With three-quarters of all stocks being overfished, there is a general consensus that there is a need to reform the European Union's (EU) fisheries policy. Over the past two years the European Commission (EC) has outlined far-reaching policy proposals which hope to achieve long-term sustainability of fishing stock within Europe. Part of the proposals include the introduction of the "European Maritime and Fisheries Fund" (EMFF) which was the main focus of debate during the 11th NAT commission meeting held in Finland on 14 and 15 June.
The policy, which complements the EC's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), seeks to introduce a new fund for the EU's maritime and fisheries policies for the period 2014-2014 and aims to deliver growth, jobs and sustainable fisheries ring fencing €6.5 billion for the financial period.
The CoR's rapporteur on the opinion, Pierre Maille (FR/PES), received 28 proposed amendments prior to the meeting with the most contentious areas being the abolition of support to the construction of new vessels, scrapping and temporary cessation of fishing activities, reduction of fishing discards, investment into the modernisation of boats and support the maintenance of direct and indirect jobs. The EMFF proposals outlined by the European Commission looks to introduce the transfer of fishing concession (TFC) with the objective of reducing overcapacity and improving the economic performance of the sector. In contrast, the CoR's opinion reinforces its opposition to Member States being able to TFCs which it argues should be instead be voluntary.
Maille's opinion also welcomed the proposal to end fish discards - the practise of throwing away healthy fish with no or little market value – but suggests that the measure needed to be brought in gradually. The opinion also opposes the abolition of any fleet adjustment measures and proposes that instead the reduction in financial aid must reflect stock trends. Maille also calls for the EMFF to more concretely address working conditions on ships and provide the necessary funding to ensure that adequate standards are met. The CoR opinion also advocates that proper financial investment for technology and innovation in the sector to support the fishing industry to improve selectivity during fishing. The opinion on EMFF will be presented for adoption at the CoR plenary in October 2012.
The commission meeting was also an opportunity for the rapporteur, Adam Banaszak (PL/EA), to present his opinion on a proposal for a decision on "The Union Civil Protection Mechanism". The Mechanism is essentially an internal instrument and relies on resources that are managed at a national or regional level by the authorities of 32 participating states. The CoR opinion welcomes the European Commission's proposal to bring together in a single piece of legislation the operational activities of the Mechanism with financial support for them. Given the crucial role of the local and regional authorities in safeguarding the local population during the crisis, the CoR members emphasised the need for better coordination of efforts at all levels of governance and called for improved data sharing. The importance of rigorous and up-to-date risk management plans was also highlighted. The opinion is foreseen to be adopted at the CoR plenary session in July.
Paul O'Donoghue (IE/ALDE) also debated his opinion, "Developing a Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean", which places the challenges and opportunities facing the Atlantic region under five key themes. The European Commission established the Atlantic Forum which puts into action the strategy to encourage growth and development in this area. The CoR opinion raises the point that there is a need make use of the knowledge and experience garnered by the macro regions and also to include an assessment after the Forum ends to review its success. The opinion will be presented to the CoR for adoption in October later this year.