On Monday 19 June, EU Fisheries Ministers finally agreed on the new European Fisheries Fund (EFF) at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. EUR 3.8 billion will be set aside to provide support for the fisheries sector.
The EEF, due to cover 2007-2013, will replace the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) which will close at the end of the year. A number of measures already in place will be extended and a new package will be implemented. The actual political agreement on the EFF was reached in a COREPER meeting the week before the Council meeting.
The major stumbling block in the EFF negotiations have been the issue of vessel modernisation and engine replacement. The final proposal includes funding for engine replacement under certain conditions; 1:1 for vessels below 12m, 80% power for vessels up to 24 meters, 80% power and a change to more fuel efficient gear for vessels larger than 24 meters. It also includes aid for training of young fishermen, support for tie up under management plans if these provide for a gradual reduction of fishing effort, and a reintroduction of a percentage of fleet capacity withdrawn.
The new fund will operate on a similar basis as that of its predecessor. However, it is presumed to be simpler to manage. It is also aiming at better targeting the objectives of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
The new Fund will have five main priorities:
- helping the fleet adapt fishing capacity and effort to available fish resources;
- support to the various industry branches;
- aid for organisations which represent the collective interest of the sector;
- sustainable development of fisheries-dependent areas; and
- technical assistance to Member States to facilitate the delivery of aid.
It will be up to Member States to decide how they allocate funds between these different priorities by drawing up National Strategic Plans and Operational Programmes.