NGO’s call on governments to oppose the proposed de minimis regulation

Published on September 21, 2006

In June, the European Commission proposed to decouple the de minimis aid in the fisheries sector from that in the agricultural sector and to increase it tenfold. Under the new regulation, up to € 30.000 of state aid would not need to be notified to the European Commission if given to an enterprise over a three-year period. Importantly, this aid could be used to finance operating costs of fishing vessels that may result in an increase in fishing effort.

WWF, the Fisheries Secretariat, BirdLife International, Oceana, North Sea Foundation and Seas at Risk strongly oppose the adoption of the proposed regulation. The organisations are afraid that if these new rules are adapted, it will lead to increased fishing pressure on already threatened fish stocks. The proposal opens up possibilities for Member States to finance operational costs by for example subsidise fuel costs for fishing vessels. The proposed regulation therefore gives rise to policy incoherence since the CFP suggests the need for substantial reductions in fishing effort.

“Increasing de minimis in a sector which is deeply affected by illegal, unreported and unregulated activities will not contribute to the Commission’s quest for “better regulations”, but rather could impede efficient monitoring and enforcement of the use of taxpayers’ money. Decreasing the amount of information given on the use of this aid contradicts the spirit of the European Transparency Initiative and will not contribute to the overarching objective of the State Aid Action Plan, namely to have less and better targeted state aid.”, says Markus Knigge, fisheries subsidies officer at WWF European Policy Office in Brussels.

The organisations also predict a risk that the provision of aid to operational costs will distort the competitiveness in the fisheries sector, and could prevent the adaptation of the European fisheries sector to higher oil prices.