Member states disagree on public funds for new engines

Fisheries Ministers disagreed on the need to pay for new engines and vessels, as they today held a public discussion on the future EU funds for fisheries – the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Mr Soflocis ALETRARIS, Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, chaired the meeting. Photo: Council.

Mr Soflocis ALETRARIS, Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, chaired the meeting. Photo: Council.

A large number of member states said they favour funds for the “modernisation” of the EU fleet, including aid for engine replacement, and for paying vessels for temporary cessation of fishing activities. Some member states also called for the reintroduction of funding for new vessels – a measure that was removed in the last CFP reform in 2002 because it was deemed to sustain fleet overcapacity.

Some member states, such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany, opposed these measures. “The EMFF should not prioritise engine replacement and temporary cessation, because those measures maintain overcapacity,” said the Swedish Fisheries Minister, Eskil Erlandsson.

Safety = increased capacity?
Member states such as France and Portugal said that the EU fleet is old and that modernisation is necessary in order to improve crew safety and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but that modernisation should be carried out “without increasing capacity”.

Markus Knigge, advisor to the Pew Environment Group and co-founder of fishsubsidy.org, said that safer and more environmentally friendly vessels “are nice to have”, but added: “The question is why EU taxpayers money should be used to modernise them, in particular as these funds has been used in the past to modernise vessels which operate at overcapacity – some received funding for modernisation and only days later for scrapping,”

Knigge went on to say that ‘without increasing capacity’ was purely rhetorical. “Everyone knows that investment on board leads to greater fishing power. More fuel efficient engines are great incentives to fish further away, more secure vessels can go out in stormy weather,” Knigge said.

A Commission paper from 2006 shows that real engine power, as declared by engine producers, is up to five times the power declared by fishermen.

Safeguard research and control
There was one subject on which all member states agreed: They want more flexibility to transfer funds between the different areas of expenditure.

It was pointed out by several ministers that despite flexibility there should be ring-fenced minimum amounts for data collection and control, since those measures are favourable to the whole fishing sector. The Irish representative said that “effective control is critical to the long term well-being and sustainability of the stocks on which we depend”.

Nine member states tabled a joint position in which they ask for a simplified administration for the fund, by basing the delivery system of the EMFF on the model of structural funds instead
of the model of rural development fund.

Video:
Watch the video from the meeting. (you can zap to each intervention by clicking the flags below the video)
Press conference.

Related stories:
* In July, eight member states tabled a joint demand for the maintenance of subsidies for both the modernisation and decommissioning of vessels.
* The Commission’s proposal for the EMFF

Axel Naver

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