Common Fisheries Policy
Dublin hopes to wrap up CFP reform by end of June
By Anne Eckstein | Wednesday 23 January 2013
Completing the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by the end of June, in a single reading if possible, is the goal of the Irish EU Presidency. Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for agriculture and fisheries, says this is feasible if everyone takes a part in the effort and if there is trust between institutions. Presenting his government’s priorities to the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH), on 22 January, Coveney did not minimise the difficulties ahead, first among them the dispute between the Council and Parliament over co-decision. The minister pledged to do his utmost to work out a solution acceptable to the three parties. But this question cannot be allowed to “derail” CFP reform, he cautioned.
Gabriel Mato Adrover (EPP, Spain), PECH chair, went straight to the point. “The PECH committee asks the Irish Presidency to remove obstacles, to find a solution on the co-decision issue. The text is very clear and all the legal opinions confirm Parliament’s interpretation of the Treaty of Lisbon,” he declared in his welcoming remarks to the Irish minister. If anyone may have doubted the EP’s determination to assert its rights, Ulrike Rodust (S&D, Germany), rapporteur and coordinator for CFP reform, made things perfectly clear: “The treaty and the basic regulation oblige the Council to take us seriously. If it does not, we also have the possibility, if necessary, to take action against the Council before the Court of Justice. I do not prefer this solution but we are prepared to use it”.
Coveney said that he understands “the importance the EP attaches to this question” but that he is hearing “another story” in the Council. “This strategic question is at the heart of CFP reform but in no case can it be allowed to derail it,” he explained. This echoed the views of several speakers, including Isabella Lövin (Greens-EFA, Sweden), who highlighted the danger of seeing the decision making process “get bogged down” in institutional haggling.
The question will be debated at the ministers’ lunchtime meeting, on 28 January.
The tone is set and the Irish Presidency does not have an easy road ahead. Coveney knows that MEPs are serious and has assured them that he will not lose sight of their views. But while acknowledging that this matter is at the heart of the CFP reform, he wants first and foremost to advance on the reform, the top priority of his Presidency. The minister presented a tight calendar to MEPs.
On reform of the common organisation of the market (CMO), the EP’s position is known and the 28 January Fisheries Council is expected to give the Presidency a mandate to begin the three-way interinstitutional talks that could open in February. On the basic regulation, the Council will fine-tune its position in February if, as expected, the EP adopts its position in plenary, on 6 February. The three-way talks would begin in early March. For the regulation establishing the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the minister hopes that the Council will adopt a general approach in April and approve the mandate needed to open three-way talks in April or May. This will also depend on the EP, however. The Presidency would like to launch this third set of three-way talks no later than May. This work plan will be discussed during the 28 January session of the Council. “It will be difficult but not impossible,” insisted Coveney.
The minister also listed the key questions still open: maximum sustainable yield (MSY or the fishing level that allows stock renewal) and discards. In both cases, the questions of means and progressive implementation need to be addressed. Work is also still needed on the regional dimension: some are calling for more autonomy but a basis for collective decision making is needed when fishermen from different countries operate in the same zone, said Coveney. The sector needs to be involved, “otherwise implementing the reform will turn into a nightmare,” he warned