The Greek presidency of the European Union’s Council of Ministers is scrambling to deal with an unexpected additional challenge this week – resolving an impasse on fisheries funding that was meant to start flowing from 1 January.
Failure could delay the ending of the controversial practice of discards (dumping unwanted or illegally caught fish overboard), part of the landmark agreement to reform the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reached last year.
An agreement on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which controls funding for the CFP, was expected to be reached before the Christmas break. But talks collapsed on 19 December after the European Commission and member states became locked in a dispute over how funding should be procured.
“The Council presidency and [fisheries commissioner Maria] Damanaki must share responsibility for this failure,” said French centre-right MEP Alain Cadec, who is leading negotiations for the European Parliament.
The Commission says it can fund programmes in the short term with money left over from the previous European Fisheries Fund, which the EMFF will replace. But for member states the situation is unclear.
A spokesperson for the Greek presidency said that no date had yet been set for resuming negotiations, but that a solution must be found this month, or by early February at the latest, in order for the fund to be approved by the European Parliament plenary session in April, the last before the elections.
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