Dear Alain, Honourable Members of this Committee,

  • Thank you for the kind invitation.

  • One year ahead of the European elections, I would like to update you on progress made in three areas:

    • implementing the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy;

    • improving international ocean governance, and

    • boosting the Blue Economy.

  • And I would like to discuss with you the further progress we can still realistically make, together, within the remaining months of our cooperation.

1.     Implementing the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

  • Let me start with the Common Fisheries Policy, where implementation in most sea basins is well on track.

  • We are making good progress towards reaching MSY.

  • If we look at the MSY assessed TACs for 2018, which are managed by the EU alone, we see an impressive result: 97% of the expected volume of landings are in line with MSY. The stocks managed together with Norway also show a good result: 82 % in volume of expected landings in line with MSY.

  • For 2019, and with the 2020 deadline getting closer, our clear objective is to fish more stocks in line with MSY.

  • Because we have clear evidence that more sustainable fisheries improves not just the biomass of the stocks, but also the overall socio-economic performance of the EU fleet. In 2015 our fleet made net profits of almost 800 million euros and we have strong indications suggesting that in 2016 and 2017 this positive performance is continuing.

  • Let me now come to the landing obligation. This is an essential part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy that we have all signed up to, and we should all be committed to making it work.

  • The rules are clear: as of 1 January 2019, the landing obligation will apply to all catches of species subject to catch limits and, in the Mediterranean, subject to minimum sizes.

  • These are the rules of the CFP, agreed by all, and well-known to everybody for more than four years now. Rules cannot be changed half-time through a match. We are all aware of the challenges ahead, but changing the goalposts now would be unfair to those who have already undertaken great adjustment efforts. It would undermine the reformed CFP. And it would damage our credibility.

  • The Commission will continue to support the Member States with implementation. We will also discuss with them, in particular in the context of the regional groups, how they can best use the existing flexibilities to this effect. But let me be clear: this discussion is about “implementation”, not "interpretation”.

[More efforts needed for Mediterranean and Black Sea]

  • The same goes for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea – sea basins where stocks are doing significantly worse than in our Atlantic waters.

  • With Bosnia recently signing the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration, we now have 16 countries and the EU committing to action for the next ten years, covering more than 75% of the fleets in the Mediterranean.

  • Now it is time to implement what we have agreed.

  • The High Level Conference on Small Scale Fisheries in September this year will focus on concrete deliverables for our small-scale fishermen.

  • And we are planning to replicate our action in the Mediterranean with a similar multilateral declaration for the Black Sea, the so-called Sofia Declaration, to be adopted in a Ministerial Conference on 7 June in Sofia.

[CFP implementation: Pending legislative files]

  • Colleagues, one year ahead of the European elections, we still have an impressive number of legislative files to deliver on: multiannual plans, technical measures, the control regulation and the new EMFF.

  • < >, on Multiannual Plans we have made clear progress.

    Our proposed plan for the Western Waters will keep our fisheries sustainable in the long term, while offering flexible tools to alleviate possible choke situations.

  • The Council is already making good progress in its discussion, and I hope that this House will do the same, especially as we have built on the principles agreed in the context of previous plans.

  • You have also just started working on the proposed plan on demersal fisheries in the Western Mediterranean.

  • Given the very worrying situation for most Mediterranean stocks, having a multiannual plan in this sea basin is of utmost importance. My services and I stand ready to work with you to achieve this objective. I also look forward to your report on our proposed plan for pelagics in the Adriatic Sea. Iremain ready to discuss approaches other than TAC setting, as long as they are based on scientific advice that allows us to achieve CFP objectives.

  • < > as regards technical measures, I do not want to comment on ongoing negotiations. So let me just reiterate that in these trilogues, the Commission has clearly outlined its position. Our position is that we need to reach a result that is meaningful and an improvement compared to the current rules. A result that allows us to measure progress towards clearly defined objectives, across all sea basins. We cannot afford a setback.  

