REPORT on the proposal for a Council Decision suspending the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the European Economic Community on fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau (COM(98)0777 - C4-0102/98 - 98/0355(CNS) (Delegation of the power of decision - Rule 52 of the Rules of Procedure)

30 March 1999

Committee on Fisheries
Rapporteur: José Girão Pereira

By letter of 23 February 1999, the Council consulted Parliament, pursuant to Article 43 of the EC Treaty, on the proposal for a Council Decision suspending the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the European Economic Community on fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau.

At the sitting of 12 February 1999, the President of Parliament announced that, pursuant to Rule 52 of the Rules of Procedure, the Conference of Presidents had delegated the power of decision to the Committee on Fisheries.

At the sitting of 25 February 1999 the President of Parliament announced that he had referred this proposal to the Committee on Fisheries as the committee responsible and the Committee on Budgets for its opinion.

At its meeting of {19/01/1999}19 January 1999 the Committee on Fisheries appointed Mr José Girão Pereira rapporteur.

At its meetings of 16 February 1999, 16 March and 30 March 1999, the Committee on Fisheries considered the Commission proposal and the draft report.

At the last meeting it adopted the draft legislative resolution unanimously.

The following took part in the vote: Fraga Estévez, chairman; d'Aboville, Baldarelli, Crampton, Kofoed, Langenhagen, McKenna, Teverson and Varela Suanzes-Carpegna.

The opinion of the Committee on Budgets is attached.

The report was tabled on 30 March 1999.

A LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL - DRAFT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

Proposal for a Council Decision suspending the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the European Economic Community on fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau (COM(98)0777 - C4-0102/98 - 98/0355(CNS))

The proposal is approved with the following amendments:

Text proposed by the Commission[1]

Amendments made by Parliament

(Amendment 1)

Article 2

As soon as the conditions for a resumption of fishing under the Agreement referred to in Article 1 have been re-established, the Council, acting on a proposal form the Commission may terminate this suspension of the Agreement and fix the details of financial support to Guinea-Bissau for adhoc action aimed at restoring facilities in support of fishing activities, including infrastructure for monitoring them.Pending such a decision, and as soon as lasting peace is restored which enables a resumption of fishing activities under the terms of the Agreement, the Commission is hereby empowered to decide on an interim basis that the fishing may resume.

As soon as the conditions for a resumption of fishing under the Agreement referred to in Article 1 have been re-established, the Council, acting on a proposal form the Commission and taking into account the opinion of the European Parliament may terminate this suspension of the Agreement and fix the details of financial support to Guinea-Bissau for ad-hoc action aimed at restoring facilities in support of fishing activities, including infrastructure for monitoring them,respecting the interinstitutional agreements concluded in the sector of international fisheries agreements.Pending such a decision, and as soon as lasting peace is restored which enables a resumption of fishing activities under the terms of the Agreement, the Commission is hereby empowered to decide on an interim basis that the fishing may resume.

Legislative resolution embodying Parliament's opinion on the proposal for a Council Decision suspending the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the European Economic Community on fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau (COM(98)0777 - C4-0102/99 - 98/0355(CNS ))

(Consultation procedure)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the Commission proposal to the Council, COM(98)0777 - 98/0355(CNS)[2],

- having been consulted by the Council pursuant to Article 43 of the EC Treaty (C4-0102/99),

- having regard to Rule 58 of its Rules of Procedure,

- having delegated the power of decision to the Committee on Fisheries, pursuant to Rule 52 of the Rules of Procedure,

- having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries and the opinion of the Committee on Budgets (A4-0178/99),

1. Approves the Commission proposal, subject to Parliament's amendments;

2. Calls on the Commission to alter its proposal accordingly pursuant to Article 189a(2) of the EC Treaty;

3. Asks to be consulted again should the Council intend to make substantial modifications to the Commission proposal;

4. Instructs its President to forward this opinion to the Council and Commission.

  • [1] OJ C 022, 27.1.1999, p. 16.
  • [2] OJ C 22 of 27.1.1999, p.16.

B EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

A. THE COMMISSION PROPOSAL

This Agreement governing the relations between the European Union and the Republic of GuineaBissau in the fisheries sector was signed in 1980 and has been followed at regular intervals since then by protocols fixing the fishing possibilities and financial compensation provided for in that agreement. The last protocol was approved on 4 June 1997 and came into force by Council Regulation (EC) No 2615/97 on 18 December 1997. It relates to a period of four years from 16 June 1997 to 15 June 2001.

The financial compensation is fixed at ECU 8.5 m per annum plus ECU 500 000 per annum for the strengthening of other sectors such as monitoring, vocational training, research and so forth. The protocol in question was deemed generally positive in the report of the Committee of Fisheries of 2 October 1997 (rapporteur: Mr Imaz San Miguel - A4-0300/97) and was adopted almost unanimously.

