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C 235/56 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.7.

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States, and also in the event of failure to reach a decision. should refrain from discussion of essentially uncontro-
This basic democratic right of citizens is reflected in the versial adjustments.
general principles of Community law.
4. Final comments
The Committee in principle endorses the Commission
3.7. Articles 7 to 21 proposal as it considers this to be an important instru-
ment for simplification of the law and greater trans-
parency.
The Committee has deliberately not commented on the
specific changes to the sectoral directives. It considers The proposed measures for simplification of work
that its priority should be to comment, in as concerted will, apart from making for an improved cost/benefit
a form as possible, on the changes of principle proposed relationship, accelerate work processes and thus
by the Commission, and for this reason it feels that it strengthen citizens’ confidence in Europe.

Brussels, 27 May 1998.

The President
of the Economic and Social Committee
Tom JENKINS

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Communication from the Commission
to the Council and the European Parliament “The Future for the Market in Fisheries Products
in the European Union: Responsibility, Partnership and Competitiveness”’

(98/C 235/12)

On 22 December 1997 the Commission decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee,
under Articles 43 and 198 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the
above-mentioned communication.

The Section for Agriculture and Fisheries, which was responsible for preparing the Committee’s
work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 12 May 1998. The rapporteur was Mr Chagas.
At its 355th plenary session (meeting of 27 May 1998), the Economic and Social Committee
adopted the following opinion by 103 votes with six abstentions.

1. Introduction will submit the document to a broad institutional debate
and wide-ranging consultation with the principal actors
1.1. The aim of the communication from the Com- in the fisheries sector (vessel owners, workers, industry,
mission is to lay the foundations for a debate on the consumers).
amendments to be made to the common organization
of the market (COM), in order to improve market
functioning and bring this aspect of the Common 2.2. The Committee recalls that the COM was set up
Fisheries Policy (CFP) into line with changes on the under Regulation (EEC) No 2142/70 (1), which outlined
fisheries products markets. the general principles governing this aspect of the
Common Fisheries Policy, and which has been adjusted
1.2. The Commission is to submit proposals for over the years when necessary. The most recent adjust-
improving the operation of the COM at a later stage. ment was made by the basic regulation which came into
force on 1 January 1993 (2).

2. General comments

2.1. The Committee welcomes the Commission’s (1) OJ L 236, 27.10.1970, p. 5.
communication, and in particular its statement that it (2) OJ L 388, 31.12.1992, p. 1.
27.7.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 235/57

2.3. The COM has many parallels with the Common the COM are fully consistent with identical measures,
Agricultural Policy (CAP) — on which it is largely already taken or to be adopted, in connection with
modelled — and shares certain of its objectives, such the other aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy,
as market stabilization, guarantee of supplies and particularly concerning structures, resources and moni-
reasonable prices. The COM also complies with the toring.
same principles: market unity, financial solidarity and
Community preference.

2.10. The Committee would also point out that as
part of the broad-based approach mentioned above,
2.4. Unlike the CAP, the COM has been affected by future adjustments to the COM in fishery products must
the binding in GATT of the entire customs tariff for be matched by socio-economic support measures to
fishery products. This was a political choice, decided at facilitate their adoption by the sector. In this respect, it
the Dillon Round of GATT negotiations in the 1960s, is also important for producers’ organizations to be
and the difficulties it has caused are well known; it has present and active in all Member States involved in the
also made it impossible for the Commission to increase fisheries sector.
tariff protection. Further concessions were made in
subsequent rounds.
2.11. The aim of the COM for fishery products is to
regulate market competition, preventing unfair compe-
2.5. As the common customs tariff is bound in GATT, tition by third countries while respecting the Union’s
the COM for fishery products operates under market international commitments.
economy conditions, making it impossible to restrict
imports from third countries or adjust production aid,
with the exception of the safeguard measures under
GATT rules. This does not mean that the principle of 2.12. The European Union and the Member States
Community preference is not fully implemented, or that must use the instruments available to them more
the customs tariff for fishery products is not carefully rigorously to prevent fishery resources being marketed
applied: whenever protection of Community production within the Community with total disregard to the
is reduced, it is counterbalanced by concessions by third established rules, in unfair competition with our oper-
countries which are of direct benefit to the fisheries ators. This situation is unacceptable, as both the fisheries
sector. sector and the ESC have argued on several occasions.
There are many shortcomings in the checks on the
application of the current rules, which are in part
responsible for the unsettled conditions in the sector.
2.6. The COM alone cannot solve the range of
problems affecting the sector.
2.12.1. Application of current provisions governing
imports must be checked more strictly, particularly with
regard to hygiene and health requirements, labelling and
minimum fish size (immatures).
2.7. It should be borne in mind that the main
imbalances in the sector spring mostly from overcapacity
in relation to available resources, which in turn do
not match demand, excessive debt, high levels of 2.13. As for other products in similar circumstances,
exploitation, low productivity and, to some extent, matching offer and demand is the decisive factor in
inadequacies in marketing channels. These internal, determining producer income. Producers must draw the
structural factors, considerable in themselves, are aggra- appropriate conclusions, and the COM intervention
vated by external factors such as market globalization, mechanisms should be in a position to fulfil this
the lowering of tariff barriers and/or the dismantling of regulatory role, especially since catches are by nature
obstacles to trade, competition from other products, unpredictable.
and lower transport costs which bring European markets
within range of the sector’s main competitors.

