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Agriculture and Fisheries Council (12 June)

Volume 547: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council on Tuesday 12 June in Luxembourg dealt only with fisheries business. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) represented the UK. Richard Lochhead MSP and Alun Davies AM were also in attendance.

The agenda was confined to discussion of the three main common fisheries policy (CFP) reform regulations. Following previous discussions of key aspects of the package at Council in March, April and May, the presidency aimed to agree Council general approaches on the CFP basic regulation and common market organisation (CMO) proposals. The presidency also submitted a progress report for Council to note on the later proposal for a European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF), on which there had been insufficient time for agreement to be reached.

Following an initial table round it was clear that the main outstanding issues on the compromise texts related to discards, maximum sustainable yield (MSY), and regionalisation. On discards, a significant number of member states were opposed to early deadlines for the introduction of landing obligations, or opposed to legal provisions on the elimination of discards in principle. On MSY, some member states were reluctant to agree challenging targets and raised concerns about practical implications in specific fisheries. Many member states expressed concerns about the role of the Commission under a regionalised process.

Discussions of these issues continued throughout the day and into the early hours of the following morning with the presidency pushing hard for agreement to a general approach. The UK played a major role in the process, forming alliances in support of our objectives and helping to shape the final compromise texts.

Council eventually reached agreement on a general approach on the CFP reform regulations which met many of the UK’s objectives. The agreement included introduction of a discard ban by 1 Jan 2014 for pelagic stocks and phased introduction beginning in 2015 and fully in place by 2018 for other UK fisheries; deadlines for the achievement of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels in fisheries by 2015 where possible, and by 2020 at the latest; and agreement on the processes to regionalise decision making in line with the proposals the UK had developed with other member states. This was an important first step in securing genuine and effective CFP reform. The final agreement through co-decision with the European Parliament is not expected to be concluded until late 2013.