Under the pressure of the armed conflict which broke out in June 1998 leading the government to go into exile in neighbouring Senegal for security reasons, the closure of banks, government offices and the Commission's delegation, and the suspension of fishing activities, the Commission was obliged to propose temporary suspension of the fishing agreement and of the payment of financial compensation. Community vessels were requested to interrupt fishing activities and leave the fishing areas. Ten Community fishing vessels which had already paid their dues for the second half of 1998 continued to fish at their own risk under an authorisation issued by the authorities in exile.

Nevertheless, on 20 June 1998, following negotiations which had already led to the signature of a peace agreement, a government of national unity was formed which hopes that the payments will be resumed as quickly as possible. In view of the fact that foreign troops are still stationed there, the situation does not seem to have completely returned to normal.

B. THE EP's POSITION

The rapporteur regards the proposal for the suspension of the fishing agreement submitted to the Council by the Commission as justified and legitimate. He also approves the proposal for the financial compensation due in respect of the second year of the agreement to be transferred into a special account and for that compensation to be paid on a pro rata basis once lasting peace has been restored and the business of government and, in particular, fishing activities, has been resumed.

He also approves the simultaneous grant of financial support for ad hoc action to restore facilities supporting fishing activities including infrastructure for monitoring those activities.

Nevertheless, in view of the fact that the Commission can decide on an interim basis that fishing may resume and thus pay the financial compensation transferred to the special account, the rapporteur requests that, given the circumstances, it should do so without delay.

By taking such action, the European Union will ensure that European funds are used properly and will give valuable support to the peace process of a country which relies to a large extent on that financial compensation.

18 March 1999

OPINION

(Rule 147)

for the Committee on Fisheries

on the proposal for a Council Decision suspending the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the European Economic Community on fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau (COM(98)0777 - C4-0102/99 - 98/0355(CNS)) (report by Girão Pereira)

Committee on Budgets

Draftsperson: Mrs Karin Jöns

PROCEDURE

At its meeting of 17 February 1999, the Committee on Budgets appointed Mrs Karin Jöns draftsperson.

It considered the draft opinion at its meeting of 18 March 1999.

At this meeting it adopted the following conclusions unanimously.

The following took part in the vote: Samland, Chairman; Tillich, Willockx and Giansily, vicechairmen; Jöns, draftsman, (for Haug); Bösch, Brinkhorst, Colom i Naval, Dell'Alba, Dührkop Dührkop, Kellett-Bowman (for Böge), and Viola (for Theato)

Background

On 27 February 1980 the European Economic Community and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau signed an agreement on fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau[1]. On 18 December 1997 the Council approved a protocol which sets out fishing possibilities and financial compensation for the period of four years from 16 June 1997 to 15 June 2001[2]. The protocol includes costs for the European Community of € 36 million for the four years period, comprising € 8.5 million financial compensation each year and €0.3 million for scientific programmes, €0.4 million for scholarships, €1.3 million for other programmes.

The armed conflict which broke out in Guinea-Bissau in June 1998 interrupted the fishing activities by European Community vessels. Fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau could not continue under the terms of the EC-Guinea-Bissau fisheries agreement in conditions of adequate safety. The Commission informed the Governments of Guinea-Bissau and of the Member States about the suspension of the agreement, i.e. the suspension of fishing activities and of the payment of financial compensation. Community fishing vessels were requested to leave the fishing area of Guinea-Bissau on 19 June 1998.

On 1 November 1998 an agreement between the parties to the conflict in Guinea-Bissau brought about a cease-fire. Hostilities however resumed, so that fishing activities are still suspended.

Awaiting the beginning of the peace process the Commission decided "to transfer the financial compensation due in respect of the second year of the Agreement into a special account opened by the Commission, with precise conditions being set on disbursements from it."[3]

The proposal now published by the Commission provides for the suspension of the agreement with effect from 19 June 1998 (Article 1). A resumption of fishing may be decided by the Commission on an interim basis, and finally by a decision of the Council acting on a proposal from the Commission. The decision to resume the fishing shall fix also the details for "financial support to Guinea-Bissau for ad hoc action aimed at restoring facilities in support of fishing activities, including infrastructure for monitoring them" (Article 2).

During the process the Parliament was informed by the Commission services about the considerations and actions of the Commission. On 25 February 1999 the European Parliament received officially the Council´s requests for Parliament´s opinion.

The Committee on Fisheries expects to adopt its draft report on 30 March 1999.

Appraisal

1. Judgement on the decision of the Commission to suspend the fishing activities off the coast of Guinea-Bissau is not under the competence of the Committee on Budgets. Nevertheless, your draftsperson doubts if it was necessary to delay the presentation of a Commission proposal six month after its decision to interrupt the implementation of the agreement.

