Subsidies for vessel construction divide MEPs ahead of committee vote

As MEPs prepare to vote on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) on 10 July, environment organisations warn that the Parliament is heading in the wrong direction.

At the committee meeting 10 July MEPs will vote on compromise proposals that would make it possible to use public money to build new vessels, buy more efficient engines and transfer the ownership of a fishing vessel from one person to another.

EPP – S&D coalition

Alain Cadec

Alain Cadec

These compromises are the result of a deal between the rapporteur, Alain Cadec (EPP), and the shadow rapporteur of the S&D group, Guido Milana.

Together these two political groups have a majority of votes. The other political groups are now trying to break up this coalition and convince some MEPs in the EPP and S&D groups to vote against some of the compromise proposals. Cadec and Milana, at the same time, are trying to keep their coalition together.

Will the EMFF be voted in plenary?
The debate does not only concern the content, but also the procedure. Alain Cadec has said he will ask for a mandate to start negotiations with the Council immediately after the committee vote.

However, some MEPs – in particular the shadow rapporteurs of the Greens and Alde groups, Raül Romeva and Nils Torvalds – insist on the need to go to plenary before any negotiations with the Council Presidency, in order to give democratic legitimacy and the needed transparency and debate to this subsidy fund. These MEPs also argue that since the plenary vote is scheduled for the September session (9–12 September, only the third week of the Parliament’s autumn schedule), the rapporteur would not gain any significant time by bypassing the plenary.

Fleet renewal – why reintroduce what was removed in 2002?
Money for the construction of new vessels was phased out of the common fisheries policy in 2002. Environmental NGOs therefore warn that reintroducing this measure would counteract the sustainability targets of the recently approved basic regulation.

A coalition of NGOs including Ocean2012 recently wrote in a briefing: “The 2002 CFP reform phased out funding for fleet renewal and in 2012, at Rio+20, the international community, including the EU, recommitted to phasing out subsidies contributing to overfishing.”

In a column in the Sunday Times 30 June, Charles Clover commented on fleet renewal: “This is a piece of discredited, Jacques Delors-era state socialism brought to you by Alain Cadec, the rapporteur of fisheries fund negotiations, French subsidies addict and MEP for Brittany.”

In his draft report, Alain Cadec defends his proposal to reintroduce money for fleet renewal: “The EU fleet is ageing (half of the vessels are more than 25 years old). This situation poses serious problems as regards on-board safety and protection of the marine environment. The EMFF should therefore support fleet renewal, subject to strict conditions.”

The only politcal group whose shadow rapporteur has signed up to a compromise which reintroduces fleet renewal is the S&D. The shadow rapporteurs of the other groups have not signed the compromise proposal.

A cross-party coalition of MEPs, Fish For the Future, strongly oppose the use of money from the EMFF for new vessels. On 2 July they published an infographic explaining that they would like to use public money for to be used to help all fishermen instead of building new vessels.

Short summary of some of the compromise amendments
Compromise amendment 9
Article 13 – Ineligible operations

The compromise makes it possible to use money for
* the transfer of ownership of a business
* the construction of new fishing vessels, decommissioning or importation of fishing vessels – under the conditions referred to in Article 32b (see below).

Compromise amendment 25
Article 32 – Facilitating entrepreneurship, diversification and job creation

This compromise makes it possible to give 100 000 euro for the transfer of ownership of an existing business in the fishing sector.

Compromise amendment 27
Article 32b (new) – Investments for the fleet renewal

According to this compromise, the EMFF may support investments for the renewal of small-scale and coastal fishing vessels older than 35 years, under certain conditions, for example that the support shall only be granted in return for the scrapping of the vessel older than 35 years.
According to compromise amendment 2, “small scale and coastal fishing” vessels are those of an overall length of less than 12 metres which do not use towed gear or which spend less than 24 hours at sea.

Compromise amendment 35
Article 39 – Energy efficiency and reduction of capacity

This proposal allows for engine replacement, explained by the ambition to reduce emissions of green-house gases.

Links to reports and briefings about the EMFF
* Fish For the Future infographic
* Ocean2012, Birdlife, Greenpeace, Oceana and WWF: Debunking the myth of fisheries subsidies.
* Fishsubsidy.org: Emptying the seas
* Environment NGO voting recommendations
* NGO non paper on aid for fleet renewal

European Parliament documents
* The 75 compromise amendments
* Legislative observatory (with links to the draft report and amendments)

Related articles on CFP Reform Watch
* Rashid Sumaila: “The role of subsidies in overfishing cannot be over-emphasized”
* Removing subsidies makes fisheries more profitable
* Public money for public benefit in the fisheries reform
* New EU fishing subsidy scheme will have global repercussions

Axel Naver

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