Support for the fishery and aquaculture sectors in response to the coronavirus crisis.

In “Fisheries - PECH”

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

Measures taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic such as the closure of restaurants have had a strong impact on the food supply chain. Fisheries and aquaculture are among the sectors most immediately hit by the crisis. In order to alleviate the socio-economic impact, the EU adopted several measures.

As a first step, the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII), proposed by the Commission on 13 March 2020, adopted by the co-legislators and in force since 1 April 2020, contains provisions specifically for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and was aimed at quickly redirecting funds from the EU budget. In order to mobilise cash reserves, the CRII allowed the Commission to waive its obligation to reclaim some €8 billion of unspent amounts from the structural funds, including the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). In addition, the CRII Regulation amended Articles 35 and 57 of the EMFF on mutual insurance funds, in order to be able to provide compensation to fishermen and aquaculture farmers to cover economic losses due to a public health crisis.

Secondly the Commission also relaxed the strict rules on state aid by proposing a new temporary state aid framework on 19 March  2020, authorising state aid to fisheries and aquaculture companies up to €120 000 (before up to €30 000). This temporary aid can immediately be applied by Member States and be granted until the end of the year.

Although Parliament and Council had adopted the CRII proposal without amendments, the changes to the EMFF were described as largely insufficient. As noted by the Chair of Parliament's Committee on Fisheries (PECH), mutual funds had been envisaged in the operational programmes of only a few countries. According to the latest EMFF implementation report, there have been no operations or expenditure under Article 35. The fishing industry, the Council of the EU and Members of the European Parliament therefore urged additional measures, especially financial support for the temporary cessation of fishing, the suspension of aquaculture activities and the storage of fishery products by producer organisations.

On 2 April 2020, in response to stakeholders' requests, the Commission adopted a new set of measures for the fishery and aquaculture sectors, as part of a CRII+ package covering several legislative proposals. The proposal related to fisheries and aquaculture amends the EMFF and the common market organisation (CMO) regulation to allow for

  • support for the temporary cessation of fishing activities and support to aquaculture farmers for the temporary suspension of production or additional costs, caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, without the usual limits and with co-financing by the EU up to 75 %;
  • support to producers for the private storage of fishery and aquaculture products;
  • more flexibility in reallocating financial resources within the operational programmes and a simplified procedure for amending them with respect to the new measures.

In the Parliament, the Committee on Fisheries (PECH) deals with the proposal. A presentation by the Commissioner and an exchange of views was held via a videoconference meeting of the PECH Committee on 7 April 2020. The proposal was well received, although a number of Members expressed the need for some changes related mostly to the eligibility of the measures. The PECH Committee also agreed to speed up the legislative process by referring the proposal to be adopted directly by plenary via the urgent procedure (defined under Rule 163).

In the Council, the mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament was on the agenda of the COREPER meeting on 8 April 2020. Subsequently, negotiations between Council and Parliament led to an agreement on a number of changes to the proposal, including 

  • aid for temporary cessation to be eligible also for new vessels (i.e. by reducing proportionally the requirement of 120 days of fishing activity over the last two years for those fishermen who started working less than two years prior to the application for support) and for fishers on foot (i.e. those fishing without a boat, often women);
  • the possibility to grant working capital and compensating for the reduction of sales and additional storage costs for aquaculture farmers and processing enterprises;
  • provisions for outermost regions to be able to receive additional help to cope with their specific difficulties related to the crisis;
  • additional budgetary flexibility, so that 10% of the funds allocated to the collection of scientific data and fisheries control may be also be used for measures related to the mitigation of the COVID-19 outbreak, in order not to penalise those countries that otherwise already exhausted allocated funding.

The COREPER approved Council’s position in line with these changes on 14 April 2020 and, considering the urgency of the file, decided on 17 April upon using the written procedure for the adoption of the legislative act and upon a derogation from the 8-week period provided for the role of national parliaments.

In Parliament, the proposal was voted during the extraordinary plenary session of 16-17 April. After the plenary approved the request of the PECH Committee to proceed according to the Rule 163 on 16 April 2020, 16 plenary amendments were tabled, out of which 11 were adopted. The amended proposal was then adopted by the plenary by 671 votes to 10 and 15 abstentions.

As Parliament's first reading position reflects what had been previously agreed between the co-legislators, the Council approved unanimously Parliament's position via a written procedure, which was completed on 22 April 2020. Both parties have signed the legislative act on 23 April 2020. It was published in the EU Official Journal on 24 April 2020 and entered into force the day after. The expenditure to fight the coronavirus crisis through the above-mentioned measures is retroactively eligible from 1 February 2020 until the end of the year.


Further reading:

Author: Frederik Scholaert, Members' Research Service,

As of 20/04/2023.