In a move to prevent a looming deadlock, Ulrike Rodust, the European Parliament’s negotiator, has sent a letter to fisheries ministers with proposals for compromises on key issues in the fisheries reform.
A crucial meeting will take place on 13–14 May, when fisheries ministers will meet to decide on a mandate for the Irish to approach the European Parliament and find compromise.
Council officials have previously expressed dissatisfaction over Ulrike Rodust’s public statements which, in their view, have signalled an unwillingness to move away from the position adopted by the Parliament in February. In a press release 30 April, Rodust said, “Better no deal now than a bad deal for the next ten years.”
At the same time, Members of the European Parliament are equally frustrated that many member states refuse to divert from the Council’s position. Recently a group of MEPs wrote an open letter to ministers, calling on them to compromise with the Parliament.
It could be a case of mutual miscommunication. It could also be a game of “who will blink first?”. But with the important deadline of 14 May approaching, it seems the communication is improving.
In the letter that Ulrike Rodust sent in the evening of 7 May, she assures the fisheries ministers that the European Parliament is willing to make sacrifices and “move away from its original position in order to achieve a compromise”.
The Irish presidency has drawn up a draft mandate which has been discussed at Coreper ahead of the Council meeting. This draft text is essentially the presidency’s proposal for compromises between the institutions. Ulrike Rodust writes: “I take note of the draft mandate for Council which, if adopted, constitutes a significant improvement compared to the Council’s general approach.”
However, Ulrike Rodust goes on to note that some serious concerns remain, and in the letter she draws up the red lines for the European Parliament regarding the most important issues: discard ban, MSY, fishing capacity, fish stock recovery areas and access criteria.
The question is what impact this will have on the Council talks next week.
According to Council sources there are currently two opposing sides in Council, each of which has enough Council votes to block an agreement. A southern group of member states does not want to move an inch from the general approach, especially when it comes to exceptions from the discard ban. A northern group of member states wants to approach the European Parliament in order to accept a deal.
Presidency sources said Wednesday that the Council meeting 13–14 May “threatens to be one of the most difficult Fish Councils in recent years.”
However, according to European Voice, a source involved in the negotiations said that France recently signalled that it could show some flexibility in exchange for more funding.