The future Regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) was once again the focus of ministerial discussions at the Council on 22 and 23 October 2012. At the meeting in Luxembourg Member States’ fisheries ministers reached a partial agreement on how the fund should be used. There was lengthy debate on the Commission’s proposal to put an end to fleet subsidies. In the end, Member States agreed to phase out scrapping aid, with a transition period lasting until 2017. They also agreed to retain temporary cessation aid and engine replacement aid, albeit under strict, limited conditions.
The conditions for these three subsidies are considerably more stringent in the EMFF than in the EFF. These subsidies will come from the EMFF budget allocated to (a) promoting sustainability and resource efficiency and (b) to fostering innovative, competitive and knowledge based fisheries, aquaculture and related processing. The total allocated for each Member State will be capped at either EUR 6 million or 15%, whichever is higher.
The Commission estimates that the maximum possible amount for these subsidies will be less than half what is actually being used for these measures in the EFF. ‘Of course, our proposal is more ambitious'; commented Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, ‘it puts a complete end to the ineffective subsidies of the past, which contributed to overfishing and to the economic decline of the fishing sector.’
Nevertheless, the Commission notes that the Council’s compromise at least preserves most of the EMFF budget for the proposed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. This reform involves helping the fishing sector become more sustainable, prosperous and innovative whilst also boosting aquaculture. The Council supported the Commission’s preference for an EMFF that will emphasize the need for measures such as improving scientific advice and control, increasing selectivity, supporting small-scale coastal fisheries, innovation in fishing techniques and methods, and supporting the sustainable development of areas that depend on fishing.
Pending further information on the European Parliament’s position, the Commission reiterated that its initial proposal was still on the table, with a view to reaching a compromise agreement between the three institutions.