A more flexible Maritime and Fisheries Fund to better support the European fishing communities

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Last June, the European Commission presented its proposal for the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) covering the period 2021-2027. The Commission plans to allocated 6.14 billion EUR to the new Fund with the main objective of supporting fishing communities towards a shift to more sustainable fisheries.

Beside supporting the fishing sector and especially the small-scale fleet, the new Fund aims at generating growth and jobs for the coastal communities towards an increased support to the blue economy (e.g. tourism, marine biotechnologies, aquaculture, ocean energy). Moreover, the Fund aims at strengthening international ocean governance, protecting marine ecosystems and contributing to climate change adaptation in accordance with the EU commitments made at the international level.


"Healthy, well-managed oceans are a pre-condition for long-term investments and job creation in fisheries and the broader blue economy. As a global ocean actor and the world's fifth largest producer of seafood, the European Union has a strong responsibility to protect, conserve and sustainably use the oceans and their resources. The Fund will allow Member States and the Commission to live up to that responsibility and invest into sustainable fisheries, food security, a thriving maritime economy, and healthy and productive seas and oceans[1]."

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries


On a more practical level, the European Commission made an important effort to simplify the procedures to access the Fund and to make it more flexible. Indeed, the current EMFF, which will run until 2020, has been severely criticised as underused[2]. According to the EU Commission, the low utilisation rate is due to the fact that it took Member States several years to set up the necessary structures and to draw their operational programmes specifying their priorities and the consequent allocation of resources.

To avoid the same problem with the new Fund, the European Commission has followed a different approach and proposes to give greater flexibility to the Member States by leaving them free to decide what actions are eligible for funding, according to their national strategic priorities. To avoid any negative effects on the environment and on the fish stocks, the European Commission has nevertheless included in its proposal a list of operations that cannot be funded (e.g. investments to increase the fishing capacity of the fleet).

Generally, the EU Commission’s proposal has been well received. However, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as well as several stakeholders have expressed their opposition to the announced cut to the overall budget. Indeed, the new budget will see a 5% decrease compared to the 2014-2020 one. Critics are especially worried that this reduction will mean that less resources will be allocated to support the blue economy initiatives as well as the environmental and climate change related objectives. In particular, several MEPs of the Fisheries Committee have already stated that the fishing sector needs an appropriate financial framework in place to be able to deliver the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy and thus the proposed reduction is not acceptable. Some Member States echoed this critic during a first exchange of views held during the Fisheries Council in June. In this respect, it should also be noted that Member States were generally pleased with the proposal of the EU Commission and especially with the new approach guarantying more flexibility although the reporting obligations were increased.

The European Parliament’s draft report[3] on the new EMFF has been prepared by MEP Gabriel Mato and will be discussed at the next meeting of the Fisheries Committee set to take place on the 24th of September in Brussels. Discussions in the Parliament will continue through the fall with the hope that the report will be adopted by the Plenary before next year’s European elections, in order to ensure the continuity of financing for fishermen and the fishing communities.

[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-4104_en.htm

[2] The EU Commission claimed that in 2017, Member States only used 21% of the available resources while MEP Gabriel Mato in his draft report mentions that up to now, only 11% of the Fund has been spent. More data and figures are available here: https://cohesiondata.ec.europa.eu/funds/emff

[3]  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fNONSGML%2bCOMPARL%2bPE-625.439%2b02%2bDOC%2bPDF%2bV0%2f%2fEN

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