2.14. The Committee notes that EU per capita fish
consumption has risen continuously, but very modestly,
2.8. For EU fisheries to survive on a viable basis, over the last few years of the 1990s, and that consumption
resources must be exploited rationally and integrated patterns vary widely, particularly for fresh fish.
measures must be adopted covering all aspects of the
Common Fisheries Policy.

2.15. Positive steps can be taken to encourage the
European public to eat more fish, which would also
2.9. The Committee assumes that the Commission contribute to healthier eating patterns: promotion of
will ensure that the measures currently proposed under fishery products is an aspect which COM reform
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must under no circumstances overlook. Producers’ 2.20. If the growing and increasingly fierce compe-
organizations should make more frequent use of existing tition from non-EU producers, and from EU fish
Community incentives to support campaigns promoting farm produce (which is booming, even for high-value
fish consumption and publicity campaigns for the products), is to be met successfully, the sector must
consumption of new species. make a real commitment to a quality-based policy
capable of satisfying consumer demands.
2.15.1. The price factor could also play a key role in
meeting this objective on a lasting basis. 2.21. The Committee agrees that support should be
given to actions smoothing the flow of supplies — in
2.16. Producers’ organizations and the entire com- good condition and of good quality — from Community
mercial sector downstream of them must also take steps production to the processing industry, given the com-
to improve market transparency and recognize the plementary nature of the two sectors. The use of supply
strategic importance of consumer information. contracts would appear to offer an appropriate solution
here.
2.16.1. The Committee agrees that optimization of
production and greater transparency in commercial 2.21.1. The aim is to avoid distortions of competition
relations depend on the adoption of measures concerning given tariff concessions granted to third countries
the trade name of species, their origin, production to gain access to the Community market, and the
method and degree of freshness. advantages they enjoy in terms of lower production
factor and raw material costs.
2.16.2. The Committee hopes that the proposals on
the vertical integration of the sector will be put forward 2.22. In a context of scarce resources, the Committee
as soon as possible. agrees that in broad terms the sector should begin
to give serious thought to abolishing incentives for
2.17. The Committee fully supports the principle of withdrawal-destruction, so as to encourage producers
responsible fishing and trading. to make more systematic use of withdrawal-carryover,
as has been the case for some farm produce. Innovation
2.17.1. The Committee considers that the promotion in the creation of new products and more sophisticated
of good practice, in both sea catches and aquaculture processing methods should be strongly supported.
and marketing, could help to raise standards generally,
and more specifically could help Community production
to compete with third countries. 3. Specific comments

2.18. Concentrating supply, by encouraging fisher- 3.1. It is pointed out, in connection with chapter III
men to land their catches in ports equipped for control A(3), on private storage aid, that in some Member States
operations, could act as a powerful deterrent to illicit producers’ organizations do not always own their stocks.
practices. It must therefore be made clearer to whom storage aid
is granted.
2.19. The Committee expresses some reservations
concerning the wording of point III.A.4(b) on fishery 3.2. Turning to the trade arrangements with third
products which comply with the rules of ‘environmental countries and the adoption of good practice in both the
protection’. It believes that this concept needs proper catch and marketing sectors, the Committee considers
clarification, as it could be misused to sanction practices that the comments on fish caught in international waters
which distort competition. should also mention vessels flying flags of convenience.

Brussels, 27 May 1998.

The President
of the Economic and Social Committee
Tom JENKINS