Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fifth Report



3. COMMUNITY STRUCTURAL ASSISTANCE IN THE FISHERIES SECTOR

 

(a)

(23514)

COM(02) 187

 

Draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 2792/1999 laying down the detailed rules and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector.

 

(b)

(23515)

COM(02) 190

 

Draft Council Regulation establishing an emergency Community measure for scrapping fishing vessels.

Legal base:

Articles 36 and 37EC; consultation; qualified majority voting

   

Documents originated:

28 May 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

31 May 2002

Department:

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

EMs of 27 June 2002

Previous Committee Report:

None

To be discussed in Council:

Later in the year

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

For debate on the Floor of the House (together with related fisheries documents)

 

 

Background

    1. In its wider ("Roadmap") Communication[8] on the reform of the CFP, the Commission drew attention to the failure of the measures taken under successive Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP) since1983 to reduce catching capacity sufficiently to prevent a serious deterioration in a large number of economically important stocks. It went on to highlight the need for a simpler, more effective and transparent fleet policy, based upon three main lines of action:

    • a simpler system for limiting fishing capacity;

    • restrictions on aid for vessel modernisation, renewal and export;

    • special measures for those affected by multi-annual management plans.

    1. The first of these is dealt with principally in the proposed draft Council Regulation[9] on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the CFP: the second and third elements are addressed in turn under these two documents.
    2. The current proposals

      — Document (a)

    3. This proposal amends Regulation (EC) No. 2792/1999[10] laying down the detailed rules and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector, by specifying:

    • that renewal of the fleet must take place without any increase in fishing effort, within a sound economic environment, and without public financial support;

    • that aid to modernise the fleet will be permitted only if it improves safety, hygiene, working conditions or the quality of fishing products on board, or if it improves fishing patterns with no increase in effort;

    • that public aid for the export of vessels to third countries, and the setting up of joint ventures, should no longer be permitted, since this only results in the transfer overseas of Community over-capacity and does not constitute a reasonable use of European taxpayers' money;

    • that measures in support of small-scale coastal fishing should not increase effort, especially in fragile marine eco-systems.

    1. The Commission has also proposed a number of procedural changes relating to measures co-financed by the Community, aimed at speeding up reimbursement of funds advanced by the Member States. In particular, this is at present conditional on the Commission's prior approval of the aid in question, whereas it is proposing that Member States' financial contributions to such measures should in future be exempt from Articles 87 -89 of the Treaty, and hence no longer have to be notified (though ex post control, when Member States are reimbursed for their expenditure, would remain in place).
    2. The Government's view

    3. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 27 June 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) says that the Government welcomes the emphasis given by the Commission to bringing the fleet into better balance with stocks, in order to promote sustainabilty of fish resources and the industry. He says that the UK strongly favours the ending of grants to build and modernise vessels, since these have had the effect of promoting an expansion of fishing effort. Likewise, the Government also welcomes the proposal to end grants promoting the transfer of vessels to third country waters.
    4. — Document (b)

    5. The Commission has noted that one constraint as regards the aim of reducing the capacity of the Community fishing fleet has been that the provision of funds for the scrapping of vessels has been exclusively via the structural funds. It considers this has not always allowed for sufficient targeting for the decommissioning of fleets where over-capacity is particularly marked.
    6. It has therefore proposed in this document an emergency measure designed to provide additional incentives to owners of fishing vessels, in order to address urgently over-capacity where stocks are outside safe biological limits (and where multi-annual management plans have been implemented). It points out that such plans will result in severe reductions in fishing opportunities for certain segments of the fleet, and that, without additional measures to encourage a similar reduction in fleet size, the imbalance between fleet capacity and resources could increase significantly.
    7. In order to address this imbalance, it propose that Member States which have achieved their targets under the most recent Multi-Annual Guidance Programme (MAGP IV) should be allowed to offer additional money for scrapping vessels to owners severely affected by effort reductions. The measure, which would apply for the period 2003-2006, would:

    • provide a derogation from the current rules of the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) to allow a 20% increase in the entitlement of owners for scrapping vessels if they are severely affected[11] by a multi-annual management plan;

    • for the year 2003, provide Member States with an additional _32 million as a special incentive to co-finance this extra scrapping, on top of the Community budget already available through the FIFG;

    • enable funds to be made available for additional scrapping requirements in the years 2004-2006 by reprogramming structural funds.

    1. The Commission says that the funds to be dedicated to decommissioning within the current FIFG programming for 2000-2006 amount to _663 million, and that the additional sums required for those vessels likely to be severely affected by multi-annual management plans would amount to _271 million. This last figure has been calculated on the basis of the Commission's assumptions about the tonnages to be removed in each Member State, of which the largest amount (58,653 tonnes), equivalent to nearly 21% of the Community total, has been attributed to the UK.
    2. The Government's view  

    3. In a separate Explanatory Memorandum of 27 June 2002, the Minister says that the Government recognises that Community fleets are too large, and that a permanent reduction in tonnage is needed. The UK therefore believes that, where further cuts are required, the priority must be to decommission vessels, rather than to tie them up temporarily, since, if the Community subsequently returned to present levels of fishing effort once stocks had recovered, the current overfishing problems would recur. Consequently, the Government supports the approach of providing incentives to decommission.
    4. At the same time, the Minister stresses that the Commission has made clear that it does not seek to impose cuts in fleet capacity, and that the figures it has provided detailing cuts by Member States should be taken as purely illustrative. He adds that the scale of decommissioning in any individual Member State will depend upon decisions taken by the Council on measures to reduce fishing effort, and on decisions by fishermen in the light of those measures.
    5. Conclusion

    6. The first of these documents complements the proposals on the conservation and management of the fish stocks, and is thus an important element in the Commission's overall approach to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. It should therefore be debated on the Floor of the House, along with the conservation proposals and the Commission's ("Roadmap") Communication.
    7. The second document has a more limited effect, but it is nevertheless important, and it too should be considered in the wider context of CFP reform, particularly as it contains some telling assumptions by the Commission on the level of scrapping required in the UK as compared with other Member States.

 


8   (23511) COM(02) 181; see paragraph 1 above. Back

9   (23512) COM(02) 185; see paragraph 2 above. Back

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

11   The Commission suggests that this would imply a reduction of 25% or more in fishing opportunities. Back

 
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