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23 Apr 2018

"Europe discusses about Fisheries and Aquaculture beyond 2020", by Nikos Anagnopoulos

On 12 and 13 October in Estonian capital,Tallinn, the Estonian Presidency of the EU and the European Commission jointly organized a conference on the future of fisheries, aquaculture and fishery products.


The conference "Beyond 2020: Supporting Europe's coastal communities" with more than 70 selected speakers - including the undersigned- attracted stakeholders from across Europe representing governments, producers, social partners, non-governmental organizations and technical advisors.


The conference addressed many topics regarding the necessity and effectiveness of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and its future, without excluding even its dismantling and the incorporation of fisheries into wider structures. With little use so far of the EMFF resources by the Member States, it is likely that its budget will be reduced after 2020. This is also reflected in the possible reduction of the EU budget due to Brexit, but also in the need to increase the funds for the security and address the issue of refugees / migrants.


Many speakers accused the EU of the late political agreement on the EMFF and the complex procedures for applying for the Fund despite the need to exploit its resources. In particular, small-scale fisheries and small and medium-sized enterprises have difficult access to funds due to bureaucracy in the application process, while access to credit institutions is virtually impossible.


However, Ag. Mr Machado, Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said that complexity is not an excuse for low capital use, he warned of a reduction in the EU's future budget and told participants to make use of the available credit.


Representatives of environmental organizations underlined that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) instead of potentially allowing "harmful subsidies" such as those for fleet modernization, every "next" Fisheries and Maritime Fund should contribute to reducing impacts on the marine environment. They noted that society wants healthy and productive seas because they are the basis for prosperous thriving coastal communities. They also pointed out that, with all the attention paid to fisheries and aquaculture funding, funding to support the marine environment seems to be the main gap to be tackled in the next budgetary period.


The framework as it is shaped today


After the first talks in Tallinn and the meeting of EU coastal and coastal regions recently in Brussels, EU will make proposals on the future of the EMFF, in the context of its overall proposals for the post-2020 budget at the beginning of 2018.

To date, the EMFF budget accounts for 1% of the total EU budget.

Since EU beyond fisheries and aquaculture, wishes to promote the strategy of the sea in the context of Blue Growth, there will be an extensive debate on the future of the EMFF within the overall policies of the European Union.


Three priorities will be discussed:


- The protection of healthy seas and sustainable fishing and aquaculture, in conjunction with the Maritime Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).
- Promoting Blue Growth and successful support for coastal communities dependent on fisheries and aquaculture.
- Strengthening the governance of international waters in relation to the security and protection of marine areas with emphasis on maritime spatial planning, climate change, control of border and international waters by illegal fishing.


Implementing these strategic axes beyond 2020 will require the combination of several sources of funding. Thus the EMFF will be associated with the Cohesion Funds, HORIZON 2020 and other, and its great added value must be proven to justify its budget.


Until 2014, the European Fisheries Fund was the exclusive tool for the implementation of the CFP. With its transformation into the EMFF, about 10% of it, aims to strengthen actions for Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). This means that the intention is to strengthen the spatial dimension (= waters) that includes many combined activities and not just fisheries / aquaculture. Thus, while strong and effective interventions in the structure of the fishing fleet, the development of aquaculture and the promotion of the local development of fishing areas took place between 2007 and 2013, it is premature to assess the course of the EMFF 2014-2020 as it has been implemented to a limited extent.


Thus, clear estimates for the sector's needs after 2020 cannot be made as:


- The state of fish stocks is uncertain, particularly in the Mediterranean and therefore it is not possible to quantify interventions for the fishing fleet.
- The impact of Brexit on the fleets of North Sea fishing vessels in the North Atlantic and North Atlantic cannot be estimated.
- It is a precarious assessment of the need to modernize the fishing fleet to improve its viability and competitiveness, as some segments of industrial fishing have shown high profits in recent years as a result of lower fuel prices and the recovery of certain stocks.


At the same time, the Integrated Maritime Policy actions included in the 2014-2020 EMFF, such as education, maritime spatial planning, data collection, maritime safety and surveillance, innovation and ocean governance, cannot be evaluated until now, neither how much they can contribute to the activation of financial tools.


Whether the Financial Instruments, such as loans, credit guarantee, interest rate subsidies, etc. could replace some of the direct subsidies to fishermen and aquaculture, is an important field of discussion.


As part of the Jucker project, the creation of a funding tool for innovation (Inno Fin instrument) in the marine environment that will link the EMFF with the European Investment Bank could be discussed.


Despite the fact that the EMFF is the only financial instrument of the EU which is not allowed to be managed by the Regions, there will be a debate regarding the allocation of the funds they will manage directly or through them in order to optimize the speed and effectiveness of assistance to potential beneficiaries. Experience to date from the low effectiveness of Local Action Groups within the EDF and the EMFF raises concerns. Of course, many have argued about the complexity of procedures and the need to simplify them.


The duration of the new programming period is also under discussion as a larger, e.g. 7 years, will contribute to the stability of the processes at each level.


The investigation of interventions through the Integrated Maritime Policy, as well as Brexit's localized impact on specific areas, also raises the issue of linking the EMFF with specific spatial areas, e.g. seas such as the North Sea, the Mediterranean and areas of Initiatives such as the Ionian - Adriatic Sea, as it will, if necessary, require a differentiated intensity and form of action.


The future of the EMFF budget could ideally be clarified on the basis of an in-depth analysis of the needs of CFP and IMP. This is not the case today, but the needs of fishing and aquaculture will remain high and would justify retaining the budget at the same level. However, the Brexit (a total budget reduction of 70 million) and the new budgetary needs for policies such as border security and migration, may entail a reduction in the EMFF either in percentages or in amounts, or even its integration with other funds.


The challenges for aquaculture


Given the stagnation of EU aquaculture and the partial decline of Greek production owing to the necessary restructuring of large enterprises in the sector, on the path to sustainable and competitive aquaculture, issues such as above will have to be addressed: 


  • Simplification of the legislative and management framework with emphasis on the licensing status of the activity.

  • Improving the image and social acceptance of aquaculture by local communities and consumers.

  • Partial transition to financial instruments, although the industry believes that direct subsidies should remain the main financial instrument.



The Greek strategy


The necessary actions on the part of the Greek Government and the collective bodies of the sector are:

- Immediate activation of all actions / measures of the Operational Programme of Fisheries and Sea 2014-2020, in order to avoid a loss of available credit.
- Promoting a legislative framework for professional fisheries and setting priorities for the main fishing gear (management plans).
- Support and recognition of producer organizations in the aquaculture and fisheries sector.
- Approval of the National Program for the Development of Aquaculture by Hellenic Accreditation System and the Minister of Rural Development and Food.


In any case, and with a view to presenting the original EU proposals for the EMFF , there is an urgent need to shape national positions on fisheries and aquaculture after 2020. Although I am generally optimistic, at this juncture I have serious concerns about the reflexes of the Greek administration and the collective bodies of the industry.


Nikos Anagnopoulos




About Us

APC s.a. is a consulting firm, based in Athens, engaged with the provision of services for developmental and spatial planning, environmental issues, implementation of investment plans, and planning, management and evaluation of National and EU programs.

APC s.a. specializes in the sectors of fisheries and aquaculture, rural and regional development and marine environment.

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