At its November 2012 plenary session, the European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority (94%) in support of a resolution on the external dimension of the future CFP. This resolution broadly supports the approach proposed by the EC in its communication on the CFP external dimension, including on:
- decoupling the financial compensation for access to fisheries resources from the sectoral support for development;
- insisting that operators pay a ‘fair and market-based portion of the costs’ when using fishing possibilities in the framework of a bilateral fisheries agreement, etc.
Reacting to this resolution, the EC Fisheries Commissioner underlined that it was ‘a major and a timely contribution’.
The resolution highlights that ‘the objectives and principles of the external dimension of the CFP should be enshrined in the Basic Regulation’. This paves the way for a more detailed description in the future CFP Basic Regulation as to what the EU external policy, in particular FPAs, should include.
An area where the resolution goes further than the EC proposal is regarding the activities that take place outside the framework of regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) and FPAs: the Parliament considers that European sustainable fisheries investments should be encouraged by the CFP and should therefore be included as a third component in the external dimension of the CFP. More transparency is also required about activities taking place outside FPAs and RFMOs: ‘information on private agreements between EU companies and third countries and joint ventures should be made publicly available’.
The Parliament is also concerned about the reflagging of EU vessels to third countries; it considers that the best incentive to keep EU vessels flagged in EU countries is to ensure a level playing field between EU-flagged vessels and others ‘by requiring the same standards in terms of ecological and social sustainability from third countries, both bilaterally and multilaterally, as well as by the use of market-related measures’.
For those EU vessels that temporarily reflag to other non-EU countries in order to obtain new fishing possibilities, the Parliament considers that they should not be allowed to benefit, for two years, from fishing opportunities under a fishing agreement if they return to an EU register. This provision should be included in the Fishing Authorisations Regulation.
An important part of EU fleet activities in ACP waters takes place outside the framework of FPAs and RFMOs, through joint ventures, private agreements, or (temporary) reflagging. It is therefore a positive step that the European Parliament wants these activities to be covered in the future CFP. However, it is not easy to design concrete measures in cases when vessels reflag definitively to a third country, including an ACP country, as it is then the responsibility of the third country, the flag state, to ensure that this vessel operates sustainably and legally. Some of the potential action involves:
- amending the fishing authorisation regulation, as proposed by the Parliament;
- taking market-related measures, particularly through the IUU regulation;
- defining, through a dialogue with the third countries concerned, a framework for investment in sustainable fisheries.
OECD guidelines for international investment, which focus on sustainability aspects, may provide useful pointers for progress in defining such a framework.