European Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner-designate Maria Damanaki of Greece, attends her hearing by the European Parliament fisheries committee in Strasbourg, January 19 2010.
EU fisheries policy reform and funding, bringing decision making closer to those directly involved, environmentally-sustainable fishing, competitiveness and fishermen's income, the role of fish farming and protecting EU fishing vessels from piracy were among the issues raised by MEPs at the hearing of the Greek Commissioner-designate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, the European Parliament said in a January 19 2010 media statement.
"The ongoing Common Fisheries Policy reform is vital and will, of course, be a central focus of my work," Damanaki said in her introductory remarks, emphasising the keywords "sustainability", "democratic responsibility for all partners of the sector", "global dimension" and "compliance".
"I will be proud to contribute to blue growth," said Damaki, who if approved would take charge of a broader integrated maritime policy, adding that this growth will help to unleash the potential of all sea resources and create "blue jobs".
Opening the hearing, fisheries committee chairperson Carmen Fraga Estévez (EPP, ES) said that the Commissioner-designate's written replies had not been sufficiently detailed on plans for fully respecting the new powers conferred on the European Parliament by the Lisbon Treaty.
"I welcome warmly the fact that fisheries will – in the new institutional environment of Lisbon Treaty - be subject to co-decision as the ordinary legislative procedure, thus securing an even greater role for the European Parliament," Damanaki said.
Replying to Maria do Céu Patrão Neves NEVES (EPP, PT) on the key priorities of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Damanaki said that the reform will seek to streamline and make the CFP more efficient, by "striking the right balance", among the interests of consumers, fishermen, industry, tourism and related activities.
Noting that the reform and the new maritime policy will bring new costs, Ulrike Rodust (S&D, DE), asked about their funding and possible social and economic consequences. Damanaki advocated funding the new Integrated Maritime Policy separately from the CFP. Money could also be saved by good co-operation with other Commission services, for example, research and transport, Damanaki said.
Replying to questions about the difficulties of small-scale fisheries, Damanaki agreed they need a special policy, and said this would be dealt with in the coming reform. On the concerns of Alain Cadec (EPP, FR), and Jean-Marie Le Pen (EFD), about the impact of the possible introduction of transferrable quotas, Damanaki replied that this needed more detailed discussion, but said she would do her utmost to avoid concentration within the industry.
In response to fears voiced by Kriton Arsenis (S&D, EL), about the possible negative social impacts of a new fisheries reform, Damanaki said that she would examine whether the European Social Fund could give assistance to those who may have to stop to work because of the reform. She added that she would try to ensure that older fishermen continue fishing, while younger ones are redirected to other professions through retraining.
Damanaki agreed with Isabella Lövin (Greens, EFA, SE), about the overcapacity of the fleet. "There is drastic overfishing", she said. To reduce it without striking a blow to fishing communities, resources should be directed to modernisation, e.g. equipping vessels with selective gear that helps to eliminate discards, Demanaki said, adding that to the same end, the system of total allowable catches for each member state and quotas should be reviewed.
However, simply replacing quotas with a system that reduces fishing periods would not be a solution, Damanaki said in reply to Marek Józef Gróbarczyk (ECR, PL). "We need a tailor-made approach to different sea basins and fisheries", she emphasised several times during the hearing.
Damanaki emphasised the need to involve regions and local stakeholders more extensively in fisheries policy in reply to Ian Hudghton (Greens/EFA, UK), Struan Stevensen (ECR, UK), João Ferreira (GUE/NGL, PT) and others, but insisted that "renationalising" fisheries policy "will not be an option".
Guido Milana (S&D, IT), asked for Damanaki's opinion on the need for special rules and funding for aquaculture, given that the EU imports more fish than it produces. Damanaki agreed on the need to develop the sector "as much as we can".
Ioannis Tsoukalas (EPP, EL), asked the Commissioner-designate whether she believed that aquaculture and sustainable development are compatible. "According to the scientists, they are, under certain conditions", replied Damanaki, advocating "a coherent and consistent aquaculture policy".
"Human rights are the core issue and are not violable," Damanaki said in reply to a question from Carl Haglund (ALDE, SE), on fisheries partnership agreements with third countries.
Nikos Salavrakos (EPP, EL) and Crescenzio Rivelleni (EPP, IT) asked Damanaki what she would do about third-country fishers who are not bound by EU rules, flood the EU market, and undercut EU market prices. "I will make sure that imported fisheries products respect EU rules," she said.
She also did not rule out "defensive measures" and added that she would seek in international organisations to ensure that third countries do not break EU rules.
Replying to a question by Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE, ES) on piracy, Damanaki candidate stressed that "the EU has to make sure that its vessels can fish securely, especially off the Somali coast". She pledged to have EU fishing vessels included in the EU Atalanta Operation, which protects merchant vessels from pirates.