“We expect that governments do not close the door on compromise”

38 Members of the European Parliament call on each EU government to play a constructive role in the fisheries reform, ahead of a 2 May meeting when the Irish presidency will seek endorsement of a new negotiation mandate. If a blocking minority in Council refuses to meet the Parliament halfway, “the fisheries reform may well be completely blocked,” the MEPs write.

Thursday 2 May 2013 is an important date for the future of European fish and fishermen. Representatives of 27 EU governments will meet and come very close to deciding whether they want to conclude the negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the fisheries reform in a constructive manner, or whether they want to block the entire reform.

The European Parliament has laid out a vision of a future with sustainable fisheries in the EU. In the first reading, a large majority of MEPs – from all political parties and member states – agreed to end overfishing by 2015 with the aim of allowing fish stocks to recover to sustainable levels by 2020. In other words, by 2020, we envision a thriving fishing industry, a healthier marine environment, and sustainable European fish for European consumers.

We want to end the practice of discarding fish at sea, so that fishermen have an incentive to use selective fishing methods and avoid unwanted catches.

We call for a network of fish stock recovery areas. Fishing quotas must follow scientific recommendations. We want to improve implementation and control and make sure that there are sanctions against member states and operators that do not follow the rules; imperative if we are to restock our emptying seas.

It is true that these ambitious goals require sacrifice in the short term, but status quo is not an option. In the last ten years alone catches in the EU have decreased by a quarter, the number of overexploited fish stocks has increased and the EU now imports a staggering 65 per cent of the fish we eat.

Yet, many EU governments want to put a break on the reform.

As the Council finalised their General Approach on 27 February it became clear they want to continue overfishing until 2020 (they only want to set sustainable catch quotas 2015 “where possible” but have not defined what they mean by “possible”), and they have not set a target year for when fish stocks should be rebuilt. They claim to want to end discards, but in reality they have introduced huge loopholes which will allow fish to be thrown overboard at a rate of up to nine per cent of total catches.

The trilogue negotiations to find middle ground between the Council and Parliament are reported to have started in a constructive manner.

We as MEPs accept that both institutions will have to compromise on some of their priorities in order to reach a final deal before the end of the Irish presidency. We therefore welcome that several fisheries ministers at the Council meeting 22 April said they are ready to be flexible.

However, it alarms us that an even larger number of ministers said they are not ready to divert from the Council’s general approach, and seem to think that the European Parliament only should have a role as a simple rubberstamp of their deal. These governments do not seem to be ready to accept that under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has equal decision making powers on fisheries reform. If this group of member states form a blocking minority in Council and refuse to give the Irish presidency a mandate to meet the Parliament halfway, then the fisheries reform may well be completely blocked.

The Irish presidency will seek support for a new mandate at the Coreper meeting on 2 May. We expect that, in the name of democracy, and for the sake of the future of our seas, governments do not close the door on the possibility of compromise with the other co-legislator.

We know that the Parliament’s negotiation team, lead by the rapporteur Ulrike Rodust, is ready to play a constructive role. A huge majority of 502 MEPs, who voted in favour of her report on 6 February, support her in that task. We are willing to find compromises that are both ambitious and at the same time possible to implement in the Member States.

European governments have so far collectively failed to deliver a sustainable fisheries policy. But each government can now play a key role in shifting the balance in favour of far-reaching reform. We now call on all of them to do so.

Members of the European Parliament:
Kriton ARSENIS (Greece, S&D)
Elena BĂSESCU (Romania, EPP)
Jean-Paul BESSET (France, Greens/EFA)
Michael CASHMAN (UK, S&D)
Vasilica Viorica DĂNCILĂ (Romania, S&D)
Bas EICKHOUT (Netherlands, Greens/EFA)
Lorenzo FONTANA (Italy, EFD)
Christofer FJELLNER (Sweden, EPP)
Gerben-Jan GERBRANDY (Netherlands, ALDE)
Catherine GRÈZE (France, Greens/EFA)
Rebecca HARMS (Germany, Greens/EFA)
Satu HASSI (Finland, Greens/EFA)
Yannick JADOT (France, Greens/EFA)
Eva JOLY (France, Greens/EFA)
Jean LAMBERT (UK, Greens/EFA)
Isabella LÖVIN (Sweden, Greens/EFA)
Linda McAVAN (UK, S&D)
Gesine MEISSNER (Germany, ALDE)
Guido MILANA (Italy, S&D)
Norbert NEUSER (Germany, S&D)
Jens NILSSON (Sweden, S&D)
Younous OMARJEE (France, GUE/NGL)
Sirpa PIETIKÄINEN (Finland, EPP)
Phil PRENDERGAST (Ireland, S&D)
Raül ROMEVA i RUEDA (Spain, Greens/EFA)
Anna ROSBACH (Denmark, ECR)
Bart STAES (Belgium, Greens/EFA)
Rui TAVARES (Portugal, Greens/EFA)
Nils TORVALDS (Finland, ALDE)
Claude TURMES (Luxembourg, Greens/EFA)
Ivo VAJGL (Slovenia, ALDE)
Renate WEBER (Romania, ALDE)
Sabine WILS (Germany, GUE/NGL)

(38 MEPs from 18 member states and 7 political groups)

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