we will have invested close to €1.3 billion in scrapping.  Our fleet has only reduced in the number of vessels, but our fishing power has increased, because newer, more modern vessels have entered the fleet that can fish more than ever before. The big problem with scrapping in the past was that people were actually allowed to re-invest in a new vessel, so the scrapping aid was a hidden investment aid in many cases. This we cannot permit now. Also in any case we cannot accept double funding of temporary cessation and scrapping money for the same vessel.

Let me turn now to temporary cessation. This is currently used by only 6 Member States. If a majority of MS sees this as necessary, then temporary cessation could be used in case of emergency measures, non renewal of fisheries agreements and for the so called "fermo biologico". It also needs to be strictly capped as part of the whole budget.

Much has also been said about engine replacement. Our data indicates that less than 0.2% of EFF went to this measure. Engine replacement is expensive and only reduces fuel consumption by 10%, whereas you can reduce fuel consumption by 30% at very little cost if you use different gear. That is exactly what we propose with our modernisation measures and therefore we need to keep enough money for these positive modernisation measures that support the reform in the EMFF. When I speak of modernisation measures I mean improving the safety for our fishermen on board, buying more selective gear to avoid unwanted catches, changing the fishing method to a new one that is less harmful for the marine environment and changing the fishing technique to consume less fuel and reduce emissions. Engine replacement is something else. This is our position. You have to take your own responsibility now. You are going to have your own decision today. In any case we need enough money in the EMFF to fund the positive measures I listed before.

On aquaculture we now have a chance to boost this sector especially in eco-friendly measures and I believe we need to increase the aid intensity here.

Let me now come to processing. This is an industry that offers many jobs often in remote areas. During the last 2 ½ years I have visited many processing plants all over Europe and I have seen the real business conditions. In a number of Member States there is also a difficulty, because they have enterprises that employ more than 500 people so they automatically fall outside the SME scope. I am convinced that in the current economic climate we have to send a positive signal to our citizens. Therefore let's discuss this problem today again. I would like to hear your suggestions.

Let me say a final word on control. The control is a cornerstone of the new fisheries policy. I would like to exhaust all the margins for funding, so I understand the argument by a number of MS who want to finance operational costs in control in the future. I can support it as long as we do not include personnel cost.

The special needs of the outermost regions have to be recognized. I can understand the arguments made by some MS and I have also discussed a lot with the outermost regions authorities. So I think that the Commission has to extend the scope of the compensation regime to cover all outermost regions, including Mayotte. I have also decided to increase the amounts to double.

Another important subject is the young fishermen's entrance into the profession. We need to recognize the difficulty we see in many regions of the Union, where the young simply don't want to enter a business which is extremely hard work, dangerous and where your income can fluctuate so much. I want to give a positive signal to all regions that want to attract the young into fisheries and support aid to young fishermen to buy a second hand vessel with a maximum of 15% of the price of the vessel and 50 000 €.

I hope that our discussions will show our citizens that we take their concerns seriously. The general public – the taxpayer also - expects us to design an instrument that allows investments to reform the sector and the future of the fishing communities, because these are the ones we care most about and because these are the best for our fishermen. We owe both our taxpayers and our fishermen a sustainable future, both for the sector, for fisheries more generally and our citizens.

Thank you.

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