Documents considered by the Committee on 4 July 2012 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


5 Common organisation of fishery markets

(33026)

12516/11

+ ADDs 1-2

COM(11) 416

Draft Regulation on the Common Organisation of the Markets in Fishery and Aquaculture Products

Legal baseArticles 42 and 43(2) TFEU; co-decision; QMV
DepartmentEnvironment, Food & Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationMinister's letters of 24 October 2011, 11 June 2012 and 24 June 2012
Previous Committee ReportHC 428-xxxvii (2010-12), chapter 5 (12 October 2011)
Discussion in CouncilSee paras 5.6 and 5.7 below
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information awaited

Background

5.1 A common market organisation (CMO) for fisheries and aquaculture products has been in place since 1970, and its provisions, which are currently set out in Council Regulation (EC) No 104/2000, include common marketing standards; labelling provisions; conditions relating to the recognition and operation of producer organisations; the setting of EU guide and withdrawal prices; and trade with third countries. Following an extensive evaluation and consultation, the Commission put forward in July 2011, as part of its wider proposals for reforming the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), this draft Regulation, which sought to increase incentives to support sustainable production; to improve the market position of EU production; to improve the connection between EU production and structural market changes; and to enhance the market potential of EU products.

5.2 The new measure would repeal and replace Council Regulation (EC) No 104/2000, and, in doing so, it would reproduce some of the main elements, such as those relating to the recognition and role of producer organisations, the application of marketing standards, and the provision of consumer information. However, as we noted in our Report of 12 October 2011, it would make a number of significant changes, notably the objectives of producer organisations would include a specific reference to the promotion of viable fishing activities in line with fisheries conservation and environmental legislation, and to the handling of unwanted catches; the EU would no longer set guide and withdrawal prices, and publicly funded intervention would cease; and there would be a chapter specifying the extent to which EU competition law would apply to the activities of producer organisations.

5.3 We also noted that, whilst the Government had identified a number of points on which it would be seeking clarification, the proposals seemed to be broadly in line with the UK's objectives for reform. However, as it had also said that it would be providing an Impact Assessment, we took the view that, although the area dealt with was a comparatively uncontroversial element of the CFP, it would be sensible to await that Assessment before taking a definitive decision on the handling of the document. At the same time, we also asked the Government to clarify one point, in that, whilst Council Regulation (EC) No 104/2000 included a chapter dealing with trade with third countries, this proposal did not appear to contain any corresponding provision. Since the Government's Explanatory Memorandum was silent on this point, we said that we would be glad if it could explain what arrangements would apply to imports of fisheries products in future.

Subsequent correspondence

5.4 This last point was dealt with in a letter of 24 October 2011 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Mr Richard Benyon) in which he explained that the Commission intended to make regulations on trade compliant with the Lisbon Treaty by proposing to join fisheries and aquaculture products into a new and separate regulation covering trade for these products.

5.5 This was followed by a further letter from the Minister on 11 June 2012, alerting us to the fact that this document, together with the new draft Regulation[41] governing the conservation aspects of the CFP, would be on the agenda for the Fisheries Council the following day, when the Presidency was expected to try and obtain a partial general agreement on them. He added that, as the UK had a key role to play in the Council discussions, a scrutiny over-ride might be necessary if it was to continue to press for the most effective reform.

5.6 Our Chairman replied on 14 June, saying that we would in that event expect a further letter from the Minister explaining the exact circumstances and any practical and political implications, and we have now received from him a letter of 24 June, confirming that the Presidency was eventually able, with UK support, to gain Council agreement to a partial general approach on this proposal (and on the CFP basic regulation). He believes that this agreement has secured a good deal for the UK, with mandatory labelling requirements brought mostly in line with other EU labelling requirements set out in the Control Regulations, and the Food Information Regulations. In addition, it has seen the alignment of marketing standards with the conservation standards set out in the CFP, which will ensure that these regulations will enforce the objectives for sustainable fisheries and help to maintain healthy fish stocks. It has also secured some strengthening of Producer Organisation responsibilities and the phasing out of intervention mechanisms (though ideally the UK would have preferred to see this mechanism removed entirely with immediate effect). The agreement also usefully deferred any decision on the introduction of further mandatory labelling requirements for an EU sustainability label for fisheries and for aquaculture products.

5.7 Moving forward, the Minister says that the Government will continue to work with the European Parliament to achieve desired outcomes for the final CMO dossier, including moving away from an EU sustainability label for fisheries and aquaculture products, as a market mechanism already exists for this, and any additional labelling requirements could be burdensome on industry and lead to confusion for consumers. It will also continue to strive for flexible objectives for POs, which meet the requirements set out in CFP, but which are achievable, realistic and will contribute to the sustainability of the UK fishing fleet.

Conclusion

5.8 Although this proposal does not in the main present any major difficulties for the UK, and is politically of considerably less importance than the parallel proposals for reforming the conservation aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy, it is nevertheless regrettable that the Government should have agreed to a partial general approach, particularly whilst the document is still under scrutiny. It is also the case that we do not as yet appeared to have received the Impact Assessment which the Government had said it was preparing, and we would like to see that before we take a final view on this document (and its handling).





41   (33027) 12514/11: see chapter 11 of this Report. Back


 
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Prepared 12 July 2012