2. The expenditure for the financial compensation for the second year of the protocol (16 June 1998 to 15 June 1999), i.e. €8.5 million, was committed in April 1998 as scheduled in the protocol. The payment was not implemented because the war situation in Guinea-Bissau caused the interruption of the fishing activities and the suspension of the agreement. On 17 December 1998 the Commission decided to deposit the amount of the second year instalment to an out of-budget account.

3. The commitments of the 1998 budget were duly committed. In the 1999 budget (line B78000) a commitment of €8.5 million (third year instalment) and a payment of € 17 million is foreseen (second and third year instalments) for the agreement with Guinea-Bissau. The deposit of an amount corresponding to the second instalment in an out-of-budget account was meant as a political sign towards Guinea-Bissau, that the Commission is still committed to pay the €8.5 million as concluded in the agreement and already committed.

4. This procedure might be understandable from a political point of view. From a budgetary point of view the procedure is questionable. The opening of a special out-of-budget account makes the procedure more complex and reduces the transparency of the budget. It does not change the legal position of the European Community to respect the obligations following from international agreements, or to improve the legal position of the third countries concerning Community payments.

5. The character of the expenditure should change according to the proposal of the Commission: Financial compensation should be paid corresponding to the remaining period of the second year of the protocol (pro rata temporis) beginning with re-establishing the conditions to allow the resumption of fishing activities. Allocations not used as financial compensation should be used for "granting of financial support for an ad hoc action aiming at the restoration of the framework, support and control methods activities of fishing"[4]. The details of this financial support should be fixed in the Council decision to terminate the suspension of the Agreement as soon as the conditions for the resumption of the agreement are given. This means that a new legislative procedure has to be started, equivalent to the legislative procedure for the Council Regulation on the conclusion of the Protocol itself. Your draftsperson proposes an amendment which will make clear that the Parliament has to be consulted for the adoption of this new legal basis. But it may as well raise the question, whether the allocation already committed in 1998 as compensation provided for in the fisheries agreement, can be recommitted in 1999 partly for an ad hoc action.

Conclusions

The Committee on Budgets asks the responsible Committee on Fisheries to adopt its report on the Proposal for a Council decision on condition that the questions arising from the following conclusions are answered appropriately by the Commission:

The Committee on Budgets

1. notes that the Commission is presenting a proposal for a Council decision suspending the agreement between Guinea-Bissau and the EEC on fishing off the coast of Guinea-Bissau six month after the interruption of the fishing activities,

2. notes that the Commission has deposited the amount corresponding to the financial compensation for the second year of the protocol in an out of-budget account, and considers that this procedure offends the principles of clarity and transparency of the implementation of the budget,

3. states that the Committee on Budgets would have preferred to enter the amount earmarked for the fisheries agreement with Guinea-Bissau in the reserve (B0-40),

4. states that the termination of the suspension of the agreement requires a decision of the Council following consultation of the European Parliament, and a decision of the budgetary authority on the expenditure to be provided for financial support to Guinea-Bissau for ad hoc actions aimed at restoring facilities in support of fishing activities.

5.

asks the responsible Committee to include the following amendment in its report:

Text proposed by the Commission[5]

Amendments made by Parliament

(Amendment 1)

Article 2

As soon as the conditions for a resumption of fishing under the Agreement referred to in Article 1 have been re-established, the Council, acting on a proposal form the Commission may terminate this suspension of the Agreement and fix the details of financial support to Guinea-Bissau for adhoc action aimed at restoring facilities in support of fishing activities, including infrastructure for monitoring them.Pending such a decision, and as soon as lasting peace is restored which enables a resumption of fishing activities under the terms of the Agreement, the Commission is hereby empowered to decide on an interim basis that the fishing may resume.

As soon as the conditions for a resumption of fishing under the Agreement referred to in Article 1 have been re-established, the Council, acting on a proposal form the Commission and taking into account the opinion of the European Parliament may terminate this suspension of the Agreement and fix the details of financial support to Guinea-Bissau for ad-hoc action aimed at restoring facilities in support of fishing activities, including infrastructure for monitoring them,respecting the interinstitutional agreements concluded in the sector of international fisheries agreements.Pending such a decision, and as soon as lasting peace is restored which enables a resumption of fishing activities under the terms of the Agreement, the Commission is hereby empowered to decide on an interim basis that the fishing may resume.

  • [1]  OJ L 226, 29.08.80, p.33
  • [2]  OJ L 353, 24.12.97, p.7
  • [3] COM(98)0777, p.3 (explanatory statement)
  • [4] COM(98)0777, p.7 (financial statement)
  • [5] OJ C 022, 27.1.1999, p. 16.