Exchange of views with Mr Alain Cadec, Member of the European Parliament, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries
The European Parliament played an important role in the development of the new EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including the provisions that apply to fisheries relations with developing countries. How do you see the involvement of the European Parliament in the implementation phase?
It is very important for the European Parliament to participate actively in the implementation phase of the CFP external dimension. Indeed, the EU Council of Ministers for fisheries enjoys important prerogatives, including for the conclusion of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs). It is therefore essential for the European Parliament, in order to maintain its power, to be constantly informed by the Commission and the Council at all stages of these SFPA negotiations. The Treaty of Lisbon conferred to us the power to approve or reject international fishing agreements negotiated by the European Commission, let’s use it wisely!
Today, most fisheries partnership agreements are agreements for fishing tuna. What is, in your view, the future of ‘mixed agreements’, which include not only access for the EU tuna fleets, but also access for EU trawlers?
Mixed agreements are inherently more difficult to negotiate than tuna agreements. However, we can not only confine our partnerships to tuna agreements. More than 70% of the fish products we consume in Europe already come from third countries imports - our dependence should not be increasing any further!
In the on-going negotiations with Mauritania, there is a blockage on the issue of the financial compensation: the EU wants an agreement where the level of payment is sized to the level of available fishing opportunities, however for Mauritania, the financial compensation is a right of access, in order to reserve a portion of the surplus resources for the EU, which should not be confused with the price paid by shipowners per ton of fish caught. What is your point of view?
The agreement with Mauritania is key for the European Union. It represents the most important agrement and offers fishing opportunities in several fisheries. Spanish, French, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese and Italian vessels operate in Mauritanian waters. The European Commission must duly take into account these elements during the negotiations. It is true that, at the moment, negotiations with Mauritania are somewhat complicated especially in terms of setting up the level of the financial compensation. The negotiators have to agree on a definition of what this compensation represents so that both parties can find benefits to it.
During the previous parliamentary term, you did a report on the social and environmental sustainability conditions to be applied to imports. In your opinion, how will this debate evolve?
The European fishing sector has to respect increasingly stringent social and environmental standards. It is therefore essential to apply the same conditionality principle to third countries exporting on the European market. Fish products are inherently sensitive products, in the same way as agricultural products are, and they must be regarded as such in the context of trade negotiations between the European Union and third countries. We must demand a total reciprocity, regarding these standards, from our partners, before liberalizing everything. I had specifically asked in my report that, in free trade agreements negotiations, fish and aquaculture products should be dealt with by the European Commissioner responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, in the same way that agricultural products are handled by the Commissioner responsible for Agriculture. But now, with the new European Commission, we don’t even have a Commissioner dealing exclusively with Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, since Maritime Affairs and Fisheries portfolio has been merged with the Environment portfolio.
The European Commission proposes to review the regulation for fishing authorisations allocated to all European vessels fishing outside EU waters including for those who fish outside the framework of SFPAs or regional fisheries organisations (ie with private licences, chartering arrangements, etc). What is your point of view?
The European Commission's proposal to revise this regulation on fishing authorisations is not a bad idea. At this stage, the Commission is proposing a simpler system, which will provide more reliable data and allow for a better control of these fishing activities. Transparency, control of fishing activities and the fight against IUU fishing are priority objectives for the European Parliament Fisheries Committee. We now have in place instruments, including the Common Fisheries Policy, the Control Regulation, the IUU Regulation and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, to reach these objectives. To maximise the efficiency of these instruments, we need to ensure coherence between the rules applying to vessels fishing in European waters and those fishing outside. The revision of the regulation on fishing authorisations should help to achieve this.