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Overfishing rate back on the rise after a decade of recovery

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The rate of overfishing has increased in European waters, according to today’s (9 June) report  by the European Commission on the state of play of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Oceana deplores this confirmation that the EU is moving further away from its legal commitment to exploit all harvested fish populations sustainably. To add to this, the landing obligation does not seem to be properly enforced, and the illegal practice of discarding continues. 

“The painfully slow implementation of EU legal requirements and the continued reluctance by Member States to follow scientific advice is bearing unwelcome, but not unexpected, fruit” said Oceana Advocacy in Europe Senior Director Vera Coelho. “In light of the ongoing biodiversity and climate crises, we cannot afford any step back in achieving sustainable fisheries. It is high time for the European Commission, member states and the fishing industry to fully implement EU fisheries law to save our seas and secure a prosperous future for our fishing communities.”

An earlier report1 by an EU advisory body, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), confirmed that many of the assessed European fish populations remain overfished or outside safe biological limits. Indeed, the proportion of overfished stocks increased from 38% to 43% in the North-East Atlantic, after a decade of recovery, while the situation in the Mediterranean and Black Seas remains dire with 83% of assessed stocks overfished.

The poor conservation status of these fish populations is mainly due to the setting of fishing opportunities above levels recommended by scientific advice, the lack of effective remedial measures to recover depleted fish populations and the poor compliance with the landing obligation. Oceana regrets the European Commission’s continued reluctance to acknowledge the persistent issue of overfishing in the EU, despite the Commission’s important role in ensuring the implementation of EU law and in proposing and negotiating annual fishing opportunities with the Member States.

Repeated warnings by environmental NGOs and STECF that the EU was failing to meet its legal commitment to end overfishing by 2020 have fallen on deaf ears.  Oceana urges the EU institutions - European Commission, European Parliament, Council of the EU - and the member states to fully implement the CFP and finally transition to sustainable fisheries and to an ecosystem-based approach. The Commission should also not hesitate to take legal action against those countries that do not fulfil their obligations.

Background

The reformed CFP regulation2 entered into force on 1 January 2014. It contains ambitious objectives and concrete timelines to put the European Union at the forefront of global fisheries management and make European fisheries economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. Although the CFP has brought about a general increase in the profitability of the EU fleet and reduced overfishing, progress in implementing the CFP has been too slow to end overfishing, rebuild fish populations and protect marine ecosystems. For some fish stocks, no progress has been made.

Oceana and other NGOs have drawn attention to the lack of progress in ending overfishing every year since the entry into force of the revised CFP, supported by annual STECF reports confirming that the trajectory to end overfishing by 2020 as legally required was off course.

While the CFP remains a relevant legal framework for fisheries management, it lacks adequate implementation, control and enforcement. Addressing these shortcomings is critical now, and indeed the European Commission has a comprehensive toolkit at its disposal, with the power to initiate legislative, political and legal action.

The CFP must be fully applied if the EU is to deliver on the objectives of the European Green Deal and build back better after the COVID-19 crisis. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices have been the main cause of marine biodiversity loss for the last 40 years and they also critically undermine the resilience of fish, seabirds, marine mammals and other wildlife to the impacts of climate change.

Reply to the Commission on the state of progress in implementing the CFP through the setting of fishing opportunities (July 2020)

Brexit

Germany’s Merkel urges pragmatic approach to Northern Ireland

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) called on Saturday for a “pragmatic solution” to disagreements over part of the Brexit deal that covers border issues with Northern Ireland, Reuters Read more.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain will do "whatever it takes" to protect its territorial integrity in a trade dispute with the European Union, threatening emergency measures if no solution was found.

The EU has to defend its common market, Merkel said, but on technical questions there could be a way forward in the dispute, she told a news conference during a Group of Seven leaders' summit.

"I have said that I favour a pragmatic solution for contractual agreements, because a cordial relationship is of utmost significance for Britain and the European Union," she said.

Referring to a conversation she had with U.S. President Joe Biden about geopolitical issues, Merkel said they agreed that Ukraine must continue to remain a transit country for Russian natural gas once Moscow completes the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The $11 billion pipeline will carry gas to Germany directly, something Washington fears could undermine Ukraine and increase Russia's influence over Europe.

Biden and Merkel are due to meet in Washington on July 15, and the strain on bilateral ties caused by the project will be on the agenda.

The G7 sought on Saturday to counter China's growing influence by offering developing nations an infrastructure plan that would rival President Xi Jinping's multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative. L5N2NU045

Asked about the plan, Merkel said the G7 was not yet ready to specify how much financing could be made available.

“Our financing instruments often are not as quickly available as developing countries need them,” she said

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Brexit

'Whatever it takes', UK's Johnson warns EU over post-Brexit trade

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Britain will do "whatever it takes" to protect its territorial integrity in a trade dispute with the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday (12 June), threatening emergency measures if no solution was found, write Elizabeth Piper and Michel Rose.

