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Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 5 September 2000 - Strasbourg OJ edition

15. Fisheries agreements

  President. – The next item is the joint discussion of the following reports:

- by Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna (A5-0194/2000), on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, on the proposal for a Council regulation relating to the conclusion of the Protocol establishing the fishing possibilities and the financial compensation provided for in the Agreement between the European Economic Community and the Government of the Republic of Guinea on fishing off the Guinean coast for the period 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2001. [COM(2000) 304 – C5-0315/2000 – 2000/0154(CNS)]

- by Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna (A5-0188/2000), on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, on the proposal for a Council regulation relating to the conclusion of the Protocol defining, for the period 3 December 1999 to 2 December 2002, the fishing opportunities and the financial contribution provided for by the Agreement between the European Community and the Government of Mauritius on fishing in the waters of Mauritius [COM(2000) 229 – C5-0253/2000 – 2000/0094(CNS)]


  Varela Suanzes-Carpegna (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, today we are discussing two new international fishing protocols between the European Union and third countries: Guinea and Mauritius, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. These two agreements are different in terms of geographical location, dimension, fishing allowances and financial compensation. However, at the end of the day, they are two important agreements which will add to the already significant network of international fisheries agreements between the European Union and third countries, the basic pillar of the common fisheries policy, since it is essential to cover our supply requirements, both for the European consumer and for our industry, and it is also essential to do so by means of our own fleet.

The fisheries agreements with third countries therefore fulfil a crucial objective of the common fisheries policy, and they also contribute to employment and, in most cases, in European regions which are very dependent on this activity. They therefore create commercial balance, employment and preserve the competitiveness of Europe’s own significant fishing fleet. In its opinion on the 2001 budget, our committee has this afternoon approved the draft which our Vice-Chairman, Mrs Miguélez, had presented us, to increase budget line B7-8000 (International fisheries agreements) by EUR 7 million, thereby re-establishing the amounts in the preliminary draft budget presented at the time by the European Commission.

Morocco, Mauritania and Greenland are great negotiating challenges for the European Commission and we all hope that these negotiations will soon conclude successfully. For the moment, we are happy today with the agreements with Guinea and Mauritius, which will cover important needs of different fleets, of different States of the European Union, in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Notable in both cases is the constant and worrying increase in the payments by shipowners while, curiously, these are not included in other agreements, as is notoriously the case with the agreement with Greenland. For example, in the case of Mauritius, there is an increase in the amount that shipowners are to pay for licences, of EUR 5 per tonne of fish, that is to say, they are increased from EUR 20 to EUR 25, and there is also an equivalent increase in the case of catches by ship. The European Union’s contribution is reduced by 29%, payable by shipowners which, in the case of complete exploitation of the fishing allowances, would mean a contribution of 23.5% of the total cost. In the previous protocol it was 7%, that is to say, there would be an increase from 7% to 23.5% of the total cost payable by shipowners.

In this context we also wish to highlight the imbalances in the internal distribution of these fishing allowances by the European Commission amongst the Member States, as was the case with cephalopods in the agreement with Guinea. Both agreements give significant support to the local authorities for the conservation of their own fishing resources and furthermore advocate agreements between states as opposed to private agreements – which is very important in agreements such as the one with Morocco, which we are trying to negotiate – as well as the contribution of the European Union to the establishment of modern control systems, which forms part of the conservationist position of the European Union in all of the world’s seas, in accordance with its internal approach to its own Community waters.

On the other hand, there is an important direct relationship between the financial compensation and the objectives and cooperation actions that have been agreed. In the case of the agreement with Mauritius, we are talking about 50%, as opposed to 30% in the previous agreement. As is so often the case, there is a lack of documentation for comparing figures and data between the protocols, although in this case we should thank the European Commission for including the minutes of the negotiations, in the case of Guinea, which makes more data available and ultimately makes the process more transparent. This is welcome and the European Parliament is grateful for it.

