Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second Report


COMMUNITY STRUCTURAL ASSISTANCE TO THE FISHING INDUSTRY


(22512)
9875/01
COM(01) 322

(a)
Draft Council Decision amending Council Decision 97/413/EC concerning the objectives and detailed rules for restructuring the Community fisheries sector for the period 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2001 with a view to achieving a balance on a sustainable basis between resources and their exploitation.

(b)
Draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 2972/1999 laying down detailed rules and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector.


Legal base: Articles 36 and 37 EC; consultation; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 14 June 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 14 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 10 July 2001
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 20 July 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21280) 7462/00: HC 23-xxi (1999-2000), paragraph 14 (14 June 2000)
To be discussed in Council: October 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but relevant to the debate recommended in European Standing Committee A on the Green Paper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy



Background

35.1 Because of the pressure on the Community's fish stocks, the Council has over the years agreed a series of multiannual guidance programmes (MAGP), aimed at reducing the fleet's capacity to levels more in line with the opportunities to catch fish. The most recent of these programmes — MAGP IV — runs from 1 January 1997 until 31 December 2001, and it is widely recognised that it will need to be succeeded by a further guidance programme. However, since there is to be a major review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) during 2002, the Commission takes the view that, as envisaged in its Green Paper[84] on the future of the CFP, any subsequent structural measures should be incorporated within that process. Consequently, the purpose of the current document is simply to propose the arrangements which should apply in the meantime, during the course of 2002.

The current proposal

35.2 In essence, the Commission is proposing that Council Decision 97/413/EC[85] establishing MAGP IV should be extended for a further year, until 31 December 2002, with additional pro rata reductions in the capacity ceilings laid down. However, given its view that the objectives in MAGP IV are too modest, it believes that a number of further modifications should be made in order to make it more effective. First, it is proposing to amend the provision under which the MAGP objectives may be increased on the grounds of safety. It takes the view that all new vessels should as a matter of course be constructed to certain minimum safety standards, and that any increase in capacity needed to accommodate these should be found from within existing capacity objectives. Secondly, it is proposing to make a number of changes to the conditions laid down in Council Regulation (EC) No. 2792/1999[86] for the granting of aid by Member States, with a Community financial contribution, for vessel construction and modernisation under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG). Thus:

  • aid would in future be conditional upon the MAGP objectives being met, not only in the segment concerned, but in all segments;

  • Member States which use effort (days at sea) controls, rather than decommissioning, to reduce fleet capacity would be prevented from granting aid for vessel construction or modernisation;

  • as with safety, improvements made on grounds of navigation, hygiene, product quality and working conditions would in future need to be found within existing capacity objectives; and

  • aid for construction and modernisation would be prohibited in any segment where activity reductions are being implemented as a means of achieving MAGP objectives.

Also, in order to reinforce the International Action Plan on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU), the Commission is proposing to prohibit the granting of aid for the transfer of vessels to third countries which permit fishing in a manner which jeopardises the effectiveness of international conservation measures.

The Government's view

35.3 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 20 July 2001, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) says that the Government considers that the current controls on the capacity of the Community fishing fleet have not been effective in bringing the level of fishing into balance with the available stocks, and that further reductions in the size of the fleet are a key priority in order to promote sustainable development. It therefore welcomes the expectation of a thorough debate in 2002 on the future means of control, and in the meantime sees advantage in extending the current MAGP IV programme for a year, pending decisions on the new arrangements.

35.4 As to the specific aspects of the proposal, the Minister says that the cuts in fleet capacity and fishing effort envisaged for 2002 are small in percentage terms, and that, in much of the UK fleet, current levels are already below the proposed new figures. He adds that the UK fleet will in any case be reduced over the next year as a result of decommissioning schemes announced earlier this year by the Fisheries Departments, and that it is not expected that any segment of the fleet would be placed under significantly greater pressure than under existing controls, should the new ceilings be agreed. The Minister also says that the Government believes that grant aid for construction and modernisation should be ended, and thus supports the withdrawal of such grants where fishing capacity would be increased. Likewise, it supports the proposal to remove the provision allowing an increase in MAGP IV capacity for improvements such as safety, which it regards as hard to control and giving rise to a substantial loophole in the fleet controls, and its supports the withdrawal of grant for export of vessels to countries failing to enforce international fisheries conservation controls.

Conclusion

35.5 Given the timing considerations in paragraph 35.1 above, a one-year extension of the current multiannual guidance programme clearly makes sense, and, in the light of the Government's comments on the details of what is proposed, we are content to clear this document. Nevertheless, we regard it as relevant to the Commission's Green Paper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy, recommended for debate in European Standing Committee A on 2 May and 18 July 2001. We hope this debate will take place shortly.



84   (22292) 7262/01; see HC 28-xiii (2000-01), paragraph 1 (2 May 2001), and HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 1.1 (18 July 2001). Back

85   OJ No. L 175, 3.7.97, p.27. Back

86   OJ No. L 337, 30.12.99, p.10. Back


 
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