Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy: the road ahead

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy: the road ahead

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy: the road ahead

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

The reform of the EU's fisheries policy is making progress: in its two resolutions adopted on 12 September 2012, the European Parliament endorsed the Commission's call for a thorough and ambitious reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to ensure long-term environmental sustainability and to secure economic and social viability. In June, the Council of Ministers agreed on a joint approach to the reform, in which the Fisheries Ministers also confirmed the commitment to sustainability as the guiding objective for the policy. In January 2013, the European Parliament will adopt its position. We hope that it will be at least as ambitious as the position of the Member States.

The Commission strives to achieve a genuine reform of the fisheries policy centred on long term sustainability. We want to ensure that our stocks are fished in a sustainable way by 2015, that a genuine discard ban enters into force to end the wasteful practice of the throwing away unwanted fish.

Reaching maximum sustainable yield and implementing a discard ban is not only possible, but will produce important social and economic benefits already in the short term. This is a key message at times of crisis. Once Parliament's position is adopted, the Commission will be able to continue negotiations with the Council of Ministers.

European Parliament's resolutions

The Parliament committed itself through these resolutions to two key principles: exploiting fish stocks based on maximum sustainable yield (with a deadline for meeting the target), and eliminating discards. The resolution on the Communication on the reform of the CFP was based on Nikolaos Salavrakos' report (Member of the European Parliament, MEP). The resolution not only endorsed a strong conservation policy, but also gave support to the Commission's initiatives on data collection for better policy making, on promotion and support of aquaculture in Europe, on regionalized governance and on the adaptation of measures to the different realities of European fisheries.

The second resolution, based on a report, by Carl Haglund (MEP), highlighted the need for multiannual plans as a strong basis for sustainable resource management. It argued that a discard ban should be implemented gradually, on a fishery-by-fishery basis. The Parliament also agreed that the issue of overcapacity must be tackled urgently. While noting the Commission's proposal for introduction of transferable fishing concessions as a means to adjust fleets to resources,  it called on alternative measures to be considered as well.

European Council's position

The Council, in its preliminary position on the Commission's proposal, committed itself to the objective of maximum sustainable yield with a deadline. It supported a discard ban, but showed preference for a fishery-based gradual introduction of the landing obligation. Instead of transferable fishing concessions, the Council prefered that Member States make their own action plans on how to tackle overcapacity. The Council endorsed many elements of the Commission's proposal, including the regionalized approach to certain parts of fisheries management, emphasis on multiannual plans as a central steering instrument for stock management, and the creation of national strategic aquaculture plans.

In June 2012, the EU Council of Ministers for Fisheries reached a first position on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy set out in a framework document agreed under a 'General Approach'. This document is not a formal stage of the co-decision procedure. However, its approval by a majority of the EU’s 27 Member States means that it constitutes the Council's preliminary position for negotiations with the European Parliament.

Highlights of the preliminary position:

  • Discard ban – The principle is accepted, but Member States prefer an approach that is fishery-based and introduced gradually between 2014 and 2020.
  • Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) – For the management of all stocks at least at MSY, the Council accepted the deadline of 2015, but added the possibility of phasing in until 2020.
  • Regionalisation – The Commission's proposal was acceptable but Member States prefer a model where they would cooperate with each other on multi-annual plans to send recommendations on implementation measures to the legislator (Commission, or co-decision).
  • Transferable fishing concessions (TFC) – The Council supports the application of TFC on a voluntary basis. The Council introduced the obligation for Member States to report on (over-capacity and develop an action plan to reduce overcapacity where applicable.
  • Advisory Councils – The Council would like to have two additional Advisory Councils created; one for the Black Sea and one for the Outermost Regions.
  • External Dimension – The Commission's proposal was endorsed and the introduction of a human rights clause in the fisheries partnerships agreements with non-EU States (third countries) was added to the approach.

The co-decision process explained

Co-decision means that regulations must be approved by both the Council of Ministers for Fisheries and by the European Parliament. These two institutions, together with the European Commission, may need to negotiate an agreement on the proposals that is acceptable to them.

Before this, both the Parliament and the Council must take a position on the Commission’s proposals. It is no easy task to work out a position that suits a majority of the 754 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as well as a qualified majority among 27 Member States in the Council. Each Member State and each MEP may have requests for amendments, additions or deletions.

Once the Parliament has voted on its position in first reading, it is up to Council to react to the amendments put forward by Parliament.  On important files, the Council tends to pronounce itself already at an early stage (through a so-called General Approach), to indicate to Parliament where the Council wants to go. Negotiations become intensive after the first-reading position is adopted by Parliament. Normally, both institutions attempt to agree as quickly as possible, but complex files may go into a second stage of negotiations when no first-reading agreement can be reached. Day-to-day negotiations, or  trilogues between the three institutions, try to reach compromises positions.

In both the Council and Parliament there is a moderator responsible for identifying solutions that suit a majority of members:

  • In the Parliament, this role falls to the ‘rapporteurs’ appointed for each of the Commission’s proposals: Nikolaos Salavrakos (EFD group) for the overarching Communication, Ulrike Rodust (S&D group) for the CFP regulation, Struan Stevenson (ECR group) for the CMO regulation, Isabella Lövin (ALDE group) for the external dimension, Alain Cadec (EPP group) for the EMFF regulation, and Carl Haglund (ALDE) for the Report on the current CFP.
  • In the Council, this role falls to the rotating EU Presidency, which has been held successively by Poland (second semester of 2011), Denmark (first semester of 2012) and Cyprus (second semester of 2012), and will be held in 2013 by Ireland and Lithuania respectively.