Wednesday 27 March 2019
The European Parliament is reaching the home straight of the approval of a new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). However, the global EU's long-term financial framework, upon which the EMFF depends, is going through complex negotiations which could eventually hinder the correct implementation and funding of the Common Fisheries Policy priorities.
EMFF: more focus on aquaculture
On March 7, the financial tool supporting the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for the period 2021-2027 was voted by the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries. The Committee voted on a draft report prepared by the Spanish European People’s Party (EPP) MEP Gabriel Mato to decide on the content of the future European Maritime, Fisheries Fund. In this occasion, MEPs also approved an amendment to the title of the fund to integrate the word aquaculture, thus reflecting the growing importance of the sector for fish supply in the EU.
The Fisheries Committee agreed to increase by 10 % the available budget for the EMFAF (a total financial envelope of €7.739 billion EUR), against the European Commission’s proposal for a budget (€ 6.140 billion EUR) which, instead, represented a cut of 5 % compared with the current EMFF 2014-2020. As stated by the Fisheries Committee MEPs: “Such increase would have very limited impact on the EU budget (current EMFF accounts for only 0.6% of EU spending) but can bring substantial benefits for fishermen and coastal regions.”
The new architecture of the fund would be intended, inter alia, to support fishermen towards more sustainable fishing practices and promote innovation; support investments on board to improve safety, working and living conditions of the crew; to better address the specific needs of small-scale coastal fisheries and outermost regions.
Following the Fisheries Committee’s vote, the EMFAF is now expected to be voted in the European Parliament’s Plenary in April, although the final figures and setting of the fund will depend on the outcome of the negotiations of the EU long-term budget post 2021-2027 as a whole.
Multiannual financial framework post 2020: clinch a deal
Indeed, the new EU long-term budget is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2021. Under the special legislative procedure, the approval of the Multiannual financial framework (MFF) needs the unanimous agreement of the Council of Ministers, after having obtained the consent of the European Parliament.
However, reaching a compromise on the MFF within the Council is proving to be difficult. Despite the effort to reach an agreement on the package before the European elections in May 2019, the European Council decided to continue working with a view to achieving an agreement only in the autumn of 2019.
If one reason of such a delay may depend on technicalities, another one is that the stakes are higher than ever because of Brexit. Indeed, it is estimated that the impact of UK’s departure on the EU’s budget would lead to a net loss of approximately €10 billion EUR per year. To cover this gap, the remaining Member States shall decide whether to raise their contributions, cut existing programmes, increase the EU’s own resources, or a combination of these three options.
Against this backdrop, the challenges of Brexit looms large on the ongoing European budgetary negotiations and on the future of EU fisheries in particular. Will the new EMFF and the MFF withstand the impact?
 The MEPs approved an amendment to the title of the fund, therefore reflecting the increasing importance of the aquaculture sector for fish supply in the EU.
 “Increased financial support for EU fisheries”, European Parliament press release: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20190218IPR26761/increased-financial-support-for-eu-fisheries
 “EU budget: Commission proposes a new fund to invest in the maritime economy and support fishing communities”, European Commission press release:
 European Council, 13-14/12/2018, “Main Results”, EU Council: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2018/12/13-14/
 “The budgetary impact of the Brexit on the European Union”, Robert Schuman Foundation: https://www.robert-schuman.eu/en/european-issues/0454-the-budgetary-impact-of-the-brexit-on-the-european-union
 “Brexit and the EU budget: threat or opportunity”, Jacques Delors Institute: https://www.delorsinstitut.de/2015/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/BrexitEUBudget-HaasRubio-JDI-JDIB-Jan17.pdf
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