Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Oh Fishy, fishy, fish

Today Mr Kikis Kazamias, Greek member of the Court of Auditors had the unenviable task of presenting the "European Court of Auditors' Special Report No 7/2007 on "the control, inspection and sanction systems relating to the rules on conservation of Community fisheries resources".
Though the title is wordy the text is, well maybe not a giddy a minute, but for veteran Brussels watchers quite a stinging indictment not lacking in a few laughs.

Essentially as the first journalist to speak asked,
"Can you tell me if there is anything positive to say about the Common Fisheries Policy?"
There was silence for twenty, thirty seconds.
"The systems are not working properly".
Then there was the classic EU institutional response. "The problems are down to the EU not having the power to impose there rules on the Nation States", and finally, "It would be unwise to comment".
To bloody right it would be unwise to comment, they Court specified four specific areas which are the root of the CFP system (p13 of the report),
Four specific audit objectives were investigated:
a) Are catch data reliable and monitored effectively? (without stating an opinion as to the quality of individual declarations)
b) Are the inspection systems as effective as is possible?
c) Are the systems for following up infringements appropriate and effective?
d) How far is the inherent risk constituted by overcapacity in the fishing industry dealt with in reality?
In all areas the CFP fails. My favourite single detail in the entire 77 pages of the thing comes as the footnote to section 99,
There has only been one successful prosecution of the failures of a nation state in its running of the prescriptions of the CFP, that is France.
"France was "sentenced to pay a lump sum of 20 million euro and a penalty payment of 57,8 million euro for each period of six months (judgment given on 12 July 2005); in fact France paid the lump sum and one penalty payment" (page 43 of the report)
Or in other words it paid a total of 77.8 million out of 2.37 billion euros fine or only about 3.3% of the total. Gloriously, according to the Auditor this could be classified a success.

Of course this is another prime example of the 'Doctrine of Beneficial Crisis'. That is the way in which the EU sees a problem and announces that the only answer to this problem is greater centralisation, more power to the Commission. Sure enough the conclusions of this report make the same old claims.

The Nation states cannot be trusted to look after the marine environment,. the EU must have greater control.

Of course there is a counter, rather common sensible approach. If a system is so broken that it is unfixable, and in the meantime is devastating both to the environment and to employment and Lord alone knows how many other things it should not be reformed at all,. It should be junked and we should return to first principles.

In a rather marvelous way the Commission in its response admits that some people get it right. In this case Norway. As the ECA report says,
"24. One country outside the EU, namely Norway, has instituted procedures that control sales operations more strictly and provide improved safeguards."
But you see the problem is,
"Nevertheless, the Norwegian system of monitoring of landings and sales applies solely in a national context and the responsibilities of the Community are of a different nature from those of the Norwegian State,"
Simple really abolish the CFP and allow real subsidiarity to work, repatriate fishing.

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