Ministers want fewer decisions in Brussels – but disagree on what the alternatives are

Member states agree on the general principle of a more de-centralised decision making in fisheries, but have different opinions on the details on how this should be done.

As EU fisheries ministers met in Council today, six member states – the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Ireland – tabled a paper with a common approach to regionalised decision-making in the future CFP.

Each region is different
“This sets out a pragmatic method to achieve regionalisation,” Richard Benyon, the UK fisheries minister, said about the paper.

Eskil Erlandsson, Swede, Simon Coveney, Ireland and George Pullicino, Malta. Photo: The Council of the European Union

Eskil Erlandsson, Swede, Simon Coveney, Ireland and George Pullicino, Malta. Photo: The Council of the European Union

As ministers spoke during todays discussions, all of them welcomed the general idea of moving much of the decision-making in fisheries management to a more regional level. The Mediterranean is different from the Baltic Sea or the Black Sea, and ministers all agreed that detailed decisions on how to achieve the goals of sustainable fishing must be tailored to the specificities of each region.

The question is: how?

What the Treaty allows
The Treaty of the European Union does not allow for any discussions among relevant Member States to be formalised, for example through voting procedures, according to a paper written by the Danish presidency.

In other words, there are uncertainties about how it would be possible to accommodate regional cooperation between member states within the EU legal framework.

Many member states today said they would like the last word to remain at the EU level in order to ensure a level playing field.

Much of the discussion today revolved about the use of delegated acts or implementing acts – two ways of decision making that are new since the Lisbon treaty. In general, delegated acts give more power to the European Parliament, while implementing acts give more power to the Council. A more detailed explanation of the differences between the two acts can be found at EurActive.

Joint proposal by six member states
In short, the paper tabled by six member states proposes a procedure that goes like this:

Where there is unanimous agreement among a group of member states on a set of management measures, the Commission would use implementing acts to transpose these measures. If member states do not succeed in agreeing coherent measures, a further proposal on measures would be brought forward by the Commission for decision by the Council or co-decision by the Council and Parliament as appropriate.

In either case, the measures decided on by fisheries managers in any given fishery would be set out in EU legislation.

The role of advisory councils
Ministers agreed that the regional advisory councils (RACs) would need to be strengthened in a future regionalised decision-making process. Several delegations said they were in favour of making it mandatory to consult the RACs.

France said that current composition rules should be maintained, which would provide for fishermen having a majority of seats in the councils. The Portugese minister said that the scientific component in the RACs should be strengthened.

The discussions on regionalisation are not over. It will require further work to find the specific models of how to make de-centralised decision-making work, the Danish fisheries minister, Mette Gjerskov, concluded at a press conference after the meeting.

Documents & video from the Council meeting 27 April
> Danish presidency non-paper on regionalisation
> Common position presented by a group of member states (UK BE DK FR DE IE)
> Presidency questions on TFCs and regionalisation
> Council press release
> European Commission non-paper on regionalisation (presented earlier this year)

> Press conference video
> Video of the entire meeting (you can click the flags below the video to select which intervention you want to see)

Related article: Ministers criticise plan to create quota market

Axel Naver

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