Documents considered by the Committee on 7 November - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

1 European Maritime and Fisheries Fund



+ ADDs 1-2

COM(11) 804

Draft Regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 and Council Regulation (EC) No 861/2006 and Council Regulation No XXX/2011 on integrated maritime policy

Legal baseArticles 42, 43(2), 91(1), 100(2), 173(3), 175, 188, 192(1), 194(2) and 195(2) TFEU; co-decision; QMV
DepartmentEnvironment, Food & Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationMinister's letters of 9 October and 1 November 2012
Previous Committee ReportHC 428-xlix (2010-12), chapter 5 (1 February 2012)
Discussion in CouncilSee para 1.12 below
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionFor debate in European Committee A


1.1 Financial support to help attain the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is currently provided by the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), which seeks to ensure the sustainable exploitation of aquatic resources, to provide a sustainable balance between the resources and capacity of the EU fleet, to strengthen the competitiveness of the sector, to foster the protection of the environment and natural resources, and to improve the quality of life in areas dependent upon fishing. Member States are required to draw up national strategic plans and operational programmes to achieve these objectives, and the measures at their disposal include public aid for the permanent or temporary withdrawal of fishing capacity; investment on board vessels; socio-economic measures; assistance to aquaculture, and towards processing and marketing; agri-environment measures; and assistance towards the development of ports and other infrastructure.

1.2 In December 2011, the Commission put forward this draft Regulation proposing that, for the period 2014-2020, these arrangements should be replaced by a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), thus extending them for the first time to provide support for the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP).[1] It also proposed that the Fund should have an overall budget of €6.6 billion for the period in question, with €1.047 billion being devoted to the direct management of IMP by the Commission, and €5.5 billion to the remaining shared activities (of which €4.535 billion would be for the sustainable development of fisheries, aquaculture and fisheries areas, €477 million for control and enforcement, and €358 million for data collection).

1.3 In order to achieve its aims, the Fund would be structured around four pillars — the sustainable development of fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; the sustainable development of fisheries areas; and IMP. In addition, the new Fund would include accompanying measures, such as data collection and scientific advice, control, governance, fisheries markets, voluntary payments to Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, and technical assistance. However, it would not extend to operations which increase the fishing capacity of vessels, the construction of new vessels, or the decommissioning or importation of vessels, the temporary cessation of fishing activities, experimental fishing, the transfer of ownership of a business, and direct restocking (unless for experimental purposes, or as an explicit conservation measure).

1.4 The EMFF is one of five funds[2] which would be covered by the Common Provisions Regulation, and it would therefore fall under a Common Strategic Framework (CSF), which would replace the current approach of establishing separate sets of strategic guidelines for the different instruments, and aims to ensure all funds contribute effectively and in a coherent way to the EU 2020 agenda.

1.5 As we noted in our Report of 1 February 2012, the Government said that the general aim of the EMFF was to support the objectives of the CFP, and that the subsidiarity principle applied. However, it pointed out that the provisions to further develop the IMP included actions on maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management, many of which the UK believed were better carried out by Member States. In particular, it had reservations on the way in which this could establish a precedent for the Commission to lead in these areas, and so cut across existing national policy. In view of this, the UK was working with other Member States to build opposition towards potential Directives in these areas, and would be taking this stance during negotiations with the Commission.

1.6 As regards the other three pillars, the Government said that the mechanisms to support the proposals on sustainable fisheries were consistent with current proposals on CFP reform, and included an end to funding the decommissioning of vessels; support to end the practice of discards; and improved measures for stimulating innovation. In the case of aquaculture, many of the measures proposed reflected those available for fisheries, but also included additional options for fish health. As regards the sustainable development of fisheries areas, the provisions would build on those in the current EFF, with support being possible to encourage innovation, and to capitalise on local environment assets, including action to combat climate change. It added that this was also an area where synergies with other EU funds, in particular the European Regional Development Fund, were possible.

