The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the official collaborative management mechanism for fisheries policy in the European Union. First put in place in 1983, it has been subject to reviews every 10 years, and is currently undergoing a reform process the important elements of which are expected to be concluded during the Irish Presidency.
The CFP reform proposal essentially involves three separate pieces of legislation, a basic policy regulation, a regulation on the Common Organisation of the Market (CMO) both of which are supported and underpinned by a separate financial instrument, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Achieving agreement on a reformed CFP is a priority for the Irish Presidency and currently Council have a General Approach on the Basic Regulation & the CMO and a partial general approach on the EMFF. The European Parliament has a 1st reading position on the Basic Regulation and the CMO. At February’s EU Fisheries Council, I was successful in brokering a political agreement on the outstanding issues from June 2012 including for the introduction of an EU wide discards ban.
February’s decision in reaching a common Council approach on all aspects of a reformed basic policy regulation is important in that it allowed the Irish Presidency, on behalf of the Council, to engage directly with the European Parliament and Commission with a view to reaching overall political agreement on the reformed Common Fisheries Policy during the Irish Presidency. However, it is worth noting that what was agreed in February is the Councils approach, the European Parliament has also published its’ position which differs in many respects. Some of the differences are minor and progress has been made on the non-contentious aspects. However there are significant differences of emphasis and a more demanding approach expressed by the Parliament on some key issues such as the discards ban and achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield. Achieving a political agreement between the Council and Parliament on these issues is proving to be a major challenge.
Turning to the process from here, Ireland in its role of Presidency of the Council was given a clear negotiating mandate by Council for discussions with the European Parliament. A first round of informal trilogues with Parliament (and European Commission) has taken place on the Common organisation of the market and a draft negotiation mandate has been prepared for a second round. The Permanent Representative Committee (COREPER) adopted a mandate to open negotiations on 13 March 2013. Since then the three institutions have had 5 informal trilogue meetings and further meetings are planned as necessary.
The "Agriculture and Fisheries" Council of 22 April 2013 held an orientation debate on the four key political areas of divergence, namely Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), landing obligation, regionalisation and capacity management. This debate had been preceded by an informal meeting of the Directors-General for fisheries in Cork on 15 to 17 April, dedicated to the same topics where EU Member States committed themselves to working towards an agreement by end June. The Presidency has now prepared a revised version of the initial mandate, based on the emerging positions resulting from the complex trilogue process. This will now form the basis for further discussion within Council, with a view to obtaining a mandate to conclude the negotiations in the coming weeks and achieving an agreed reform package under the Irish Presidency.
COREPER met on the 2 May to discuss the current text and are due to meet again this week to consider a further revised text. It is then hoped to put the revised text to the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 13-14 May to seek political support and a new mandate for further discussions with the Parliament. We are now in a very sensitive stage of this reform process. The Presidency and Ministers have made it clear that they want an agreement to be concluded by the end of May. Assuming that the revised text receives their support, only weeks remain for a final agreement to be concluded with the European Parliament. I believe that the text for the reform which we are now proposing provides the basis to broker that final agreement with Parliament.