The Committee on Fisheries has voted in favour of these agreements, and this has become the norm, since it considers that they are both highly beneficial to both parties, that is to say, the European Union and the third countries.

The Liberal Group has now presented Parliament with an amendment of similar content to each of the reports which would mean – in the view of the rapporteur – that the common fisheries policy would cease to be common and would mean a departure from an important pillar of external policy. It would mean that only the direct beneficiaries of the agreement negotiated by the European Commission would pay for it, on behalf of the fifteen Member States of the European Union.

The rapporteur is against this amendment, since, if only those who benefit directly from Community policies are to pay for them, that would quite simply be a way of breaking up the single market and dismantling the European Union itself.

We are therefore in favour of both fisheries agreements, which we hope may continue in the future, and we are anxious, Commissioner, to be able soon to hold a debate in our Fisheries Committee, and to repeat what we are saying now, in relation to the extremely important fisheries agreement with Morocco. Keep up the hard work – I can see from the conversation we had this afternoon that you are working hard – and I encourage you also to move forward with that important negotiation.


  Langenhagen (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, in principle I approve the new protocols to the fisheries agreements with Mauritius and Guinea. The Commission and the rapporteur have done some good work. However, the effects of fisheries agreements upon the EU budget are not something to be sneezed at. If we are to draw the correct conclusions, no more time must now be lost in involving Parliament, because trouble is brewing. Allow me to explain what I mean. We are concerned here with mixed agreements. It is not just a question of how many fish are to be obtained for how much money, but also about employing the precautionary principle to achieve the sustainable use of fisheries resources.

We want to help Mauritius and Guinea develop fisheries management, as well as offer financial support in the fields of education and research. In Mauritius, for example, just under 50% of the total volume of available finance is to be used for these measures. I myself consider it a good thing for us also to be promoting development measures in connection with fisheries. Fisheries is the ideal field for such a combination. Yet, in the Committee on Fisheries, we are repeatedly confronted by the issue of whether the price paid by the European Union to third countries for its fishing rights is not too high. There is a danger of the European Union’s one day being ridiculed and taken advantage of internationally because of its generosity. Moreover, to what extent are third countries now really all dependent upon EU funds? Bilateral agreements are increasingly coming into force because ship owners or others offer more money than the EU. If the latter were to become a day-to-day occurrence regulated by the market itself, might not consideration have to be given to the question of whether the EU ought not progressively to withdraw from the current agreements and perhaps spend its subsidies in other ways? Obviously, that would have to be compatible with the common European fisheries policy.

I welcome the agreements that are before the House. Only, we ought not to be blind and, above all, not issue any blank cheques.


  Miguélez Ramos (PSE).(ES) Mr President, the Socialist Group supports the proposal for a Council Regulation on the European Community fisheries agreements with Mauritius and the Republic of Guinea. Both agreements fall within a general European Community policy based on our presence in the rest of the world.

The fishing sector forms part of the Community’s economy and, in order for the Community fleet to be able to fish and carry out its activity, the Community must reach agreements with third countries and international organisations, so that our fishermen can enjoy adequate fishing allowances. Both agreements have been renewed regularly. In the case of Guinea we have had an agreement since 1983 and in the case of Mauritius since 1989.

There can be no doubt about the cost-effectiveness of these agreements for the European Union, as demonstrated in the study commissioned by the Commission on their cost-benefit relationships. Nor can we doubt the beneficial effects for the other contracting parties, in this case Mauritius and the Republic of Guinea. Both countries gain valuable resources for their development in exchange for the fishing allowances which they grant to our fleet. These are agreements which benefit both parties and which have been amended over time, being adapted to the demands of the sustainable exploitation of resources and of actions supporting the efforts of the authorities in the third countries to develop their own fishing sector.

