Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights of the Fisheries Committee meeting in the European Parliament.
Sándor Fazekas, Hungarian Minister of Rural Development, President-in-office of the Council, presented the priorities of the Hungarian Presidency.
Mr. Fazekas put emphasis on sustainability, ecosystem approach, and setting multi-annual plans, mentioning discards and selective nets as some of the priorities for the presidency.
Several MEP’s expressed hope that Hungary, not being a fishing nation, will be able to look on fisheries issues objectively from the outside.
A draft report on the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the EC and Comoros was discussed. MEP’s Lövin, Fraga Estévez and Capoulos Santos all expressed concern that the European Parliament has not received enough information to make a decision on the issue, since the Commission had only shared the summary of the formal evaluation of the last fisheries agreement.
Carmen Fraga Estévez reported from the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, which she attended in December.
Ms. Fraga Estévez reported that 80 percent of the fisheries in the region takes place within the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the WCPFC states. However, many states refuse to apply the rules of the WCPFC within their EEZs.
Vote: Amendment of Council Regulation (EC) No 861/2006 of 22 May 2006 establishing Community financial measures for the implementation of the common fisheries policy and in the area of the Law of the Sea.
Result: The report was accepted without the amendments about raising the Commission’s level of co-financing of certain fisheries management measures, such as some control activities and data collection.
Vote: Fishing in the GFCM (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean) Agreement Area.
Summary: The report deals with how recommendations adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) should be adopted by the EU. The Commission suggests that future changes to the GFCM should be handled by comitology procedure (which means that the Commission can make changes without asking the European Parliament and Council).
The rapporteur in the Fisheries Committee, Crescenzio Rivellini, “considers this to be a very dubious provision, insofar as it could threaten Parliament’s prerogatives and the current institutional balance and inflate the Commission’s implementing powers.” The rapporteur therefore proposes that the article about comitology procedure article be deleted.
Result: The draft legislative proposal was adopted with Rivellini’s amendment. It will be put to plenary vote in March.
HEARING ON ICELAND
The afternoon was devoted to a hearing on fisheries in Iceland in the context of EU accession negociations (programme and list of speakers can be found here).
There are many issues where the EU and Iceland disagree. For instance, the EU opposes Iceland’s whale hunting and there is an ongoing conflict about mackerel.
At the same time, Icelandic fishermen find the Common Fisheries Policy unacceptable, since it would mean that Iceland would lose control over one of the country’s most important natural resources.
Rather than presenting any approaching compromises in the accession negotiations, the hearing made it clear how difficult it will be for Iceland and the EU to reach an agreement on fisheries and how central fisheries is to Iceland’s accession process.
On 26 January, working documents for two future reports were presented and discussed:
Combating illegal fishing at the global level – the role of the EU (Rapporteur: Isabella Lövin)
Current and future management of Black Sea Fisheries (Rapporteur: Iliana Malinova Iotova)