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Steps taken towards 'level playing field'

Thursday, July 11, 2002, 00:50 (GMT + 9)

Equitable policing will be essential to CFP reform. (Photo: P. Johnson)

The European Parliament has approved reports that point the way to tougher and more equitable control of Community fisheries.
The report by United Kingdom Liberal Democrat MSP Elspeth Attwooll seeks to establish a table ranking infringements and a system of minimum penalties to be applied evenly throughout the EU.
It also outlined the huge discrepancies in average penalty for differing categories of offence, varying from EUR 310 to 10,691.
Mrs Attwooll said that implementation of fair and transparent fisheries monitoring would be key to successful reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
One of the major recommendations of the report is that the Commission adopt a "uniform system of minimum penalties across the European Union", which would "strengthen fisher's confidence in the fundamental principle of equal treatment, which implies objective criteria for classification and rating, as well as for infringements and penalties."
It also "expresses concern over the lack of any guidance for the level of penalty to be imposed for identical infringements across the Union, and highlights the need to establish a framework of infringements classed according to their scale or significance (seriousness) as minor, serious or very serious, or using some similar criterion, as well as the penalties applicable for each type of infringement and the criteria for determining them." The Scottish MEP told the Parliament: "I believe we can move a long way towards establishing a principle of equal treatment that, along with measures such as the establishment of regional advisory councils, will do much to create confidence in the Common Fisheries Policy on the part of our fishing communities. We look forward to the Commissioner's detailed proposals in this regard. The Commissioner may be assured that we will scrutinise them well."
But she was critical of several Member States' failure to supply proper data on fisheries offences which was meant to contribute to a Commission report.
The report also criticised the Commission for not presenting its 2001 report on serious infringements of the CFP by 1 June 2002 and called on it to "report timeously from now on."
The previous report was issued months late by the Commission in November leading to a request that in future the Commission inform the Parliament by 15 April if Member States were failing to fulfill their reporting obligations.
A report by Danish MSP Niels Busk meanwhile calls on the Commission to draw up a guidance list of sanctions which have proved to be effective and deterrent and to propose procedures for better judicial cooperation between states.

By Peter Johnson
FIS Europe