The protocols that periodically renew the agreements have been adapted to the true situation, to the quantities of fish actually caught and the state of resources in those fishing grounds. Despite reducing the quantity of catches in the agreement with Guinea, the economic compensation to be received by the African country will be maintained, since the new protocol increases the amount of the tariffs and the licences which must be paid by Community shipowners. Therefore, the contrast with other agreements – I would like to highlight, for example, the agreement with Greenland, in which the shipowners do not contribute to its cost – is the all the more drastic. In the case of Mauritius, it also reduces the volume of authorised catches and specifies the number of vessels authorised to fish.

The approval by the European Parliament of these two fisheries agreements sends a political message demonstrating our support for the signing and renewal of other fisheries agreements which are of much greater importance for our sector because of the number of ships and fishermen which depend on them. I am referring in particular to the agreement with Morocco. Seven hundred ships out of action is excessive, and 8 000 fishermen not working for 10 months are far too many, given that the contacts so far between the Commission and the Moroccan Government have offered little hope of success.

Everybody must do their duty and fulfil their obligations. This institution has done so, with its Committee on Fisheries approving today, in a special meeting, the amounts proposed by the European Commission in the B7-800 line on fisheries agreements with third countries. It now falls to the European Commission to negotiate hard in order to reach a reasonable agreement with Morocco. We are still waiting for that to happen.


  Busk (ELDR).(DA) Mr President, may I first of all thank the Chairman of the Committee on Fisheries, Mr Varela, for a particularly good piece of work on these reports. In principle, those of us in the Group of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party support the EU’s having fisheries agreements with third countries, but I should also like to point out that what we in the Liberal Group want – and this is why we have tabled a number of amendments – is for the fishermen or ship owners to make more of a contribution to financing the fisheries agreements. It is, of course, only right that they should be involved in financing those agreements from which they themselves benefit more than anyone else. The fisheries agreements are extremely important for certain regions in which, in addition to employment in the fisheries sector itself, there are a range of associated businesses wholly or partially dependent upon the fishing industry. By means of the fisheries agreements, the EU is able to develop its activities in this sphere and exchange fishing rights with third countries. The effect of the EU fleets upon fishing resources – in terms of structural policy and the financial situation – ought to be analysed much more than it is at present. I want to conclude by asking the Commission to provide the Committee on Fisheries with a report on what for third countries are the positive and negative consequences of the EU’s fisheries agreements.


  Farage (EDD). – Mr President, last October I spoke here against the EU-Angola fisheries agreement. My reason for doing so was simple. All the evidence shows that agreements between the EU and third world countries have been conservation disasters. They also seriously damage the indigenous populations. This time we have proposals for agreements with Guinea and Mauritius, which will have similar effects.

In a way, that much is recognised in the current proposals. More stringent checks are being called for. Inspection vessels are to be provided, and greater note taken of the needs of local fishermen. But that is not enough. There is no guarantee that these agreements will be properly policed. Policing of fishing effort in European waters is woefully inadequate, and it is therefore hard to believe that things will be any different in foreign climes.

In addition, British fishermen from the south-west of England to the north of Scotland are continuing to suffer greatly because of the common fisheries policy. Fishermen are discarding thousands of tonnes of saleable fish and going bankrupt in the process, yet while this economic and conservation disaster is in progress, the EU is proposing to spend over EUR 7 million to give Greek, Spanish and Italian fishermen access to the waters. By any standards, this is preposterous. Not only will I vote against these proposals, but I shall urge my government to oppose them.


  Cunha (PPE-DE).(PT) Mr President, I welcome the Commission’s two proposals on these two fisheries agreements, particularly the agreement with Guinea. I should like to begin by highlighting and expressing my support for the innovations introduced by the current agreement, which dedicate 50% of the European Union’s total support to specific actions aimed at the sustainable development of the sector. Amongst other new aspects of this agreement, I also wish to highlight the innovation of providing an additional premium of EUR 370 million in the event that the Republic of Guinea implements a range of actions designed to reduce its overall fishing effort.

