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Emergency Measures over Fuel Crisis

EU - The European Commission has agreed on an emergency package of measures to tackle the immediate social and economic hardship triggered by the rise in the price of oil on the European fishing fleet.

Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg

The main measures will consist of temporary derogations to the rules of the European Fisheries Fund so as to support faster adaptation of the EU fleet to the present situation and provide temporary relief during the transitional phase.

Key measures will include Fleet Adaptation Schemes to provide more, and more flexible, decommissioning aid for fleets that accept substantial restructuring, aid to encourage switching to more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly fishing methods, emergency aid for temporary cessation of activities, and market measures to increase the value of fish. European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg will present the elements of this package at the Council of Fisheries Ministers in Luxembourg on 24 June, and the Commission plans to adopt a formal proposal on this subject early in July.

Commissioner Borg said: "For many years, the EU fleet has suffered from a vicious circle of overcapacity, over fishing, and declining profitability. At the same time, fishers have been unable to benefit from reduced supply and rising retail prices for fish products. As a result, margins in many segments are wafer thin, making the sector much more vulnerable than others to a drastic rise in costs, such as we have seen with the price of oil.

"The Commission understands the need for coordinated action at EU level to avert a severe crisis for the industry, and to ensure that the problem is not simply displaced, but really tackled head on. This means not only providing the possibility of emergency relief, but committing to finally addressing the underlying issue of overcapacity, which is undermining all our attempts to get the industry back on a sustainable and profitable footing. The European Fisheries Fund provides the tools we need to support fishers through this transition, and we continue to consult with stakeholders and Ministers to ensure that the package we propose next week will really do the job."

The Commission believes it is vital to focus aid on the fleets which are most dependent on fuel, and thus most affected by the current overcapacity.

It also proposes that Member States can set up Fleet Adjustment Schemes (FAS), under which all limitations on access to permanent cessation (scrapping) premiums will be lifted.

Additional aid for temporary cessation will be available for vessels involved in FASs, and partial decommissioning aid would be granted to operators who replace larger old vessels with smaller, more energy-efficient ones. There would also be provisions to allow for temporary reductions in employees' contributions to social security payments.

More specifically, temporary cessation aid will be available for all vessels for up to three months throughout the remainder of 2008, on condition that the vessels in question be included in a restructuring plan. Such aid will be tailored to ensure that it supports stock recovery and/or marketing conditions, whenever possible. Possible modifications to the de minimis regime for fisheries are also being considered, so that the ceiling of € 30,000 per three years would be applied per vessel, rather than per firm (though with an overall cap of EUR 100,000 per firm).

A number of specific initiatives to promote the value of fish at the first point of sale are also envisaged, and the Commission is planning to set aside an additional € 20-25 million from the CFP budget to fund ad hoc projects in this area, in addition to the funds available under the EFF. Further measures are planned to encourage the shift to energy-saving technologies, cushion the socio-economic impact of the crisis, and facilitate the reprogramming and disbursement of EFF funds.