EP fight over fuel subsidies

MEPs from the EPP group demand higher fuel subsidies to fishermen. Their proposal is backed by some party groups, but faces opposition from the Greens, from the Commission and NGOs.

Updated 6 May: Links to relevant documents at the bottom of the page.

Alain Cadec and other MEPs from the EPP group express concern that the rising oil price has heavily affected the fisheries sector. In a question to the Commission, the MEPs ask for a doubling of the level of fuel subsidies Member States can give to the fishing industry.

A debate on this issue is planned to take place in the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg on Monday, 9 May, and a motion for resolution is planned to be voted Thursday 12 May. Other political groups have also tabled questions on the subject.

Cadec and his colleagues write: “Fishermen have difficulties in financing their fishing activities and some even have to cease their activities.” The EPP MEPs want to raise the ceiling of ‘de minimis‘ aid from €30 000 to €60 000.

The EPP demand has caused reaction. “This is in strong contradiction with the EU’s commitment to eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies,” NGOs in the Ocean 2012 coalition write in a statement.

Fuel subsidies to the fisheries sector are criticised for counteracting the struggle to reach the climate goals and for running contrary to the EU’s pledge to eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies, as stated in the Nagoya agreement, signed by the European Union in October 2010.

But as the price of oil has increased from USD 37 in early 2009 to more than USD 100 today, Alain Cadec is worried that a continuation of this situation would have dramatic consequences for European fishing activities.

Conversely, critics claim that higher subsidies would lead to an increase in fishing effort, causing further depletion of already damaged fish stocks. “The aid is therefore not helping the fishing industry, but threatening the economic basis of fishermen and coastal communities,” Ocean 2012 writes.

Fuel for fishing vessels is already subsidised in the EU through a tax exemption.

Fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki has already stated that the Commission will not propose a new funding tool for fuel in the new CFP.

Following the EPP question, other political groups in the Parliament have also tabled questions on fuel subsidies (see links below) before Monday’s debate with the Commissioner. A heated debate is therefore to be excepted. The political groups will negotiate a Motion for a Resolution, to be voted on Thursday 12 May.

Axel Naver

Links to the questions
Oral question to the Commission on behalf of the EPP group
Oral question to the Commission on behalf of the S&D group
Oral question to the Commission on behalf of the ALDE group
Oral question to the Commission on behalf of the GUE/NGL group
Oral question to the Commission on behalf of the EFD group
Oral question to the Commission on behalf of the Greens/EFA group

Other links
Ocean 2012: No increase in blind spending
Rashid Sumaila: “The role of subsidies in overfishing cannot be over-emphasized”

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