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An interview with Fernando Frutuoso de Melo, Director-General for Development Cooperation at the European Commission

29 June 2014

Mr Frutuoso de Melo has long-standing European experience, having held various positions within several EU institutions. From 1987 he was Deputy Director-General of DG Human Resources and Security and Deputy Head of the Private Office of President Barroso. Since 1st November 2013, Mr Frutuoso de Melo has held the position of Director-General of DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid (DEVCO).

Q: What is the significance of fisheries in EU Cooperation and Development policy?

We think fisheries have an important role to play because fish contributes directly to the diet of many people in developing countries. According to the last FAO report on the state of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, fisheries also represent a crucial source of revenue for 12% of the world’s population – many of them women – hence the EU Cooperation and Development policy support to sustainable fishing and aquaculture in developing countries. During 2007–2013, some €185 million has been committed to fisheries, mainly through regional programmes, as in the Pacific and in the Indian Ocean.

However, we note that, with some exceptions (e.g. Mozambique, Algeria, Yemen), fisheries have not been identified as part of the national priorities for cooperation and development, even in countries where the sector plays a key role for food security and economic growth.

Q: Why do you think that is the case?

Unfortunately, there has long been a kind of divide between bilateral fisheries agreements, which were considered the main framework for discussing fisheries issues, and cooperation and development, which often focused on agriculture rather than fisheries.

But, in a way, it was probably right to focus cooperation and development on fisheries at the regional level – because of the lack of prioritisation of fisheries at the national level – as many issues (such as resource management, control and surveillance, trade facilitation) linked to fisheries are transboundary and are best addressed at regional level.

One should also note that many needs (e.g. institutional reinforcement or capacity building) expressed by ACP national authorities in charge of fisheries have been covered by general programmes such as ACP Fish II or the IUU regulation implementation support project, for a total of €32 million.

Fisheries and aquaculture deserve appropriate attention in the preparation of the new 2014–2020 programming, and should be fully part of EU action to reduce poverty and ensure nutrition and food security.

Q: As you mentioned, fish is an important source of food. How do you think actions in the field of fisheries and aquaculture can contribute to reach the EU Cooperation and Development objectives for food security?

The EU is the world’s largest food security donor, with an average of over €1.4 billion allocated each year to food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture and fisheries. Our main objective in this area by 2015 is to halve the number of people suffering from hunger – as stated in the Millennium Development Goals. We are also attentive about the issue of mother and child nutrition. In 2012, Commissioner Piebalgs made a commitment to reduce the number of stunted children by 7 million by 2025. Fish is essential for the diet of vulnerable populations, pregnant women and children as a source of protein, micronutrients and fatty acids.

Our actions consist of promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture production, but also support value chains, in particular to reduce post-harvest losses and generally improve the quality of fish products, etc.

We also want to support ACP fishing communities in ensuring their involvement in decision-making processes, and in securing their rights of access to fish resources that they depend on for their livelihoods.

We promote this approach at the international level as well. Over the next few months, the Committee on World Food Security will discuss the role of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security, and is expected to adopt recommendations to further enhance the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to nutrition and food security. DEVCO will actively participate in the discussions.

Q: At the international level, FAO is also proposing voluntary guidelines for securing sustainable small-scale fisheries in a context of food security and poverty alleviation. Could these guidelines become a reference for the European Union?

The contribution of small-scale fisheries to food and nutrition security is crucial. They represent 90% of people engaged in fisheries activities and produce 50% of the fish for direct human consumption.

The European Union fully appreciates the work that has been done by the FAO to propose Voluntary Guidelines on Small-scale Fisheries. This text, although not yet formally adopted, will be an important complement to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The European Union, and DEVCO in particular, will consider how to contribute to the implementation of these guidelines through its various regional and national cooperation programmes.

Talking about our work at the FAO level, another initiative we are particularly keen to support is the Global Record of Fishing Vessels, which will assign a unique vessel identifier (UVI) to each fishing vessel, and will provide information about fishing vessel identity, history and fishing activities undertaken. This would be an important tool to improve the global governance of fisheries.

Q: The fisheries sector has been identified as being particularly important in successive Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) reports. What, in your view, has been achieved with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to improve coherence?

The Treaty article on PCD is for all policies; it doesn’t only concern coherence between fisheries and development policy.

To ensure that the EU overall action truly contributes to the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture in partner countries, the most important thing is to promote complementarity between fisheries policy, trade policy, food safety and standards, etc.

Concerning the reform of the CFP per se, I would say that, traditionally, fisheries agreements have often been seen as the enemy of cooperation and development policy. This vision is changing, thanks to the way the CFP external dimension has been reformed.

First of all, the CFP external dimension has just become an integral part of the CFP, which means that the EU will follow the same principles of sustainability for its internal and external fisheries policies; the EU now has an obligation to promote sustainability at the international level.

To make such commitment to sustainability more visible, Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) are being replaced by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs). The SFPAs have to ensure that access to third countries’ fisheries takes place on the basis of sound scientific advice, and that EU fleets only target surplus of fish resources that the partner country cannot harvest itself.

It is important also to consider that our approach of cooperation and development goes beyond working through projects – we are looking at how we can help create sustainable economic growth, including in the area of fisheries and aquaculture.

Some time ago, a minister from a third country said to the EU: “Please, stop talking about the fight against poverty. Help us to create economic growth, help us to create jobs for our people – that’s what we want.”

In this sense, the implication of the private sector – which knows the consequences of the various policies in the field and invests in third countries – is crucial and can help, in a very concrete way, to improve the complementarity of our actions, ensuring they result in sustainable fisheries development.

In the field of fisheries, EU companies can have a positive impact on local fisheries development; for example by assisting our partner countries to increase their capacity to fish sustainably and to sell fish to the EU, in compliance with EU standards, therefore responding to some of the needs of the EU markets

In practice, the CFP reform also means that financial assistance provided by SFPAs will be consistent with the cooperation and development projects and programmes implemented in the third country in question.

Q: This consistency between financial support provided under SFPA and Cooperation and Development support has been emphasised lately when Senegal initialled an SFPA with the EU…

Indeed, through this approach, Senegal would be able to support the sustainable development of its national fisheries sector, implementing a regional programme at national level. It actually means that there will be additional funds for Senegal fisheries, above what is already agreed in the national indicative programme – it’s not a case of diverting money towards fisheries. This should deepen the partnership.

It will be a case where countries can draw on regional funds directly to support local sector and fishing communities’ development through the 11th EDF.

Q: In practice, how do DG Development and DG Fisheries now collaborate to improve PCD?

DG Mare and DG DEVCO are reinforcing their cooperation through improved communication and coordination. Cooperation goes from working levels to the Director-Generals themselves.

Last month for example, the Director-General of DG Mare, Lowry Evans, represented both DG Mare and DEVCO at the second Conference of African Ministers for Fisheries and Aquaculture, speaking with one voice to our African partners.

DG DEVCO and DG Mare now work together on a daily basis: DG DEVCO now has a policy officer who follows fisheries and aquaculture issues. Colleagues working in geographical directorates and in EU delegations are both involved in the evaluations of FPAs and in the implementation of the IUU regulation.

On the other side, DG Mare has been consulted in the 2014–2020 programming exercise. DEVCO programmes relating to fisheries benefit from DG Mare’s expertise; both DGs also coordinate with other DGs, such as DG Trade, through inter-service groups aiming at ensuring coherence and effectiveness of our external action relating to fisheries in the different regions and oceans. Things are definitely changing…


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