The threat by Johnson seemed to break a temporary truce in a war of words over part of the Brexit deal that covers border issues with Northern Ireland, the focus for tensions since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year.

Despite US President Joe Biden encouraging them to find a compromise, Johnson used a G7 summit to indicate no softening in his position on what is called the Northern Ireland protocol that covers border issues with the British province.

"I think we can sort it out but ... it is up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes," Johnson told Sky News.

"I think if the protocol continues to be applied in this way, then we will obviously not hesitate to invoke Article 16," he added, referring to a safeguard clause that allows either side to take measures if they believe the agreement is leading to economic, societal or environment difficulties.

"I've talked to some of our friends here today, who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory. I just need to get that into their heads."

His comments came after he met French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and top EU officials Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel at a Group of Seven summit in southwestern England.

The EU told the British government once again that it must implement the Brexit deal in full and introduce checks on certain goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland. Britain repeated its call for urgent and innovative solutions to ease the friction.

The province has an open border with EU member Ireland so the Northern Ireland protocol was agreed as a way to preserve the bloc's single market after Britain left.

The protocol essentially kept the province in the EU’s customs union and adhering to many of the single market rules, creating a regulatory border in the Irish Sea between the British province and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Anti-Brexit protesters holding a banner and flags demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel remove their protective face masks as they meet during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain, June 12, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Pool

Since Britain exited the bloc's orbit, Johnson has unilaterally delayed the implementation of some provisions of the protocol, including checks on chilled meats such as sausages moving from the mainland to Northern Ireland, saying it was causing disruption to some supplies to the province.

"Both sides must implement what we agreed on," von der Leyen, European Commission president, said after meeting Johnson alongside Michel, the European Council president.

"There is complete EU unity on this," she said, adding that the deal had been agreed, signed and ratified by both Johnson's government and the bloc.

Germany's Merkel said the two sides could find pragmatic solutions on technical questions, while the EU protected its single market.

Earlier this week, talks between the two sets of negotiators ended in an exchange of threats over the so-called "sausage wars". An EU official said at the G7 that there was a need for the rhetoric to be toned down.

The head of the World Trade Organization said she hoped the tensions would not escalate into a trade war.

The United States has also expressed grave concern the dispute could undermine the 1998 Good Friday peace deal.

That agreement largely brought an end to the "Troubles" - three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Though Brexit was not part of the formal agenda for the G7 summit in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay, it has more than once threatened to cloud the meeting.

France's Macron offered to reset relations with Britain as long as Johnson stood by the Brexit deal - a characterisation of the meeting that was rejected by the British team. Read more.

Brexit has also strained the situation in Northern Ireland, where the pro-British "unionist" community say they are now split off from the rest of the United Kingdom and the Brexit deal breaches the 1998 peace deal. But the open border between the province and Ireland was a key principle of the Good Friday deal.

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EU

Keeping the UEFA EURO 2020 championship safe

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Between 10 June and 12 July 2021, Europol will host an operational centre to support safety and security during the UEFA EURO 2020 football championship. Coordinated by the Dutch Police, the International Police Cooperation Centre (IPCC) of the National Football Contact Points will host about 40 liaison officers from 22 participating and hosting countries. This special operational set-up is created to enable swift cooperation and provide the necessary operational support for a safe and secure championship.

The IPCC will serve as a central information hub for national law enforcement authorities. To that end, Europol has created a special Task Force EURO 2020 to enable keeping officers on the ground 24/7 to easily exchange information and swiftly receive leads on ongoing investigations. The operational activities will focus on public safety and criminal threats, which may threaten security during the tournament. Enforcement authorities will target threats such as cybercrime, terrorism, match-fixing, trafficking counterfeit goods including fake COVID-19 certificates, and other intellectual property crimes.

Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, said: ‘The UEFA EURO 2020 championship is a unique tournament both for football and for law enforcement. With 24 national teams playing in 11 cities across Europe, teaming up is paramount for the safety of the tournament. Europol will enable this cooperation by hosting the dedicated operational centre. Backed by Europol’s capabilities, officers on the ground will be better prepared to ensure a smooth and safe championship.’

The IPCC’s chief of staff, Max Daniel, said: ‘Combining information about public order issues, supporters, places of stay and travel movements by road, air and rail results in an up-to-date and integrated picture. Being able to easily share that information between countries has proven to be very valuable in the past. Police intelligence officers of all participating countries are doing their utmost to ensure that this unique UEFA EURO 2020 championship will be as safe as possible.’

IPCC UEFA EURO 2020 Participants (total number):

EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands. 

Non-EU Countries: Azerbaijan, North Macedonia, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Organisations: INTERPOL and UEFA

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