Original publication: July 2018
Author: Priit Ojamaa, Research Administrator
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2utqHDo


On 12 June 2018, the European Commission presented the package of proposals for regulations governing financial instruments in support of the common fisheries and maritime policy beyond 2020. These proposals are to adapt the policy to new challenges in the context of a new Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027. The package is composed of three items:

– Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council COM(2018) 390 final/ 2018/0210 (COD)).

– Commission Staff Working Document on Impact Assessment accompanying the document Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

– Regulation laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund Plus, the Cohesion Fund, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and financial rules for those and for the Asylum and Migration Fund, the Internal Security Fund and the Border Management and Visa Instrument COM/2018/375 final – 2018/0196 (COD);

The rules included in these proposals apply to a future Union of 27 Member States, taking into account the expected Brexit in March 2019. The proposal for the European Union’s overarching long-term budget stipulates continued support for fisheries and maritime policies. The proposed EMFF budget amounts to EUR 6.14 billion in current prices, for the years 2021 to 2027. EMFF resources are split between shared and direct EC management.

The Commission’s proposal for the multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2021-2027 adopted on 02 May 2018 has set the budgetary framework for the funding of the CFP and the maritime policy. The Commission adopted its proposal for a ‘Common Provisions’ Regulation on 29 May 2018 in order to improve the coordination and harmonise the implementation of support under Funds in shared management (‘the Funds’), with the main aim of simplifying policy delivery in a coherent way. Those common provisions apply also to the part of the EMFF under shared management.

1. The EU maritime sector

Europe’s maritime sector employs over 5 million jobs generating almost EUR 500 billion a year, with a potential to create many more jobs. The output of the global ocean economy is estimated at EUR 1.3 trillion today and this could more than double by 2030[1] .

Much has been achieved over the last few years in bringing fish stocks back to healthy levels, in increasing the profitability of the Union’s fishing industry and in conserving marine ecosystems. However, substantial challenges remain to achieve the socio-economic and environmental objectives of CFP in sea basins where progress has been slower. Fisheries are vital to the livelihood and cultural heritage of many coastal communities in the Union, in particular where small-scale coastal fishing plays an important role. With the average age in many fishing communities being over 50, generational renewal and diversification of activities remain a challenge. Consequently training of fishers has become a crucial issue.

The landing obligation is one of the main challenges of the CFP. It has implied significant changes in fishing practices for the sector, sometimes with an important financial cost. The EMFF will therefore support innovation and investments that contribute to the implementation of the landing obligation, with a higher aid intensity rate than the one that applies to other operations in order to mitigate the ‘choke species’ effect caused by the landing obligation.

The fisheries sector contributes to food security and nutrition. However, the Union currently imports more than 60% of its supply of fishery products and is therefore highly dependent on third countries. An important challenge in these circumstances is to encourage the consumption of fish protein produced in the Union with high quality standards and available for consumers at affordable prices.

2. The main objectives of the EMFF proposal

The purpose of this proposal is the establishment of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the 2021-2027 period. This proposal provides for a date of application as of 1 January 2021 and would support the policies targeting the European Maritime sector, including support to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Union’s maritime policy and the Union’s international commitments in the field of ocean governance, especially in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As a global ocean actor and the world’s fifth largest producer of seafood, the Union has a strong responsibility to protect, conserve and sustainably use the oceans’ resources. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the Union is a Party, many jurisdictional rights, institutions and specific frameworks have been set up to regulate and manage human activity in the oceans. In recent years, a global consensus has emerged that the marine environment and maritime human activities should be managed more effectively to address the increasing pressures on the oceans. Proportionally 60% of the oceans’ surface is beyond the borders of national jurisdiction. Most problems facing the oceans are transboundary in nature such as overexploitation, climate change, acidification, pollution and declining biodiversity, and therefore require a shared response.This implies a shared international responsibility.

The Union’s ocean governance policy is a new policy[2] that covers the oceans in an integrated manner. International ocean governance is not only core to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 (‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’), but also to guarantee safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans for future generations.

The Union needs to deliver on those international commitments and be a driving force for better international ocean governance at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, including to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, to improve the international ocean governance framework, to reduce pressures on oceans and seas, to create the conditions for a sustainable blue economy and to strengthen international ocean research and data. The EMFF will support those international commitments and objectives under direct management.

The EMFF will also fund international arrangements that the Union has concluded in areas not covered by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) established with various third countries as well as the Union’s legal membership contribution to regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). SFPAs and RFMOs will continue to be funded under different strands of the Union budget.

Under the European Union Maritime Security Strategy adopted by the Council of the European Union on 24 June 2014 and its Action Plan adopted on 16 December 2016, information sharing and the European Border and Coast Guard cooperation between the European Fisheries Control Agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency are key to deliver on those objectives. The EMFF will therefore support maritime surveillance and coastguard cooperation under both shared and direct management, including by purchasing assets for multipurpose maritime operations. It will also allow the relevant agencies to implement support in the field of maritime surveillance and security under indirect management.

The proposal includes amounts for certain areas of support under shared management which are ring-fenced:

– control and enforcement and collection and processing of data for fisheries management and scientific purposes (minimum 15% of the financial support allocated per Member State, except for land-locked countries),

– the outermost regions (ring-fenced amount covering both a compensation regime for additional costs and structural support).

