Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 32 n° 53

A new proposal by the European Commission brings about long-awaited simplification

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 18 marzo 2016

fishermenEuropean fishermen know it only too well. Brussels decides what and how they may fish, wherever they are and whatever the season. For decades, in an effort to protect fish stocks and ecosystems from hurtful and excessive fishing, the EU has been micro-managing the fishing activity down to the tiniest technical detail.
Over time, however, the numerous conservation rules have grown into a complex web of requirements that is hard to follow for users and difficult for administrations to enforce. The cumbersome institutional process required for each alteration makes the system unwieldy – and adds to the entanglement. This phenomenon is not unique to fisheries; in fact the Commission has undertaken a massive simplification effort in many domains in recent years. For its part, the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is set to streamline and upgrade, and the Commission’s new initiative on technical conservation measures stems from both processes. By empowering national and regional actors, it decentralises management for more agile and effective decision making.
Imagine for instance that a specific fishing area needs to be closed to protect a school of bottom-dwelling young fish; but that some vessels can still be allowed there because they do not fish close to the seabed. Rather than having to go through a central decision that could take years, the Member States around that area could decide the most appropriate technical conservation rules among themselves, in consultation with their stakeholders and scientific experts, and tailor them to the area’s specific needs and features.
This is the gist of the Commission’s proposal. The EU would still prescribe the general goals and principles of the fishing activity. A set of basic rules would still be applicable to all, like the ban on certain fishing gears or the obligation to land rather than discard unwanted catches. But when it comes to conservation measures, national governments, regions and operators would be able to choose the best technical solutions for the local context, provided they are underpinned by science.
This new regionalised mechanism can have many advantages. Decision making can be leaner and faster when decentralized. Measures that are area-specific rather than standardised tend to be more effective. And the sector’s involvement through the Advisory Councils means greater ownership of the rules, which in turn translates to more compliance.
Speaking of compliance, another factor that is likely to ease uniform interpretation of the rules across the EU is simplification: the proposal condenses six existing Regulations into one single text, correcting inconsistencies and repealing obsolete rules in the process – in sum making the whole conservation framework simpler and more understandable.
This is nothing short of radical change – changes in the very fabric, the DNA of our policy. But in this case less (regulation) could very well be more (conservation).
From now on, what the EU will prescribe is just the big standards and the overall targets: it will be the lighthouse showing the way. Steering the ship will be national governments, regions and operators themselves, who will decide which route to take to meet those standards and targets. And in so doing they will spread the good practice to those who are willing to pick it up, whether in the EU or elsewhere. And hopefully the genetic mutation – a mutation in favour of sustainability – will be passed on to the rest of the world.


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