The Chair of the PECH Committee has questioned the Commission’s decision to cut the fisheries budget for 2021
The Chair of the PECH Committee has questioned the EU Commission’s decision to cut the fisheries budget considering the difficulties the sector faces with Brexit and COVID-19.
Speaking at the Committee’s first meeting after the summer break, Pierre Karleskind questioned the Commission’s decision to cut the 2021 budget by 13.9% in light of Brexit and especially now in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The Chairperson said that he did not see the COVID-19 crisis being over by 2021 and stressed the need for more financial assistance for the fisheries sector.
He asked whether or not there is enough precaution over COVID-19 and Brexit.
Was he satisfied with the budget proposed for 2021 by the Commission?
He answered “No, because given the 13.9% drop compared to 2020, I think it’s complicated enough in itself to respond to the needs of our sector for 2021.”
He stressed that the EU budget for 2021 should include enough commitment and payment appropriations to meet the financing needs of the common fisheries policy. He asserted that, for fisheries and aquaculture to continue to be viable, increased funding for these industries is needed and he believes that the budget for this sector must be fully consistent with the EU’s new goals, particularly those set out in the Green Deal, the new industrial strategy, the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 203. He took the view that maintaining the competitive position of the fisheries sector must go hand in hand with achieving these goals.
He went on to stress the importance of putting right the economic and social damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the entire fisheries and aquaculture sector hard. He said considering the serious health situation and its economic consequences he called for exceptional financial support to be made available immediately.
Though he welcomed the action taken by Parliament and the Council to amend Regulations (EU) No 508/2014 and (EU) No 1379/2013 as regards specific measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID‐19 outbreak in the fisheries and aquaculture sector he believes that the Commission must assess in real time how the health and economic situations unfold and, if necessary, consider extending these measures beyond 31 December 2020 if the pandemic continues.
He said “Before the break, we had a proposal from the European Commission to extend the EMFF budget by €500 million, saying that would cover the Brexit issues if we had to adapt or adjust anything.
“Well,with what happened in the months of July and August, the last rounds of negotiations with the British authorities, showed that there was absolutely no movement, no progress and Michel Barnier actually said that we run the risk of not having an agreement on Brexit, so we have to be prepared for that and that has got to be reflected in budgetary terms as well.
“We should go to prepare for an exit on the 31st December without an agreement, there may be one (an agreement) but we need to be prepared if there isn’t and this has got to be reflected in the budget.”
He also said that the PECH Committee needs to have a say on the allocation of the proposed €500m and for it not to be ring fenced by the Commission.
The Chair criticised the fact that the implementation rate for the 2014-2020 EMFF is still far too low – only 35% – six years after it was adopted, stresseing that this poor rate is partly due to national and European red tape.
He also stressed the importance of controls on fishing activities; believes that these controls must remain a priority in the financing of the common fisheries policy.
He emphasized that the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) must be given the additional funding and the equipment it needs to carry out its activities properly and to ensure that the EU meets its sustainable fishing goals.
Karleskind also highlighted that generational renewal is one of the European fishing sector’s priorities and said that Member States should draw on the EMFF and the European Structural Funds to finance the introduction of programmes specifically designed to help young people to take up careers in fisheries, to make the sector more diverse and to encourage people from under-represented groups, particularly women, to join the industry.
He concluded by saying that even though there are uncertainties the PECH Committee are committed to some major policies.
IN light of the recent uncertainties presented by the lack of clarity on Brexit, some members of the PECH Committee called for the Commission to draft a contingency plan and not to be leaving it until Christmas before making decisions.