1.7 As regards the management of the new Fund, the Government says that the priority was to see a reduction in the administrative burdens compared with the current EFF. However, despite reassurances from the Commission, it was concerned that this would not be the case, and said that the UK would be looking to persuade the Commission to address these issues. In particular, it noted that each Member State would need to prepare a partnership contract to ensure that its operation of these five funds worked in a co-ordinated way towards national targets, and that it would be necessary to be sure that value was added at each level, that decisions were always taken at the most appropriate level, and that administrative burdens which added costs were kept to a minimum. It also said that it would be necessary to produce one Operational Programme for the delivery of the fund in the UK and a National Strategic Plan for aquaculture, and that clarity was needed from the Commission on the Common Strategic Framework and its impact on the specific proposals for each EU fund.

1.8 Finally, the Government observed that, although the budget of €6.6 billion proposed by the Commission incorporated some new activities, it was likely to represent a real increase, whereas the agreed UK position was to see a reduction in real terms.

1.9 As regards timing, the Government said that this draft Regulation would be adopted with the proposals for the reform of the CFP, and that an Impact Assessment would be provided alongside the one being prepared for those. In the meantime, the Government was currently preparing to consult industry and other external stakeholders.

1.10 We commented that, insofar as one of the aims of this draft Regulation would be to provide funding to support the proposed reform of the CFP, it is clearly important, particularly as it would go beyond the current EFF in promoting the development of the IMP as well. At the same time, we commented that the very breadth of the measure raised questions not only about the desirability of the Commission involving itself in certain areas of the IMP best left to Member States, but also about the extent to which the proposal lacked a certain focus and the priority to be given to the different activities covered by it. In view of this, we said that we were pleased to see that the Government intended to provide an Impact Assessment, which would cover the financial implications, and we said that we therefore proposed to hold the document under scrutiny until that information was available.

Subsequent developments

1.11 We next received a letter of 9 October 2012 from the Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Mr Richard Benyon), indicating that the Presidency was hoping to secure a partial general approach at the Council on 22-23 October, and asking us to lift our scrutiny reserve in advance of that meeting. However, we took the view that the Minister's letter largely re-stated the UK's concerns, which had been set out in our Report of 1 February, and added very little about the likely shape of the agreement. Our Chairman therefore replied, saying that, before we could contemplate clearance, we needed to have a much clearer indication of this (as opposed to what the UK would like to see), and to receive the promised Impact Assessment.

1.12 We have now received a further letter of 1 November from the Minister, saying that agreement to a partial general approach, covering all but the management aspects of the proposal, was reached by qualified majority on 24 October, with Belgium, Germany, Lithuania and Malta having voted against. He adds that, from a UK perspective, the agreement was a positive one, and that, working with like-minded Member States and in close consultation with the Commission, it had seen possible to influence the text in line with the approach the Government had previously set out. He also says that, given the risk of a considerable weakening of the proposal should the discussions have been inconclusive, he took the decision to override the Parliamentary scrutiny reserve, and give UK support to the general approach, adding that, if the UK had not been willing to do so, it would have had no influence on the outcome, as there were insufficient Member States to form a blocking minority. As it was, the UK played a pivotal role in the discussions, and ensured that the best deal possible was secured.

1.13 The Minister stresses that no financial details were agreed, and that he presented a written statement to the effect that the EMFF budget is subject to the wider Multi-Annual Financial Framework negotiations, with the UK's agreement to the partial general approach being dependent on this being without prejudice to decisions in that wider negotiation. In addition, no agreement could be reached on the Article laying down the criteria for the allocation of funds between the Member States, and the Minister says that, once the financial details are available, the Government will be able to complete its Impact Assessment, as previously promised.

1.14 The Minister goes on to say that, under the approach agreed, the funds will be heavily focused where they can deliver the reformed CFP, supporting measures such as more selective gear which will contribute to eliminating discards; innovative research projects to improve the industry's economic and environmental sustainability; and help to improve the marketing of fish. The Fund will also provide support to improve skills and training, both to improve the fisheries sector and to encourage diversification and job creation outside of fishing.

