It is with sadness that I have learned the passing of Jörgen Holmquist, my special advisor on fisheries issues. After top level positions within the Swedish national administration, he had been Director General of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs (2002-2006) and Director General of Internal Market and Services of the European Commission. He had been appointed as Chairman of the administrative board of the European Fisheries Control Agency in Vigo in 2011. In this capacity he contributed decisively to creating a culture of compliance in the European fisheries sector. He will be remembered by all for his many qualities. My thoughts go to his family.
Commissioner Damanaki took part in the Pan-European Citizens' Dialogue on Thursday 27th March in Brussels. Together with Vice-President Rehn, she exchanged views with citizens in the theme-oriented session entitled: "Overcoming the crisis: solidity and solidarity".
Following the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of March 24th, Commissioner Damanaki took part in the Press Conference following the ministerial meeting. Today's Fisheries Council focused on the management of sandeel, on the outcome of the negotiations with Coastal States on mackerel in the North-East Atlantic as well as on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Commissioner Damanaki welcomed the adoption by the Council of Ministers of the Commission's proposal to list Belize, Cambodia and Guinea as non-cooperating third countries in the fight against illegal fishing.
European Fisheries Ministers also reached a political agreement on the adoption of TACs for North Sea sandeel and blue whiting for 2014.
Finally, Commissioner Damanaki has informed the Council of Ministers on the outcome of the negotiations with Coastal States on mackerel in the North-East Atlantic and more specifically on the tripartite agreement reached between the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands on mackerel as well as on EU-Norway discussions over shared stocks. Commissioner Damanaki welcomed these good agreements which will ensure the sustainability of our shared stocks.
The Council of Ministers, deliberating on Agriculture and Fisheries matters today in Brussels, has formally decided to follow the Commission proposal to list Belize, Cambodia and Guinea as countries acting insufficiently against illegal fishing. These three countries had been warned formally and informally. Measures to tackle the commercial benefits stemming from illegal fishing will come into effect. Therefore, imports into the EU of any fisheries products caught by vessels from these three countries will be banned, whilst EU vessels will not be allowed to fish in these countries' waters.
Commissioner Damanaki welcomed the decisions by stating: "These decisions are historic. They demonstrate that the EU is leading by example in the fight against illegal fishing. I want EU citizens to know that the fish they consume is sustainable, wherever it comes from. We are steadily moving in that direction. I hope that this blacklisting will act as a catalyst for Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea to step up their efforts and work with the international community to eliminate illegal fishing".
The decision is consistent with the EU's international commitment to the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources at home and abroad. The EU's approach reflects the fact that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global criminal activity harmful not only to EU fishermen, but also to local communities in developing countries.
Find more information on EU's fight against illegal fishing here.
Commissioner Damanaki participated today to the discussions held in Athens during the Conference organised by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE). The debate focused on whether structural reforms can truly contribute to economic growth. Other keynote speakers included Greek Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in charge of Administrative reform and e-governance.
Commissioner Damanaki participated today in the meeting of the Committee on Fisheries of the European Parliament and debriefed Members of the Committee on the outcome of the mackerel negotiations.
The European Commission has today welcomed the five-year arrangement for mackerel in the North-East Atlantic, which was reached in London on 12 March between the EU, Faroe Islands and Norway.
The arrangement, which makes room for another Coastal State to join at a later stage, establishes a number of important principles, including a commitment to sustainable fisheries, a sharing between the Parties, and a commitment to establish a new long-term management plan in 2014 following ICES advice.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: “This is a significant day for international fisheries. This landmark agreement testifies to the EU's commitment to sustainable fishing at home and abroad. The talks were long and intensive but given the potential risk to the stock, the stakes could not have been much higher. This agreement ensures the long term sustainability of this valuable stock. The door is still open for Iceland to join the other Parties in the near future."
The arrangement, which will run until 2018, was reached after a series of intensive high-level meetings held between the European Union and the other interested Parties. Throughout the discussions the EU has prioritised both a return to the sustainability of the mackerel stock and a fair sharing arrangement for all Coastal States. The arrangement comes after several years without common Coastal State management of this important fish stock.
