Commission stance threatens discard ban

20-Dec-2013 @ 9:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

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.

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.

Speaking in Brussels where she has been part of the negotiating team over the last six months, Julie Girling MEP, Conservative negotiator on the reform, said: " This is deeply disappointing. After months of intense negotiation between the Commission, the Parliament and the member states 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 clear will of those who are directly elected to safeguard the interests of European fishermen and the British taxpayer. "

The South West MEP added: "This is a disaster for fishermen in my region and across the UK. 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. The uncertainty caused by this delay could be the final blow for many of them considering their future in the industry."

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.

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