45. The latter part of the
new basic Regulation contains some important provisions on governance,
notably the concept of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs). A RAC
(a) cover a sea area under the jurisdiction of
at least two Member States;
(b) be established by the Council;
(c) provide advice to the Commission and the
Member States on fisheries management in a given areathis
can be in response to consultation by the Commission or on its
(d) be composed of all parties with an interest
in fisheries management in a given sea area or fishing zone, including
the fishing industry, environmental and consumer interests, regional
and national authorities and the Commission.
More detailed arrangements for RACs are expected
to be set out in separate legislation.
46. Our witnesses were unanimous in the support for
the concept of RACs, and considered its inclusion as perhaps the
most positive aspect of the reform of the CFP.
Regional management is widely seen as crucial to solving some
of the fundamental problems of the CFP, especially by eliminating
the "Brussels bottleneck" (the yearly horse-trading
on catch limits) and by bringing fishermen into the heart of the
47. Our witnesses expressed the hope that the establishment
of RACs will allow the Council to focus on medium to long-term
strategy rather than bog it down in yearly and highly political
negotiations over TACs and quotas. The RACs in turn would have
a technical management role. Similarly, it is hoped that RACs
will be the key to establishing an attitude of ownership of and
responsibility for the fisheries among all stakeholders through
peer group pressure.
As experience in Australia, New Zealand and the US has shown,
depoliticising fisheries management has been a key factor in achieving
more sustainable fishing practice.
Depoliticising the management system in Europe would "help
48. There is much work to be done, however, before
the proposed RACs can come to fulfil such ambitions. Key considerations
in the establishment of the RACs will be:
It is crucial that the advice of the RACs is accepted
and implemented by the Council, except in exceptional circumstances.
This means that the RACs have to employ the management tools authorised
by the Council, and not attempt to reinvent the CFP. Conversely,
the circumstances under which the RACs' advice would be rejected
by the Council really would have to be exceptional.
For the moment, it is right that the role of the
regional councils should be to advise rather than to manage. In
a fisheries management system as complicated as that of the EU,
it will take time to establish and run these Councils; meanwhile
responsibility should remain with Fisheries Ministers.
In the more detailed legislation to come, a possible form of words
might be: "To advise on the most appropriate management measures
needed to achieve the medium and long-term strategic goals set
by the Council of Ministers [in . . .] consistent
with the provisions of Council Regulation [. . .]".
If all stakeholders are to be represented on the
RACs, some of these bodies will be very large indeed. In the case
of the North Sea there could be over 100 industry representatives
alone. We therefore consider a two tier structure most practicable.
Annual "open forums" of all representatives would meet
to debate issues and elect, but not mandate, an Executive Committee
of say 9 industry representatives, 6 managers, 3 scientists, 3
economists, 3 environmental and 3 consumer representatives (a
total of 27, which is probably still too many). The Executive
Committee members could have (say) 3-5 year terms of office, to
promote a medium-term perspective, and could meet quarterly, preferably
under the leadership of an independent chair. Relationships with
local, regional and national government need to be carefully thought
49. We are encouraged by
the inclusion of provisions for Regional Advisory Councils in
the new basic CFP Regulation. It is of vital importance that these
Councils be established as a matter of considerable urgency.
THE FINANCIAL INSTRUMENT FOR FISHERIES
50. The main EU level assistance programme for the
fisheries sector is the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance
(FIFG), which provides funding over a seven year period, currently
2000-2006 (see Box 6 for summary).
The most criticised aspect of the FIFG has been the funding earmarked
for fleet renewal and modernisation.
Providing funding for new construction at the same time as other
budget lines are earmarked for vessel scrapping is counter-productive
and wasteful of the EU's resourcesa point which has been
made on repeated occasions by this and other Parliamentary committees.
Reform of the FIFG, as part of the so-called "Agenda 2000"
process, led to some rationalisation of the funding. Nevertheless,
FIFG continued to offer support for fleet renewal and modernisation
51. We therefore welcomed
the Commission's proposal in May 2002 to restrict public aid severely
for investment in fishing vessels.
We also welcomed the proposed new 32 million emergency scrapping
fund, allowing Member States to offer additional money to vessel
owners severely affected by effort reductions. As the Commission's
"Measures to counter the social, economic and regional consequences
of fleet restructuring", published in November 2002, emphasised,
major adjustment of the FIFG is not possible since it is tied
to the general seven-year cyclical negotiations of the Structural
Funds. There is obviously
a basic difficulty in reforming the FIFG when its funding is based
on an entirely different cycle of negotiations, but that has to
be lived with. The FIFG represents only a small part of the Funds
as a whole; nevertheless, if the financing of new construction
and modernisation could be ended, some 611 million would
be freed up.
52. The proposal to cut modernisation
aid fell victim to the sort of compromises necessary to secure
overall agreement; FIFG became "the final sticking point"
in the negotiations.
The new legislation (Regulation 2369/2002), will continue to support
construction of new vessels until the end of 2004. The Minister
thought the 2004 limit was "no mean achievement" given
that the "Friends of Fisheries" had a blocking minority
in the Council. It
does mean that Member States can potentially use up all the aid
allocated under these new headings for the period 2000-2006. It
is deeply regrettable that the Commission's proposals for terminating
aid for new construction were weakened at the December 2002 Council.
We deplore the fact that funds will continue to available for
this purpose until the end of 2004. We regard this as further
evidence of the continuing lack of political will by the majority
of the Council of Ministers to support genuine reform of the CFP.