European Council approves position for financial assistance in response to COVID-19

Published on April 17, 2020

On 14 April the Council approved a series of proposals amending the EMFF subsidy package, allowing for increased financial assistance for EU fishermen.

This expands on the Commission proposal from 2 April. The Council has agreed to these proposals and only provides additional measures in its position. The European Parliament will now endorse or amend the proposals made by the other EU institutions, they will vote on 17 April.

The Council position introduces the following specific measures:

  • support in relation to the temporary cessation of fishing activities with a maximum co-financing rate of 75 % of eligible public expenditure
  • support in relation to the temporary suspension or reduction of aquaculture production and sales
  • support to producer organisations and associations of producer organisations for the storage of fishery and aquaculture products
  • increasing the quantities eligible for storage aid to 25 % of the annual quantities of the products concerned

The Council position adds the following amendments to the proposal:

  • inclusion of fishermen on foot (mostly women) as eligible for support in case of temporary cessation
  • derogation for temporary cessation for new vessels
  • flexibility in order to use 10% of the budgetary funds allocated to Union Priority 3
  • granting working capital and compensating the reduction of sales and additional storage costs for aquaculture farmers

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) makes particular reference to fisheries subsidies under 14.6. The target states, amongst other provisions, that “by 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.” In certain EU fisheries it is likely that subsidies for temporary cessation will run counter to this objective. Moreover, the European Court of Auditors has found instances of this form of aid being incorrectly targeted.

Providing an alternative approach to how European subsidies can best support the fishing industry, the Low Impact Fishers of Europe platform has written last year: “Fisheries subsidies: public funds for public good, not individual gain. Not to help us fish more, but to help us fish better”.

More details on how these fishers would like subsidies to be used can be found here. They give specific and concrete proposals that come directly from the segments of the fishing industry which provide the majority of employment in the EU and are directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic themselves.