Let me start by thanking the Estonian Presidency, the Council Secretariat and the Member States for their work today.
It has been a long day for all of us with difficult negotiations, a lot of interests and concerns had to be reconciled. But I am happy to announce that after difficult but constructive discussions we have been able to reach a compromise. This compromise meets the requirements and the ambitions I have set out in my opening speech this morning: sustainability, socio-economic impacts. And most importantly, it respects the Baltic Plan.
We have discussed a number of issues, but – given the late hour – I will focus on the Baltic fishing opportunities for 2018.
Joint measures at EU-level ensuring sustainable fishing are the only route to preserving the economic basis for our industry and our fishermen's future livelihood.
And I am happy to announce that we managed to bring to MSY the stocks of Gulf of Riga herring and western cod. For some stocks, reductions in catches were necessary. For Bothnia Herring and Western Herring even if the outcome is less ambitious than COM proposal, significant reductions of -40% and -39% respectively were nevertheless agreed to.
With regard to the cod stocks, a compromise was also found. We have agreed to a rollover for the Western cod stock and an 8% reduction for the Eastern stock. This compromise is taking into account the dependence of some small scale fisheries on the cod stocks and their specificities.
On eels, science tells us clearly that stocks are in a very critical situation and that we need to reduce catches to zero. As for other species in the past, short term sacrifices are necessary for long term gain.
Unfortunately, no agreement could be found with Member States on this issue.
The Commission remains convinced of the need for urgent action but, at the same time, we have heard the call of Member States for a comprehensive Europe-wide approach.
We have therefore agreed that an effective solution covering all sea basins, including the North Sea and Atlantic, will have to be agreed at the Council meeting in December.
However, I made it very clear to Ministers that urgent action is necessary and the fact that we take more time can in no way mean that we do not tackle this issue.
I will stop here given the late hour, but I am happy to take some questions, including on the other items of the agenda if you wish so.
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