The November meeting of the EU fisheries ministers was interesting not so much because of the items that were discussed as because of the items that were not.
This year the European Commission tried to make changes to the way fishing quotas are set in the EU. Instead of deciding on all the quotas for the Atlantic and North sea in December, the Commission had proposed that more than half of them should be decided in November.
In the end, however, the November meeting of fisheries ministers, which took place Monday 14 November, included no discussion on TACs (total allowable catch).
This means that all the Atlantic and North Sea quotas will be decided in December, as usual. According to member state officials, the Council was virtually united in their view that all TACs should be set in December.
One of the reasons given earlier this year by member states is that having two regulations for the same geographical area adds administrative burden.
So what did the ministers discuss at this Monday’s Council meeting?
Commissioner Maria Damanaki presented the Commission’s proposal for the external dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy, and ministers had an exchange on view on the proposal.
According to a press release, member states were divided on the financial contribution by the ship-owners benefitting from access to the high sea and from access to waters under bilateral agreements. Certain member states feared about a loss in competitivity while most of the other considered that this contribution should increase as suggested by the Commission.
As the External Dimension is a communication and not a legislative proposal from the Commission, the Council and European Parliament do not need to reach an agreement in codecision. The Council may write Council conclusions, which is a legally non-binding decision. On the other hand, the Council may also choose not to do so.
At this Council meeting, there was no clear indication if the upcoming Danish presidency intends to produce Council conclusions or not. Some member states said they were in favour of Council conclusions on the external dimension while others said they would instead prefer to include the main elements of the external dimension of the CFP in the legal proposals, i.e. the basic regulation, the market regulation and the financial regulation.