EU ministers back Spain’s call urging bloc to help fishing sector hit by fuel price hike

On top of EU aid, which should be specified in the coming days, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie, who presided over the Council, has urged countries to take additional measures in the sectors affected by the crisis. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Spanish Agriculture Minister Luis Planas called on the EU to urgently help the fisheries sector during a Council of EU agriculture ministers on Monday (21 March). He was backed by more than 20 ministers from the bloc. EURACTIV France reports.

EU agriculture ministers had formerly met on Monday (21 March) to discuss the consequences of the war in Ukraine to guarantee immediate food supplies and, in the longer term, the EU’s food security and sovereignty.

Planas made the special request to include fisheries on the agenda, insisting on the “urgency” of the EU’s support after many in Madrid protested rising fuel prices. More than 70% of the Spanish fleet had to remain moored due to the increase in energy and diesel costs. In other EU countries, such as Italy and French, fishers went on a strike over the past few days.

The call was supported by more than 20 ministers around the table. “Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain are currently experiencing a significant escalation in raw material and energy costs, which has increased and worsened in recent weeks,” according to a note.

Many European ships have remained in docks due to the soaring costs of non-road gas (RNG), making setting out at sea less profitable. “Energy costs are very important in the fishing industry,” explained Planas. In Spain, energy costs can account for around 50% of the operating expenses.

The European Commission committed itself to allowing an increased threshold for state aid in the fisheries sector to cope with additional production costs while activating a crisis mechanism to mitigate the impact of the energy prices on the sector.

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Compensation measures

Planas also requested the activation of Article 26 of the European Maritime Fund for Fisheries and Aquaculture (EMFFA), which can be triggered to help the sector through compensation measures if necessary.

To “avoid shortages”, Planas also called on the European Commission to activate the “different mechanisms”.

The minister also pointed to fisheries’ resources being harder to store than those of other sectors due to them being highly perishable. Planas added that the entire industrial and commercial chain be considered: “We must help the catching, aquaculture and processing sectors,” he said.

On top of EU aid, which should be specified in the coming days, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie, who presided over the Council, has urged countries to take additional measures in the sectors affected by the crisis.

In France, the resilience plan presented by the government on 16 March provides a 15 cents rebate on every litre of fuel from 1 April to 1 July. Fishers have been granted additional help and can access a total 35 cents rebate per litre.

“As president of the Council, I reiterated my request to the Commissioner for an ambitious support plan at European level,” announced Denormandie at the end of the day, recalling that “protecting and perpetuating the activity of fishermen” is of crucial importance to ensure “the sovereignty of our European countries”.

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[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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