The Parties have specifically set aside a reserve for the benefit of any new adherents to the agreement.
A new arrangement on the management of shared fish stocks in the North Sea was concluded between the European Union and Norway for 2014. Total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for the shared stocks in the North Sea were established and an agreement was also reached on the exchange of reciprocal fishing possibilities in each other's waters.
This arrangement involves an increase of 5% in the TAC for North Sea cod and 15% for North Sea plaice compared to 2013. However, the TACs for North Sea haddock, saithe and whiting have been reduced by 15% with the herring TAC in the same area being reduced by 2%.
Following the arrangement on mackerel among the three Coastal States (EU, Faroe Islands and Norway), which was also signed in London on 12 March, the EU quota for mackerel in 2014 amounts to 611,205 tonnes.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: “I very much welcome this agreement, which will allow fishermen from both the European Union and Norway to have valuable access to fish stocks. This agreement very much strengthens the mutual relationship in fisheries between the European Union and Norway.”
A final round in a long series of Coastal State consultations on mackerel sharing in the North-East Atlantic was held in Edinburgh from 3 to 5 March 2014. As Chair, the EU tabled a compromise proposal that was accepted by Iceland and the Faroe Islands but was rejected by Norway. The Commission considers that conditions were ideal for a deal to be reached and positions were very close. It is very disappointed that a golden opportunity has been lost.
The EU will now work with Norway in the bilateral negotiations that start today to set fishing opportunities at a level that ensures the sustainable exploitation of this valuable stock, respecting the scientific advice.
In light of the degree of agreement reached during the coastal state negotiations, the EU calls on Iceland and the Faroe Islands to also show responsibility in the level of fishing opportunities they will now set unilaterally, to secure the future sustainability of the stock.
Marine NGOs paid a visit to Berlaymont yesterday to discuss with Commissioner Damanaki pending issues that need to be swiftly implemented in the course of this year. Representatives from WWF, Greenpeace, Oceana, PEW, Ocean2012 and Birdlife were present. The NGOs spoke of the importance of implementing what was agreed under the new Common Fisheries Policy, including reaching MSY and abiding to landing obligations. The international dimension was also a key point in the exchange of views that took place, with a focus on the need to eradicate illegal fishing (IUU).
Students from one elementary school of Volos took the streets dressed as juvenile fish and as fishermen, as part of the Carnival celebrations last weekend in Greece. Their placards read 'Let the spawn become parents' raising awareness against the bad habit of consuming juvenile fish.
Inspired by the ongoing European campaign Inseparable, launched by Commissioner Damanaki in Hamburg this January, citizens of Europe are called to eat, buy and sell sustainable fish. The campaign will include an event in Athens taking a Mediterranean angle and focusing on the problem of the consumption of juveniles in those countries. In the framework of the event, the Commission collaborated with teachers in Greece, through the Teachers4Europe programme, to present a project with their students on ways to best communicate sustainable fisheries and learning about the impact of overfishing. The product of the students' work will be displayed at the event in Athens on 17th March.
More pictures here.
A new round of negotiations between the EU and Coastal States on mackerel is starting today, 3d March, in Edinburgh until 4th March. This round of negotiations has been set at the EU’s initiative in order to settle a final attempt to secure consensus among the Parties on the unresolved mackerel dispute. Given the proximity of the Parties' positions, the prospects for an end to the four year long dispute between the North-East Atlantic fishing parties – EU, Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands, are good. An agreement would be of benefit to all of the Parties' fishing industries by restoring sustainability and stability to the fisheries, in particular for the EU and Norway who have the major mackerel fisheries.
The first round of consultations between the EU and Norway on bilateral fisheries arrangements for 2014 was adjourned on 14 February largely as a result of the unresolved sharing mackerel issue.