As Guinea is a country with an annual available production of 250 000 tonnes of fish, and since its small-scale fishing fleet only has the capacity to catch 50 000 tonnes, this is clearly an agreement of mutual convenience, which avoids any conflict of interest and which also enables Guinea to obtain exceptional financing to develop its fisheries sector.

We see from this that, apart from the importance of fisheries agreements for the European Union, they can also be used as instruments for development in these countries. As a Portuguese citizen, I am bound to regret the fact in this context that the Commission and the Council are so far behind in their negotiations on the agreement with Morocco. I am also unhappy at the difficulties being raised over other Member States having access to fisheries belonging to Greenland, the agreement with whom has hardly been used, and which is shortly due for renewal. It is nevertheless important that the requirements of supervision and control, as well as the programmes designed to control the reduction of the fishing effort are also imposed on the other countries that fish in the waters of these developing countries and not only on the Member States of the European Union. I therefore ask the European Union, during its negotiations, to make an extra effort to ensure that this rule is applied to everyone and not just to us.


  Van Dam (EDD).(NL) Mr President, sadly, all too often in the past, the reorganisation of the European fishing fleet has led to these ships being transferred to the African coast. They was no limit on the extent to which they could be used there, which posed a serious threat, not just to the fish stocks but also to the livelihoods and the food supply of the people in the local area. Accordingly, when we draw up these fisheries agreements, we should not just take account of the interests of the European fishermen, we must also bear in mind the interests of the local population.

The agreement with Mauritius concerns the tuna fish catch, but the situation is far more complex for Guinea. European ships fish there for fish species that are used by the local fishermen. It is encouraging to see that in both agreements 50% of the financial contribution will be allocated to developing the local fishing industry. Control over how this money is spent is certainly prerequisite to the future extension of the Protocol. Private contracts between European shipowners and the Guinean Government are often concluded without this form of assistance from the local fishing industry, and contribute to over-fishing due to a lack of controls.

A very worrying recent development is that small French trawlers are concluding contracts outside the fisheries agreement. These trawlers will fish in the coastal zone, where they are a direct threat to local fishermen. All Member State ships should respect an economic twelve-mile exclusion zone. In addition, I feel it goes without saying that shipowners should contribute more to the costs of the fisheries agreements and that the tax payer should not be the one to subsidise this exploitation of fishing grounds.


  Maat (PPE-DE).(NL) Mr President, first of all I would like to compliment the Commission, and also our rapporteur, on the agreement reached. The agreement takes more account of the developing countries themselves, in this case Guinea and Mauritius, than was formerly the case. That is something in its favour and what it in fact means is that these agreements should actually fall to be considered under the codecision procedure with Parliament. Perhaps this will take place next year though, after the IGC.

I am critical of a number of other points. I believe it is a sound agreement. Clearly this agreement is extremely important to the countries of the south; after all, the southern fisheries agreements are directly responsible for 13 000 jobs in Spain and Portugal, among others. The turnover is no mean feat either, amounting as it does to around EUR 485 million, in comparison with which, an agreement with Greenland, for example, pales into insignificance. This means that the sums set aside for this purpose will also mainly be spent in these countries. There is something to be said for this alone.

Historically, these countries had their agreements, but it would be a positive move if the business community itself were to make more of a contribution to this kind of agreement. I mention this because a balance must be struck between developing countries and countries with a large fishing industry, but it is also necessary to strike a balance in the way funds are spent across the various fishing zones.

That being the case, I would point out that certain countries in the north, of which my own country is one, have great difficulty with the cutbacks they are experiencing in the multiannual orientation programme. The honourable member from Great Britain has already described the problems the fishing sector is having to contend with there. This simply means that when it comes to the fisheries policy, we must look with a critical eye at this agreement in order to ascertain where the interests lie and how the money is being spent.

It is quite clear that regional elements are going to play a more prominent role. Let there be no mistake, I think this agreement is indispensable to Spanish and South European fishermen – that is the first point – but I think it is also essential for a regional policy to allow for restructuring of the fishing industry in the northern coastal areas, to offer scope for sound agreements with northern countries, and for it to be properly tailored to specific regional needs.


