Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has moved to calm fears over the availability of EMFAF support for the Irish fishing industry

Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has moved to calm fears over the availability of EMFAF support for the Irish fishing industry

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD has moved to calm fears that the Irish fishing industry could see delays to the distribution of EMFAF for an essential tie-up scheme due the rising price of red diesel caused by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

On Monday, 21 March, after the meeting of the AGRIFISH Council, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius tweeted that the Commission would be proposing specific state aid and EMFAF measure to support the fisheries, aquaculture and processing sectors which are currently facing challenges due to the prices for energy oxygen and raw materials.

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A source told The Fishing Daily, that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has not set up the structure to the EMFAF programme. The only option open to the Minister is to front load the funding of a voluntary tie-up scheme because if the Minister was to wait until the structure was put in place to distribute the EMFAF, then the earliest fishermen and processors could expect compensation would be October.

Another issue would be regarding State Aid Rules in Ireland. Although the Vice-President of the Commission Margrethe Vestager announced yesterday that the EU is to adopt a “Temporary Crisis Framework” to enable Member States to use the flexibility foreseen under State Aid Rules to support the EU economy in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ireland has taken its own stance on State Aid Rules, which has in itself interfered with the distribution of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, and the recommendations set out in the Seafood Sector Task Force Report recommendations.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors

The Fishing Daily wrote to DAFM to verify the situation and Minister McConalogue replied:

“My Department’s €240 million European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Programme 2014-20 is the present framework programme for the sustainable development of our seafood sector.  The Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.  The Programme continues to operate up to December 2023 or until all funds are exhausted.

“A new European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) Regulation was adopted in July 2021, while the related new Common Provision Regulation was adopted in June 2021.  These two Regulations set the legal framework for Member States to prepare their EMFAF programmes, in accordance with the prescribed template and rules and in partnership with stakeholders. This process has been underway for some time, involving several engagements with stakeholders, with further engagement and public consultation planned for the coming months.  The process has been partially delayed by the Task Force process, which was a key input to identifying the investment needs of the sector, and by the procurement process for strategic environmental assessment.  I anticipate the adoption of the Programme by the European Commission later in 2022.

“The impacts of the war in Ukraine on our seafood sector have been the subject of ongoing discussion at EU level and the European Commission has advised that work is well advanced on preparing a legislative package.  This is likely to include a Commission Decision under Article 26 of the EMFAF Regulation recognising the war in Ukraine and its impacts as an exceptional event causing a significant disruption of markets.  This would provide Member States with legal authority to use the existing provisions of Article 26 to implement certain forms of support, using their existing national allocations under the EMFAF.  It is unlikely that any additional EU funds will be made available.  It is legally permissible for EMFAF funds to be expended from 1 January 2021, and in advance of adoption of the Programme.  The Commission is also understood to be examining amendment of the EMFF Regulation, which if it happened would provide Member States with legal authority to use their remaining EMFF funds for this purpose.”

The Minister concluded by saying that he awaits detail of the Commission proposals.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors

by Oliver McBride

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