Our fishing industry - new threat to discard ban
In a surprise eleventh hour intervention, Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has scuppered any chance of a timely deal on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the third and final key pillar of fisheries reforms in the EU.
The €6.5 billion fund is intended to support the new Common Fisheries Policy which focuses on ending discards and the recovery of fish stocks.
The first two pillars have already been finalised, and agreement on the EMFF was expected to complete the package yesterday (Thursday).
However, three-way negotiations involving the EU's Parliament, Commission and Council (representing the 28 Member States) collapsed when Commissioner Damanaki said she could not support a budget deal which had been agreed earlier between the other two parties. The Greek Commissioner claimed it lessened the Commission's control over how certain funds were spent.
Local Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden, who has campaigned consistently on behalf of the East Anglian fishing industry, commented:
"I am very disappointed as Commissioner Damanaki, until now, has been sympathetic to the case that we have pushed. After months of intense negotiation we were nearing an agreement. The Commissioner, instructing her team by telephone, has effectively prevented a resolution by digging her heels in and refusing to relinquish control from Brussels.
"This is a prime example of the unelected Commission riding roughshod over the will of those who are elected to safeguard the interests of European fishermen and the British taxpayer.
“This is not good news for fishermen in East Anglia. They are trying to plan a future under the new rules which require them to make significant operational changes and business decisions to comply with the public demand for more sustainable fishing and an end to the sandal of discards. Now we are back to uncertainty.
“The collapse of the talks reduces the likelihood that a final deal on EMFF reforms can be achieved before the European elections in May, potentially leaving a new Parliament and Commission to pick up the pieces from today's failed negotiations.
“I have always been of the view that the Common Fisheries Policy was bad for the fish and bad for our fishermen – it is one of those areas that I hope we can bring back under national and local control when the Prime Minister strikes a new deal with the EU."