  Fraga Estévez (PPE-DE).(ES) Mr President, it seems that the Commission is happy to ignore the requests of the Council and this Parliament – the former clearly expressed at the Council of Ministers of October 1997 – and delay the work on the guidelines for the negotiation of the fisheries agreements.

The protocol with Guinea-Conakry is a good example. We expected the payment quota for shipowners to be increased, but it is intolerable that, in the Council working groups, the Commission is prepared to describe that increase as light, given that it means an ever-greater sacrifice for the fleet and that – I repeat – in the agreements with the northern countries, shipowners do not pay a penny. Furthermore, the Commission has been prepared to ignore the principle of relative stability by casually removing from the Community fleet fishing rights that have been acquired in accordance with that principle. The principle of relative stability is either sacred or it is not, and it cannot be untouchable in Community waters when the complete opposite is the case in the fisheries agreements with the southern countries.

The Commission says that it has taken away Spain’s allowances for fishing cephalopods because it did not fully utilise them during the last protocol, and it grants them to countries which had never fished there. That is all very well. I have always argued for the total exploitation of the fishing rights granted, but in all waters, not just in relation to the agreements with the southern countries. In the agreements with the northern countries they are completely under-exploited and there is no way that the fleets with the greatest interest in fishing there can do so. Why do these differences exist? Could you please explain this once and for all.

Furthermore, what makes the Commission think that, because it did not utilise the fishing allowances during the previous protocol, it will not do so during this one, given that its cephalopod-fishing fleet which was fishing in Morocco has been out of action for nine months and there is no solution in sight? Mr President, all of this illustrates the mental and physical chaos of our Community fishing authorities, and it will only be resolved when the guidelines which I referred to earlier are established in a clear and agreed way.


  James Nicholson (PPE-DE). – Can I first of all welcome the report and congratulate the rapporteur for his work in bringing forward this report? There is little doubt that fisheries agreements are coming under much closer scrutiny to determine what they achieve and what they deliver, not only for people in the European Union, but also for the countries with which they were concluded in the first place.

The rapporteur rightly mentioned the agreement with Morocco several times. This agreement is causing tremendous concern to the people most directly affected and those who might benefit to some extent and has certainly prompted great disquiet in the Fisheries Committee. I want to ask the Commissioner very straightforwardly and point-blank whether the Commission, and Parliament, and the European Union are being held to ransom by Morocco because of its unwillingness to agree. Perhaps he could give an answer when he comments on the debate later on.

We cannot overlook the concern about fisheries agreements. They are expensive and the amount of money involved is substantial. The money has to be taken into account to a greater extent in the future, and we cannot pretend otherwise. Yes, in the past the agreements have been acceptable, but we need a new approach and a new vision in the future. In the longer term the Commission will have to cooperate with Parliament, because Parliament is concerned to determine how agreements can best be achieved.

Looking at what we have before us, I have to say to you, Commissioner, that the present situation cannot continue. Yes, I support the proposal submitted and I will support the proposal that emerges, but I wish to stress that the principle cannot continue for ever and support in the future cannot be taken for granted as it has been in the past.


  Fischler, Commission.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I should like to say a warm thank you to the rapporteur, Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna, for the two reports he has submitted today when the new protocol for a fisheries agreement between the European Community and the Republics of Mauritius and Guinea is up for discussion.

Where the first agreement with Mauritius is concerned, I am glad to hear that you support the new technical features, as well as the further amendments to this protocol as these relate, for example, to the distribution of costs, to the increased finance available for scientific programmes, to monitoring and control and to subsequent financing. The agreement with Mauritius is a typical tuna fish agreement, involving a small number of fishing opportunities for line fishermen, and forms an important component of the EC network of tuna fish agreements in the Indian Ocean.

