The Road Ahead
Today, more than eight years after the previous reform, many parts of the Community fishing fleet are in economic difficulties and efficiency is generally low.
The status of European fish stocks is also a cause for concern: it is estimated that about 80 per cent of stocks are over-fished and the situation has not improved greatly since the reform in 2002. The European Commission highlights these facts as reasons for seriously examining a new approach. It also hopes to address the current lack of coherence and transparency with the many different national approaches.
On 22 April 2009, the European Commission published its Green Paper on Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (COM(2009)163). It provides a brighter vision for the EU fisheries sector, but also a stark summary of the problems. It goes on to set out the main structural failings and a range of suggestions on how to address them. In the Green Paper, the Commission states that the EU fleet overcapacity “remains the fundamental problem of the CFP”, and identifies it as one of the root causes of the overfished stocks, the poor economic performance of the EU fishing fleet and the heavy reliance on subsidies.
The release of the Green Paper was also the launch of a public consultation on Europe’s future fisheries policy, and invited stakeholders as well as the public to send in their views to the European Commission (EC). It contained a number of questions to guide the responses. At the end of the consultation period on 31 December 2009, the Commission had received over 360 responses.
Since then, the Commission has analysed the results of the consultation. It has also conducted a broader assessment of the possible impact of the reform, developing different scenarios, in order to evaluate the outcomes of different choices. In 2010, a number of meetings with stakeholders were held in different Member States, several organised together with the Spanish and Belgian Presidencies. Governments and stakeholders continued to develop their ideas and views and to make further submissions to the Commission.
In parallel with the impact assessment carried out this Spring, the Commission has continued its work on the forthcoming legal proposals. These are scheduled to be published after a final Commission confirmation on 13 July– a slight delay compared to the initial timetable.
A Reform Package
The upcoming reform package is likely to consist of an overarching Communication on reform, setting out the Commission’s thoughts, a proposal for a new basic regulation to replace 2002/2371, a proposal for a new regulation on the market organisation and a Communication on the external policy (access agreements and regional fisheries organisations included). Changes to the financial instruments for fisheries and aquaculture will be published later in the year, together with an Integrated Maritime Policy.
The publication of the reform proposals will be followed by discussions and negotiations in the European Council and the European Parliament This is the point where, even if the proposals are bold, national interests may start to play out and potentially weaken efforts to create a fundamentally changed, more sustainable future for EU fisheries. Once agreement has been reached, the European Parliament and the Fisheries Council will adopt the new legislation in late 2012, unless there are further delays.