Commission’s support for aquaculture ‘ineffective’, say EU auditors

Box of fish. Greece, 2007. [Bryan Ledgard/Flickr]

Measures to support aquaculture by the European Commission in the period up to 2013, were “weak and insufficient” at both EU and member state level, according to auditors. The Commission admitted the shortcomings. EURACTIV Greece reports.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) published (16 September) a Special Report on the effectiveness for the support of aquaculture in the EU.

Each year the EU produces about 1.3 million tonnes of fish from aquaculture, and the sector has a turnover of €4 billion euro.

Despite being a major objective of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and European Fisheries Fund (EFF) in the period up to 2013, the report reveals that the measures to support aquaculture were not well-designed and implemented at EU and Member State level.

It adds that the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), the funding instrument of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), “failed to deliver value for money and effective support for the sustainable development of aquaculture”.

By May 2013, the EFF provided over €400 million to fund measures for productive investments in aquaculture, as well as environmental and health measures.

“We found that the main objectives for growth of the aquaculture sector have not been met, and the sector has stagnated for many years. While the financial crisis undoubtedly contributed to this stagnation, the overall framework to support the sector was not well designed, and the actual measures taken were weak,” underlined Kevin Cardiff, the ECA Member responsible for the report.

He added that the projects that were audited in the Member States were often “poorly selected and, with some exceptions, did not deliver expected results or value for money, and contributed little to growth and employment”.

Commission admits the ineffectiveness

EURACTIV Greece spoke to Helene Banner, spokesperson of Maritime Affairs and Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, who welcomed ECA’s report and admitted that the support for aquaculture was not effective “as expected”.

“The Commission welcomes the European Court of Auditors’ report and its observations and recommendations on the support from the European Fisheries Fund for investments in the aquaculture sector across the European Union […] admittedly this support was not as effective as we had hoped, at least until the end of 2013, which falls under the audited period”, she noted, adding that the EU executive had already taken corrective measures to ensure that this does not happen with the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the period 2014-2020.

Nevertheless, she attributed part of the failure to the global economic crisis that started in 2007.

“Let’s also bear in mind that many of the investments co-financed by the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) were made in the context of a global economic crisis. Indeed, the economic and financial crisis was the main factor jeopardising the achievement of many of the growth and job objectives in the sector, and could not have been foreseen at the start of the programming period in 2007,” she told EURACTIV Greece.

Greek MEPs “snub” fisheries committee

In the meantime, it is surprising that no newly-elected Greek MEP decided to join the Fisheries Committee of the new European Parliament.

Greece, which has the longest coastlines in the EU, elected 21 MEPs.

According to critics, taking into account the maritime interests of the debt-ridden country, there is no explanation for such a disdain toward the committee. 

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