This new protocol is the fourth since the Framework Agreement came into force in 1990. The three-year extension to the protocol creates fishing opportunities for 83 tuna fishermen and, by means of this protocol, the October 1997 guidelines of the Fisheries Council are to be included in the agreement for the first time, namely an increase in specific measures for developing the fisheries sector and a new distribution of the costs between the Community and the ship owners.

Among the most important features of the protocol is the fact that, in view of the small quantities of fish caught during the three years that the last protocol was in force, the authorised tonnage has been reduced from 7 500 tonnes to 5 500 tonnes, which will also lead to a corresponding reduction – namely of 29% – in compensation payments.

I can also inform you that 50%, that is to say half, of compensation payments are intended for specific measures to develop the local fisheries sector. Measures in the fields of science and technology, including plans for monitoring and control, are to be financed. In this connection, I should like to emphasise that the conditions for monitoring such measures have been improved by the fact that the authorities on Mauritius now have to submit a detailed report each year and by the fact that the Commission is able to review payments in the light of whether the various measures have in practice been carried out.

Licence fees for ship owners have been considerably increased, from EUR 20 to EUR 25 per tonne. All in all, the protocol has led to a comprehensive redistribution of the costs between the Community and the ship owners, since the latter now have to bear 23.5% of the total costs compared with a previous figure of only 7%. That is in line with the Council’s 1997 decision in connection with the third country agreements, whereby costs are to be distributed in a balanced way. There are also technical improvements when it comes to catch notifications, the deduction of fees due and the procedures for taking catches on board.

If I understand you correctly, you also welcome the technical features we have introduced into the agreement with Guinea, especially the fact that, by means of a special premium, more attention is being given to the development of marine resources.

Since 1983, we have also maintained a Framework Agreement with the Republic of Guinea. This agreement too is important for the European Union because it specifies fishing opportunities for trawler and tuna fishermen. Within the framework of the agreements with various neighbouring States, particularly Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco, it also offers a partial alternative for the fisheries industry during the close seasons. It also, to some degree, offers an alternative to Moroccan waters. I am therefore pleased to be able to inform you that the protocol with the Republic of Guinea contains important innovations, aimed especially at promoting the precautionary principle and the sustainable use of resources.

I should like specifically to mention at this point that a premium is to be introduced for the purpose of supporting the Guinean authorities in improving fish stocks in Guinea’s exclusive economic zone. This premium will only be paid if Guinea can prove that its overall fishing activities have been reduced and that the agreed measures aimed at more stringent monitoring and control have been applied. The idea is that we want to support Guinea in promoting bilateral fisheries agreements with other States and in reducing the number of private arrangements which frequently undermine sustained fisheries management.

What is more, 46% of the total aid package is now to be spent on the financial counterpart for specific measures such as scientific and technical research and the monitoring and inspection of fishing activities, as well as on supporting technical training and further education in the sphere of fisheries and on supporting participation in the work of international organisations.

Finally, the protocol provides for close cooperation between both parties in administering the measures. Monitoring is to be facilitated by means of a detailed financial report and by the Community’s ability to review payments in the light of whether or not the measures have in practice been carried out.

Where your amendments are concerned, I should like to make it clear that the Commission can in principle accept the first two of these. The Commission has to reject Amendment No 3 because it contradicts the current theory on protocols to fisheries agreements and affects the Commission’s negotiating powers. Since the protocol constitutes an annex to the Framework Agreement, it can be regularly renewed without the need for any new negotiating mandate. It goes without saying however that, with its leading role in the negotiations, the Commission will see to it that the negotiating guidelines laid down by the Council are observed.

The Commission must also reject Amendment No 4 because it contravenes the spirit of the Council’s 1997 decision calling for a distribution of costs between ship owners and the Community. Many thanks for your attention.


  President. – Thank you, Commissioner.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.

We have exhausted the agenda and ourselves, I think.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you goodnight.

(The sitting was closed at 11.25 p.m.)(1)


(1) Agenda for next sitting: See Minutes

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