Original publication: January 2019
Authors: CETMAR, Spain: Marta Ballesteros, Rosa Chapela, Jose L. Santiago, Mariola Norte-Navarro
COGEA, Italy: Anna Kęsicka, Alessandro Pititto, Ugo Abbagnano, Giuseppe Scordella
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2STTCuv
Available languages:


The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is the EU’s financial instrument supporting fisheries and maritime policies for the period 2014-2020. The legal framework is laid down in Regulation (EU) 508/2014 and the Common Provision Regulation for the European Structural and Investment Funds (EU) 1303/2013.

Implementation and impact of key European Maritime and Fisheries Fund measures (EMFF) on the Common Fisheries Policy, and the post-2020 EMFF proposal

Download the Study

Endowed with a total budget of EUR 8.6 billion, the fund combines direct and shared management modes. Under the shared management mode, the Member States (MSs) and the Commission jointly administer 89% of the Union’s contribution to ensure consistency between EU objectives, national priorities and regional and local needs.

More than half of the programming cycling has elapsed. At this stage, the information on EMFF performance is limited. An interim evaluation of the direct management component was commissioned; but for the bulk of the financial support, only ad-hoc analyses were available.

In this context, the Commission released in June 2018 the legislative proposal for the 2021-2027 fund. This launches the ordinary legislative procedure in which the European Parliament and the Council will jointly adopt the legislation that will rule the new financial instrument.


This study aims to provide the European Parliament PECH Committee with relevant information and criteria for the consideration of the legislative proposal:

  • The performance assessment of the current EMFF provides evidence to facilitate self-reflection and well–grounded decisions about its achievements.
  • The analysis of the new fund generates guidance on options and criteria for consideration of the proposal.

Focusing on the EMFF Union priority 1(UP1) “Promoting environmentally sustainable, resource–efficient, innovative, competitive and knowledge–based fisheries”, the period under consideration spans from 2014 to 2017 with particular updates up to October 2018. The research approach combines quantitative and qualitative sources to bring a wide array of viewpoints that can support the PECH Committee for the greater benefit of EU fisheries and the marine environment.


The results show that the EMFF has a low implementation rate (7%) after running for four years. Three factors seem to account for the current performance: complex administrative delivery, policy design and uncertainties associated with circumstantial factors.

Foremost, the fund was for the first time embedded under the common provision regulations set by the EU to improve coordination among cohesion and structural funds. Aiming for simplification and cost reduction, in practice this generated a complex framework of thirty regulations directly applicable in the implementation. On the ground the EMFF administrative cost and burden has increased (7-15%) and preparing an EMFF funding application is one of the most expensive of all the EU funds.

Legal uncertainty prevails in the application of the EMFF, to which the MSs responded adding further rules. As a result, the effective launching of the programme was delayed; in most of the MS the actual implementation of the shared management component did not start until 2016. Once started, the tangled administrative procedures slow down the functioning and create frustration among potential beneficiaries. Assessment undertaking confirms that the emphasis of the fund so far has been on compliance rather than performance.

Complex administrative delivery explains also the asymmetric performance of the different priorities and specific measures funded so far. Advances are clear in accompanying measures for the Common Fisheries Policy and the Integrated Maritime Policy, frequently developed by public bodies. Other measures considered straightforward (e.g. equipment acquisition) have higher implementation rates. For the Union Priority 1 (UP 1), funding flows to measures that do not have specific/detailed rules associated (partnerships between scientist and fishers, limitation of the impact of fishing, protection and restoration of marine biodiversity, or added value). Greater difficulties are found for those measures having complex rules as well as substantial interpretation issues due to a rather ambiguous policy design (start-up of young fishermen, training, engine replacement, etc.).

Short-term policy priorities are not progressing as expected. For instance, the support measures for the landing obligation have a relatively limited uptake by the sector. An increase is foreseen at a later stage over the programming period: the stakeholders are aware of the need to be ready, but uncertainty about how the regulation will exactly be implemented prevents their investment. Other sources of uncertainty acting as deterrents for investment are geographically located, such as the final outcome of the Brexit or a foreseen restrictive regulation in the Mediterranean.

Overall, stakeholders and beneficiaries signal that cumbersome applications, low co-financing rates and the constraints of the eligibility criteria reduce the attractiveness of the fund. The assessment of UP1’s performance identifies some early warning signals: budget will be reallocated to other priorities based on the low demand from potential beneficiaries under UP1. However, the findings indicate that the expenditure level should not be linked to the necessity or opportunity of a given measure and the explanatory factors have to be carefully analysed.

The performance assessment set the baseline to analyse the legislative proposal for the post-2020 fund (2021-2027). The analysis should be read considering that major pieces of legislation affecting the legal framework of the fund are currently under negotiation or forthcoming.

The proposal introduces a change of paradigm. Instead of setting a detailed catalogue of eligible measures, the design is based on a core principle: if it is not ineligible, it can be funded. Such design brings simplification and greater flexibility to the programme, enabling to tackle the challenges of the future fisheries policy as well as shortcomings of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

Several policy options are explored for the main challenges, problems and opportunities that the fund aims to tackle: overcapacity, fisheries management, small-scale coastal fisheries, lack of attractiveness of the fisheries sector for the younger generations, coherence with the environmental policy, etc. The inner flexibility of the fund makes it particularly suitable for some of them, although it will depend on how the programme development finally unfolds.

However, as it is presently written, the proposal possesses several risks that should not be underestimated. A comparative analysis of the current and proposed financial instruments presents changes in the distribution of resources between shared and direct management. Member States would face a reduction in the budget available to deal with an increased list of mandatory tasks as the current fisheries and maritime policy measures are enriched by including marine spatial planning, coast guard cooperation and the EU marine data network. The financial support available is also likely to hamper the stakeholders take up: even lower aid intensity rates, removal of the incentives for collective action of organisations and provision of financial instruments only for given measures; those instruments have been of limited success in the current fund. Regarding implementation, the conditions set for specific measures might render them impractical.

Policy recommendations have been formulated to enhance the capability of the fund to deliver. The suggestions are related to the text of the legislative proposal, the delegated and implementing acts, the areas of support and specific measures and the current European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Finally, some courses of actions for the PECH-Committee are proposed.

From a management perspective, the study helps to understand how the EMFF is performing and what has been learnt in terms of assets and pitfalls. From a decision-making perspective, this research also tries to provide guidelines to design a new financial instrument that contributes to enhance the environmental, economic and social viability of the fisheries sectors in the European Union.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/629-187

Please give us your feedback on this publication

Selection of Boxes and Figures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Print or share this “STUDY in a nutshell”

1 Comment

Workshop: European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF): understanding the present to assess the alternatives for the future – Research4Committees · January 31, 2019 at 9:01 am

[…] Implementation and impact of key European Maritime and Fisheries Fund measures (EMFF) on the Common … […]

Leave a Reply