1.15 The Minister says that there will still be some funds available for fleet measures, which will be subject to very strict conditions so that they also contribute to CFP reform. Thus:

  • Measures for the permanent cessation of fishing activities (decommissioning and scrapping of vessels) will have to be part of a Member State's operational and capacity reduction action plans approved by the Commission, and will target those parts of the fleet where there is overcapacity. Beneficiaries of support under this measure will have to cease all fishing activities for at least one year, and will be unable to register a new vessel for at least five years; the scrapped vessels will be permanently removed from the EU fishing vessel register; and the licence also permanently removed. Aid for permanent cessation measures will cease after 31 December 2017.
  • Temporary cessation (tie-up aid) for up to six months will be allowed, but only for emergencies, such as environmental disasters and the non-renewal of fishery partnership agreements. It will also be possible where provided for in a fish stock management plan in accordance with scientific advice. Vessels affected by these measures will not be allowed to participate in any other fishing during the cessation period.
  • There will also be tight restrictions around the modernisation of engines, which can be replaced to assist efforts by the fishing industry to combat climate change. Support for new engines will only be granted in those sectors where there is not overcapacity; and support will only be available for under-12 metre vessels which do not use towed gear, and for 12-24 metre vessels so long as the new engine is 20% less powerful than the one it is replacing. Replacement engines will be subject to physical inspection and testing to ensure they do not exceed the new threshold.

1.16 A maximum cap of 15% of Member State funding under priorities I and II of the EMFF will apply to these three measures combined, with a maximum of 3% in the case of engine replacement.

1.17 As regards other issues discussed at Council, the Minister says that the UK was instrumental in resisting calls for the re-introduction of construction subsidies for new vessels or hull modifications; that 20% of the resources available for the IMP will be under shared management rather than direct management by the Commission, giving the Member States (who will be required to co-finance 25%) more say in how these funds will be applied; and that start-up support for "young fishermen" (under 40 years old) will also be allowed under the fund, but will be capped at €50,000 per recipient, will only be available for the first acquisition of an under-24 metre vessel between five and 30 years old, and only if the vessel belongs to a fleet segment which is not above capacity. No decisions were taken on the allocation of funding to aquaculture or the land-locked Member States.

1.18 The Minister concludes by saying that he is convinced that the package agreed was the best that could be achieved to direct the EMFF to supporting effective implementation of CFP reform, and that it lays down the Council's position in advance of the European Parliament's consideration of the proposal, which is currently expected in March 2013. He adds that the remaining articles — which cover the management aspects of the future EMFF — were left for future consideration together with the financial aspects, and that the Council is expected to agree a position on these at some point under the Irish Presidency.


1.19 Although the Minister has justified this scrutiny over-ride on the grounds that it enabled the UK to secure the best possible outcome at the recent Council, it does not necessarily follow that the deal agreed was a good one. In particular, we note that the overall budgetary provision for 2014-2020 remains to be decided; that no agreement was reached on the crucial question of how the funds would be allocated between Member States; that funds will still be available, albeit under strict conditions, for both the temporary and permanent cessation of fishing, and modernisation, to which the UK was previously opposed; and that it remains unclear how far the Government's concerns over the extent to which the Integrated Maritime Policy might impinge on areas which the UK believed were better carried out by Member States have been met.

1.20 Against this background, and the Government having said that an Impact Assessment will now be provided only when the financial details are available (rather than alongside the proposals for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy), we think that the handling and content of this document raise issues which the House will wish to consider further. We are therefore recommending it for debate in European Committee A.

1   (32002) 14284/10 + ADD 1: see HC 428-viii (2010-11), chapter 4 (17 November 2010) and HC 428-xxxix (2010-12), chapter 9 (26 October 2011). Back

2   The other four are the European Regional Development Fund; the European Social Fund; the Cohesion Fund; the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Back

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Prepared 16 November 2012