    This is in the interest of our fishing operators, who stand to benefit the most from the new rules. I intend to continue working closely and constructively with both Parliament and Council to achieve a positive outcome.

  • < >, the Commission is about to finalise its proposal for the revision of the Fisheries Control System, which should be adopted by the end of May.

    An effective and efficient control system plays a crucial role to ensure compliance with the CFP rules. Our proposal will aim at addressing shortcomings, also identified by the Parliament itself, such as the sanctioning system and poor and incomplete fisheries data.

Fourth, the legislative proposal for the future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will be put forward by the Commission on 1 June. But you have already seen from the draft MFF adopted by the Commission on 2 May that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will remain as important as before. In fact, the Commission has proposed a stable allocation for the EMFF for the period between 2021-2027 in the amount of €6.140 billion in current prices, in addition to nearly €1 bln dedicated to Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements. This responds in a fair and balanced way to the budgetary consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, an important contributor to the EU budget. But it also allows to continue addressing the key challenges in fisheries and the blue economy.

  • Colleagues, the number of pending and upcoming proposals is indeed impressive. We have to do everything possible to have significant progress on these in the coming 12 months. Our fishermen and our industry would lose out if we did not deliver.

2.     Improving international ocean governance

Colleagues,

  • Oceans need better global management. The Common Fisheries Policy is a very important tool but it cannot address all aspects of ocean management worldwide. This is why the European Commission has been pushing for better international ocean governance.

  • In this regard, the Our Ocean Conference organised by the EU last year in Malta was a huge success. It gathered over 400 commitments worth more than 7 billion euros from international institutions, governments, businesses, NGOs, foundations and research institutes from more than 100 countries around the world. Commitments, which are not only made but are also tracked.

  • The EU itself announced 35 commitments with a total value of 550 million euros.

  • Our Ocean 2018 is scheduled for 29 and 30 October 2018 in Bali. Based on our experiences last year, we and other past hosts are working with Indonesia to keep the momentum going.

  • At the same time, we are advancing our ocean governance agenda with key partners at bilateral and multilateral level.

  • Within the United Nations, the EU has played a key role in convening an intergovernmental conference for an international legally-binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

  • The EU has also significantly contributed to the international agreement, reached earlier this year, to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the Arctic high seas.

  • And we are working towards the first ocean partnerships with key ocean players and strategic partners like China or Canada. These ocean partnerships will set a comprehensive framework for future cooperation on both maritime affairs and fisheries.

  • We are also gathering support for actions against marine litter. Before this meeting, together with FVP Frans Timmermans, I joined the media company Sky to launch the #PassOnPlastic Pledge aimed at cutting down single use plastics from everyday life. You are all welcome to sign this Pledge in front of the EP.

3.     Blue Economy

  • At the same time, we should not forget the potential of the oceans, seas and coasts for growth and jobs. Which brings me to my third and final point: developing the blue economy.

  • Our focus since 2012 on five innovative, high-potential maritime sectors has delivered. Whether it’s a roadmap for ocean energy; or reducing bureaucratic barriers for aquaculture; or launching a programme to improve maritime skills and qualifications that will help maritime businesses find urgently needed staff.

  • Nevertheless access to finance continues to be a challenge. High-potential but risky ventures are finding it especially difficult to obtain sufficient investment funding.

  • That is why the Commission is supporting innovative blue economy projects through several pilot calls and initiatives.

  • We are setting up a Technical Assistance Facility for SMEs and start-ups. We are putting in place an investment platform. And in two days, the Commission is organising the first-of-its-kind Blue Invest matchmaking event that will bring together innovators and investors to boost the blue economy while protecting its marine resources.

[Closing]

Colleagues,

  • I am very much looking forward to continuing to work with you through the last year of this legislature to bring about sustainably managed oceans and seas, within the EU and worldwide.

  • Only if we work across institutions, and with all stakeholders, can we ensure that oceans remain healthy, continue to provide food and jobs for millions of people, and support vibrant coastal and island communities.

  • Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.

 

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