The Commission higlights in its proposal that beyond the EMFF, synergies exist with other European funding options, e.g.:

  • the European Regional Development Fund, for investment in blue growth sectors and for sea-basin strategies;
  • the European Social Fund, to develop skills in both the fisheries and maritime sectors the Research and Innovation Framework Programme, for instance by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises test and deploy innovative solutions for blue growth;
  • the InvestEU instrument, which could play an important role in promoting financial instruments and supporting a targeted investment platform for the blue economy.
3. The four priorities:

EMFF Key PrioritiesThe new EMFF proposal needs to respond also to the lessons learnt during the previous financial periods. The new proposal tries to avoid the same mistakes and provide improvements. The proposal builds on the experiences from finanial period 2007-2013 and aslo from the implementation of the current EMFF since 2014 ( the shortcomings that have lead to a very low use of the Fund so far (less than 10% uptake by May2018). The initiative includes the following changes compared to previous financial periods:

  • Simplification[3] and a wider choice for Member States to target support to their strategic priorities, instead of having to choose from a ‘menu’ of eligible actions.
  • Better alignment with the other European Union structural and investment funds. Rules applying to all the funds are set out in a ‘Common Provisions’ Regulation.
  • A stronger focus on results. For example, fishermen will only receive funding if they demonstrate that they have helped achieve the conservation objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy.
  • Increased focus on small-scale coastal fishermen and outermost regions with the aim to encourage their sustainable fishing practices.
  • More and broader support for coastal communities. Compared to the 2014-2020 period, support for local partnerships is extended to cover all blue economy sectors.
  • Stronger synergies with other EU policies, e.g. contributing to the fight against climate change and implementing the European strategy for plastics in a circular economy[4].
  • Support for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans. For the first time, the EMFF will support the European Union’s international commitments and objectives. In addition, funding will be available for maritime surveillance and coastguard cooperation.

It is indicated that EMFF proposal concentrates on enabling conditions for the development of the sustainable blue economy and on removing bottlenecks to facilitate investment and the development of new markets and technologies or services. Both under direct and shared management, the EMFF focuses on the enabling conditions for Blue economy:

  • through the promotion of an integrated governance and management of the maritime policy,
  • the enhancement of the transfer and uptake of research, innovation and technology in the sustainable blue economy,
  • the improvement of maritime skills, ocean literacy and sharing of socio-economic data on the sustainable blue economy,
  • the promotion of a low-carbon and climate resilient sustainable blue economy and the development of project pipelines and innovative financing instruments.
  • Strengthening international ocean governance and enabling safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans
4. Finances for achievement of the objectives of the CFP

The proposal is to preserve the 2014-2020 share of resources between shared management and direct management. In this context, it is proposed that EUR 5 311 000 000 is allocated to shared management (86.5%) and EUR 829 000 000 to direct management (13.5%). Such an allocation allows maintaining an appropriate balance between shared and directly managed resources.

Concerning shared management, after having deducted the value of the UK programme (EUR 243 million), Member States would retain, in nominal terms, 96.5% of their 2014-2020 allocation. In order to ensure stability in particular with regard to the achievement of the objectives of the CFP, the definition of national allocations will be based on the 2014-2020 shares.

5. Conditionality of EMFF support

Quote[5] from the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella:

“Healthy, well-managed oceans are a pre-condition for long-term investments and job creation in fisheries and the broader blue economy. As a global ocean actor and the world’s fifth largest producer of seafood, the European Union has a strong responsibility to protect, conserve and sustainably use the oceans and their resources. The Fund will allow Member States and the Commission to live up to that responsibility and invest into sustainable fisheries, food security, a thriving maritime economy, and healthy and productive seas and oceans.” 

  1. The support under the EMFF should be used to address market failures or sub-optimal investment situations, in a proportionate manner, without duplicating or crowding out private financing, and have a clear European added value. This will ensure consistency between the actions of the EMFF and Union State aid rules, avoiding undue distortions of competition in the internal market.
  2. The Union has committed to promote a sustainable blue economy which is consistent with maritime spatial planning[6], the conservation of biological resources and the achievement of good environmental status, to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to refrain from introducing new such subsidies. This outcome should be reached by 2020 and results from the World Trade Organisation fisheries subsidies negotiation.
  3. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development identified conservation and sustainable use of oceans as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14). The Union is fully committed to that goal and its implementation.
  4. In addition, in the course of World Trade Organisation negotiations at the 2002 World Summit of Sustainable Development and at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the Union has committed to eliminate subsidies contributing to fisheries overcapacity and overfishing.
6. EMFF 2021-2027 national allocations

EMFF 2021-2027 national allocations

[1] The Ocean Economy in 2030, OECD report
[2] the Joint Communication to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 10 November 2016 entitled ‘International Ocean Governance: and agenda for the future of our oceans’
[3]https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/budget-may2018-maritime-fisheries-fund_en_0.pdf  beyond 2020 will move towards a simplified architecture along the following elements:
– 4 priorities – These priorities describe the scope of support of the EMFF in line with the objectives of the CFP, of the maritime policy and of the international ocean governance actions.
– Areas of support – The articles of the Regulation do not lay down prescriptive measures but describe the different areas of support under each priority, providing a flexible framework for implementation.
– No predefined measures or eligibility rules at Union level – Under shared management, it is up to Member States to draw up their programme indicating therein the most appropriate means for achieving the priorities of the EMFF. They will be granted flexibility in the setting of the eligibility rules.
[4] 2018/0210 (COD) Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Under direct management, the EMFF will contribute to the promotion of clean and healthy seas and to the implementation of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy developed in the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 16 January 2016, in coherence with the objective of achieving or maintaining a good environmental status in the marine environment.

[5] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-4104_en.htm
[6] 2018/0210 (COD) Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Regulation (EU) No508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Explanatory Memorandum. The objective is to maintain a good environmental status in the marine environment as set out in the MaritimeStrategy Framework Directive, for the implementation of spatial protection measures established pursuant to that Directive, for the management, restoration and monitoring of NATURA 2000 areas and for the protection of species under the ‘Habitats’ and ‘Birds’Directives

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