A Coastal State Agreement on mackerel should greatly facilitate the conclusion of bilateral fisheries arrangements for 2014 between the EU and Norway. These fisheries arrangements are of key significance to EU fishermen in the North Sea, Skagerrak, and North Norway waters. These negotiations will also be held in Edinburgh between 5-7 March.
The European Union and Ministers from the United States of America, Japan, Philippines, Colombia and Republic of Indonesia signed today in Thessaloniki a Joint Statement on efforts to promote sustainable fishing capacity management on the global scale.
Read the Joint Statement here .
Watch recorded cutaways from the Signing Ceremony here.
The European Commission welcomes the positive outcome of the informal trilogue on the draft for a Framework Directive for Maritime Spatial Planning. If confirmed by the Council and the European Parliament, the Directive will help Member States cooperate more closely over cross-border sea areas, enabling them to take full account of land-sea interactions when developing their Maritime Spatial Planning.
Commissioner Damanaki, and Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said:
"Maritime Spatial Planning can make an important contribution to harnessing multiple uses of space at sea and ensuring their environmental sustainability. We now look forward to the finalisation of the adoption process by the European Parliament and the Council so that we can start working with Member States to better manage our seas and make them safer, more sustainable, and a conductor for growth whilst reducing the pressures on the ecosystem."
Competition for maritime space – for renewable energy equipment, aquaculture and other growth areas – has highlighted the need for more efficient management of such areas, to avoid potential conflict and create a stable environment attractive to investors. At the same time, this proposal will make it easier for Member States to coordinate such activities and better manage environmental pressures from sea-based activities.
Maritime Spatial Planning is a cornerstone of the Commission's Blue Growth strategy and of Integrated Maritime Policy. This agreement should boost this sustainable maritime growth, while also contributing to a more efficient implementation of EU environmental legislation in marine and coastal waters. It should also help establish coherent networks of Marine Protected Areas, for which cooperation on planning across borders is essential, and ensure the participation of all stakeholders in planning processes.
The European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have adopted today a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council "For an open and secure global maritime domain: elements for a European Union maritime security strategy".
This joint communication presents a vision of the Union's maritime security interests and threats, and proposes the areas in which cooperation between various maritime players can be enhanced beyond what is already good practice today. It encompasses all maritime functions, from coastguards to navies, port authorities and customs duty officers and would affect the EU waters as well as each ship sailing under EU Member States' – flag and have a global reach. This document will now serve as a basis for the work with Member States towards a full-fledged EU maritime security strategy.
Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission said:
"The security and well-being of Europeans greatly depend on open and safe seas. It is therefore necessary for the EU to deal with maritime threats and challenges. We need a joined-up approach, as demonstrated in the Horn of Africa where we have achieved significant results in fighting piracy. This Communication paves the way for a more systematic use of all the tools we have at our disposal and will allow us to speak with one voice to our international partners."
Following the Black Sea Stakeholders' Conference in Romania, Commissioner Damanaki received in Brussels the Secretary General of the Permanent International Secretariat of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), H.E Dr Victor Tvircun.
The Secretary General was accompanied by First Deputy Secretary General Ahmet Erozan and Nicholas Emirzas, Executive manager for BSEC-EU interaction. The meeting was an opportunity for the Commissioner to thank the Secretary General and his team for their valuable contribution to the Stakeholders Conference in Romania and to reiterate how the EU values the efforts of BSEC at regional cooperation.
Commissioner Damanaki met with Mrs Teresa Gouveia, trustee member of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, as well as with Mr Tiago Pitta e Cunha, consultant to the President of Portugal on Science, Environment and Maritime Affairs. Discussions were held on the promotion of Blue Growth Initiative on the international level as well as on the economic valuation of ecosystems.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki
Commissioner Damanaki participated with President Barroso in the 6th European Summit of Regions and Cities in Athens organised by the Committee of the Regions, together with the Region of Attica on 7 and 8 March.
The objective of the Summit was to take stock of the efforts made at European, national, regional and local level to deliver job-rich recovery. The Summit also brought a high-level debate with European political leaders about the 2014 European elections and the future of the EU.