EU fisheries ministers will compromise on CFP reform but won't say how far –

EU fisheries ministers will compromise on CFP reform but won’t say how far Published:  23 April, 2013

The Irish Presidency has invoked a sense of urgency in concluding the fisheries reform and asked member states at the Agricultural and Fisheries Council meeting on April 22 to consider compromises in order to reach a political agreement with the European Parliament in May.

“We are proposing to focus strongly on finding political compromise over the coming weeks. If we are to agree a reformed CFP, we must compromise to an extent on our current position, and the Parliament and the Commission must also compromise,” Simon Coveney, Ireland’s fisheries minister, said at the meeting.

Ministers supported the presidency’s proposed timeline, which means a new Council mandate will be considered at the Coreper meeting of 2 May. If required, the Council on 13–14 of May will give guidance on any outstanding issues.

Simon Coveney asked ministers to indicate what compromises they might be willing to make on the key issues of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), discard ban, regionalisation, capacity management and multi-annual plans.

Many ministers indicated a general willingness to compromise, without being specific.

Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Poland and some others indicated they were ready to look at a new text regarding MSY.

On the other hand, several governments said they would like to stick to the Council’s position of fishing mortality Fmsy 2015 only “where possible”. These were France, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia and Belgium.

With regards to the discard ban, Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands and Estonia signalled willingness to yield on some of the exemptions to the discard ban – for example de minimis percentages or timetable.

Greece, Poland, Slovenia, Italy, Belgium and France indicated they would not want to divert from the Council’s position on the discard ban. Greece emphasised that the Council’s general approach, agreed on 27 February, was a compromise that was already difficult to reach.

In general terms, the French minister said that he supported the ambitious timetable to reach an agreement in the next few weeks, but that the Council must not lose sight of substance. In the same vein, the Polish minister said that any flexibility from the Council’s side should not come at the cost of a reasonable compromise.

Many member states emphasised the need for “realistic” and “practicable” compromises that governments can implement with the support of the fishing industry.

Commenting on the Council meeting, Tony Long, Director of the WWF European Policy Office, said that the conclusions were a contradiction in terms.

“On the one hand Member States agreed to step up the pace of the negotiations to reach a good deal by the next Council in May, but on the other hand they remain firmly rooted in their position despite the trilogues. They have not moved closer to the position of the European Parliament regarding the cornerstone issues of this reform package that would guarantee sustainability for fisheries in Europe.”

The reason that the Irish presidency wants to reach a fast conclusion of the CFP reform is that it will be difficult for the Lithuanian presidency to take it on in addition to all their other work. The Lithuanian presidency will be in charge of both the trilogues on the new fisheries fund (the EMFF) and the setting of fishing quotas for 2014.