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C 110 E/176 Official Journal of the European Union EN 8.5.

2003

(2003/C 110 E/195) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3160/02


by Rosa Miguélez Ramos (PSE) to the Commission

(5 November 2002)

Subject: Illegal commercial practices by Greek aquaculture enterprises

The answer given by the Fisheries Commissioner to my question E-2485/02 (1) was debatable and calls for
further clarification.

First of all, the prices of sea bass and sea bream did not recover during 2002, since comparisons cannot be
drawn between prices during the summer months (when there is greater demand and lower supply by the
Greek enterprises which sell at a loss) and prices in October/November, which are always lower. Despite
these seasonal variations, there has been a downward trend since 1999.

Is the Commission aware that sea bream producers are offering trades at the Mercamadrid market sea
bream at prices of EUR 2,10 per kilo (for fish weighing from 300-400 grammes) and EUR 2,90 (for fish
weighing 400-600 grammes) and that these prices are well below the production costs of between
EUR 4,34 and EUR 4,84 determined by the Committee for Mediterranean Aquaculture (Aquamedia) of the
European Federation of Aquaculture Producers (FEAP) in October 2001 in Edinburgh? Does the
Commission not think that the Greek enterprises practice of selling at a loss is designed to eliminate
competitors in other countries and consolidate their dominant position on the European market?
Otherwise, how can the Commission explain that, in a single market such as ours, a company is able to
sell huge quantities of fish at prices 30 % lower than the average production cost over such a long period?

In his answer, Commissioner Fischler also states that ‘the Commission did not receive formal complaints
with regard to the Greek producers’ commercial behaviour’. However, producers’ associations in France,
Italy, Catalonia and Anadalucia made written complaints to the then Director-General for Fisheries, Steffen
Smidt, and, subsequently, to the Commissioner for Fisheries.

Why has the Commission taken no action on these complaints or why has it not considered acting on its
own initiative? Have the services of the DG for Competition been informed of this matter? Is the
Commission not aware that its failure to act will lead to the closing of many companies and will work to
the benefit of a limited oligopoly, based in Greece, which has already eliminated small Greek companies in
the sector?

What is the Commission waiting for before taking steps to combat these irregular commercial practices,
which are in breach of the rules of competition and are designed to eliminate rival companies from other
producer countries?

(1) OJ C 52 E, 6.3.2003, p. 178.

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission

(5 December 2002)

The Commission continues to follow the evolution of market prices for seabass and seabream. The
Commission has received some letters from various sources complaining against low prices, but none of
them has gone beyond vague allegations of fraud in relation to Greek producers, nor has provided serious
indications of violations of applicable Community regulations. The fact that some producers are offering
fish at very low prices does not necessarily imply fraud or an attempt to abuse of a dominant position.
Low selling prices only raise concern under Community competition law if they are offered by a dominant
company (or a group of collectively dominant companies) and if they are predatory (i.e. below its/their
own costs, not below the average cost of its/their competitors) or discriminatory. The information given by
the Honourable Member does not suggest that the Greek companies concerned are dominant and, even if
they were, that they charge prices in violation of Article 82 of the EC Treaty which condemns abuses of a
dominant position. Should the Honourable Member hold supplementary information on these issues, the
Commission’s competition department would, of course, be ready to examine it.
8.5.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 110 E/177

The Commission is obviously aware of the fact that prices as low as those at Mercamadrid signalled by the
Honourable Member may occur. However the Commission only relies on official statistics (FAO Globefish)
and according to them, seabass and seabream average European prices recovered in December 2001 and
were since then above the production costs every month, with the exception of seabream prices for a short
period (January-March 2002).

The trend to reducing prices for seabass and seabream in the last three years might be due either to the
fact that the industry is approaching maturity, or to a structural overproduction of these fish. The latter
hypothesis was denied by all the Member States representatives attending the special meeting of 16 May
2002. To try to clarify this aspect, a new special meeting with Member States and producers
representatives will take place in November 2002 in Brussels. In addition, in the incoming months the
Commission will finance a study on the market of seabass and seabream.

The Commission will inform the Honourable Member of the evolution of this issue in the future.

(2003/C 110 E/196) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3169/02


by Eluned Morgan (PSE) to the Commission

(6 November 2002)

Subject: CAP dairy payments

Under the Common Agricultural Policy dairy (milk and milk products) regime, what overall annual level of
payments has been made to dairy processing and exporting companies in the EU over the last ten years?
What is the breakdown of these payments by type of subsidy, by company, by product and by EU Member
State?

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission

(13 December 2002)

As the Honourable Member can see from the tables that have been sent direct to her and to Parliament’s
Secretariat, budget expenditure on milk in the last decade has fallen remarkably. The same is true for all
the budget subheadings. So, while the budget for milk in 1991 accounted for 17,6 % of the total EAGGF
budget, by 2001 it represented only 6 %, a fall in expenditure of EUR 3 billion.

The Commission does not have any information on the breakdown of aid by company as requested in the
second part of the question.

(2003/C 110 E/197) WRITTEN QUESTION P-3172/02


by Daniel Varela Suanzes-Carpegna (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(30 October 2002)

Subject: ’Heavily fisheries-dependent’ regions, relative stability and access to fisheries resources

In its reply to my questions E-0650/02 (1), E-2096/02, E-2097/02 and E-2098/02 (2), the Commission
failed to answer the specific points I raised, thereby obliging me to pursue this matter further. I had asked
the Commission to say what the criteria were for a European region to be classified as ‘heavily fisheries-
dependent’ for the purpose of allocating fishing opportunities and whether it thought it necessary, in
accordance with the Community legal concept of the progressivity principle, to update the list of ‘heavily
fisheries-dependent’ regions, since the current one had been in force for 20 years, and to include new
regions dependent on fisheries, following the various accessions of new Member States such as Spain and