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European Commission fails to propose an end to #Overfishing in #Baltic by 2020



Environmental NGOs Seas At Risk, Our Fish and Oceana are deeply disappointed that the Commission proposal for fishing limits in the Baltic allows for the continuation of  overfishing in 2020, even though there is a legal deadline to end overfishing by 2020 under the EU Common Fisheries Policy. The Commission’s proposal includes fishing limits that exceed scientific advice for the iconic western Baltic herring and  main basin Baltic salmon. It also  leaves a gaping loophole for over-exploitation of the threatened eastern Baltic cod. 

Overfishing is a serious problem in the Baltic, the European Union and worldwide. It not only depletes fish stocks, disrupts marine food webs, and massively increases pressure on the fragile balance of marine ecosystems, but also affects the food and employment security of millions of Europeans. Currently 69% of the fish stocks are overfished in EU waters, and 50% in the Baltic. Despite the clear fail for certain stocks, the Commission has followed scientific advice for the majority of cases (6 out of 10), which NGOs welcome.

“In light of the collapse of eastern Baltic cod, and the 2020 deadline, it is incredible  that the Commission still allows for overfishing in 2020, disregarding  the scientific advice for Western Baltic Herring. With accumulating scientific evidence of a climate and biodiversity crisis in our seas, this is not the time for the Commission, the guardian of the EU Treaty, to delay urgently needed and EU-wide agreed action. We recognize the efforts made following scientific advice for a majority of fish stocks, however this year the legislation is clear: all harvested stocks must be fished at sustainable levels, there is no room for loose ends,” said Our Fish Program Director Rebecca Hubbard.

"The Commission’s proposal should not only mandate sustainable fishing limits, but aim to deliver healthy fish populations by 2020, as demanded by EU regulations. Instead they have failed to propose the rapid action that is needed to lift the Baltic Sea out of the full scale ecological crisis it is experiencing. While the Commission has proposed zero targeted fishing on eastern Baltic cod, known loopholes related to trawl fishing mean that this is not enough. EU Member States, will need to build on this proposal and take a range of other measures urgently in order to save the cod," said Oceana Europe Policy Advisor Andrzej Białaś.

“Fisheries ministers will have the last word to uphold the good ambition shown by the Commission for some stocks, or show responsibility by following scientific advice for others like the western Baltic herring and the Main Basin Salmon. From 1 January, overfishing will be illegal in the EU waters, and Ministers need to act accordingly,” said Seas At Risk Fisheries Policy Officer Andrea Ripol.

The 2020 fishing quotas for the Baltic proposed by the European Commission today, will be decided at the AGRIFISH Council of Fisheries Ministers on 14 and 15 October in Luxembourg.  This will be the last chance for the EU to end overfishing in the region by 2020.

More information

 Common Fisheries Policy: 

The reformed Common Fisheries Policy includes the fundamental objective to progressively restore and maintain fish stocks above sustainable levels, specifically above levels capable of producing the maximum sustainable yield. The legislation also states that this objective shall be achieved by 2015 or progressively by 2020 at the latest for all stocks. Moreover, the Common Fisheries Policy mentions  that measures should be taken in accordance with the best available scientific advice. (Article 3(c) of the CFP Basic Regulation).

Eastern Baltic cod: 

ICES has advised zero catch and the Commission had to put in place emergency measures in an attempt to stop the stock from an unrecoverable crash. We welcome the Commission proposal to continue the closure of all directed cod fishing and the proposed continuation of a spawning closure. However, Ministers need to ensure that demersal trawlers do not endanger any prospect of a recovery by a massive bycatch of eastern Baltic cod when trawling for flatfish such as flounder and plaice.

Western Baltic herring: 

For the second year in a row the ICES advice is a zero catch. Last year the Commission and Council ignored that advice. The Commission has ignored that scientific advice again, instead supporting a political short-sighted argument that immediate social-economic issues should take precedence over the recovery of the fishery. Studies have shown that if EU fisheries were sustainably managed, we would see significant socio-economic benefits in the form of increased revenues, GDP growth and added jobs in both fisheries and connected sectors, so there is no reason for the Commission and Council to ignore the scientific advice for sustainable limits. 

The warning signals from ICES are clear e.g. Recruitment has been low since the mid-2000s and at a historic low for the last four years. We cannot negotiate nature’s limits.  

Baltic salmon (Main Basin): The scientific advice for the salmon is very clear stating a commercial wanted catch of a total of 58 900 salmons. The Commission has proposed 86,575 salmons and we do not accept this proposal since it is not in line with EU regulations and scientific advice. 


Commission Proposal for Baltic Sea fishing Total Allowable Catches

NGOs recommendations on Baltic fishing opportunities for 2020 are available here.

COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) 2019/1248 of 22 July 2019 establishing measures to alleviate a serious threat to the conservation of the eastern Baltic cod (Gadus morhua) stock. 

Web link to EU press release on eastern Baltic cod emergency measures

ICES advice on western Baltic Herring Published 29 May 2019 

ICES advice on Atlantic salmon in the Baltic Sea, excluding the Gulf of Finland


President Sassoli to EU leaders: Help get the budget negotiations moving again



President Sassoli with French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel at the 15 October summit © KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL / AFP 

In a speech at the EU summit on 15 October, Parliament President David Sassoli insisted it is now up to EU leaders to unlock the stalled negotiations on the 2021-2027 budget.

President Sassoli urged the EU heads of government to update the negotiating mandate they have given to the German Council presidency to make agreement on the EU long-term budget possible.

He noted that Parliament’s negotiators have asked for an additional €39 billion for key EU programmes that benefit Europeans and promote a sustainable recovery. “This is a paltry sum when set against an overall package worth €1.8 trillion, but one which would make an enormous difference to the citizens who will benefit from our common policies,” President Sassoli said, referring to the total amount of the seven-year budget and the Covid-19 recovery plan.

Sassoli noted that if Parliament’s compromise proposal is accepted by the Council, the budget spending ceiling will have to be raised by only €9 billion and this will bring the ceiling of those programmes to exactly the same level of spending as in the 2014-2020 period in real terms.

He said that the interest payments for the debt that the EU plans to issue to finance the recovery must be counted on top of the programme ceilings so as not to further squeeze the financing of these policies. The recovery plan “is an extraordinary commitment, and therefore the cost of the interest should be treated as an extraordinary expense as well. It should not come down to a choice between these costs and the [budget] programmes”.

The President also stressed the need for a binding timetable for the introduction of new types of budget revenue over the coming years and for flexible provisions in the budget to finance unforeseen future events.

Sassoli defended Parliament’s demand for ambitious emission reduction targets. “We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030. We need a target, which acts as a bright beacon on the path to climate neutrality. Protecting the environment means new jobs, more research, more social protection, more opportunities.”

“We should use the economic stimuli provided by public institutions to radically change our growth models while guaranteeing a fair transition that works for us and for future generations. No one should be left behind,” he added.

Commenting on the ongoing negotiations on future EU-UK relations, Sassoli expressed concern about the lack of clarity from the UK side. “I hope that our UK friends use the very narrow window of opportunity that remains to work constructively towards overcoming our differences,” he said, adding that the UK should honour its commitments and remove the controversial provisions in its internal market act.

Sassoli also called for a de-escalation of tensions with Turkey. “The Turkish rhetoric is growing increasingly aggressive and the country's intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is certainly not helping matters. Now is the time for the EU to fully support German mediation efforts, to stand united and speak with one voice,” he said.

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Parliament launches the Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize



Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb explosion in October 2017 

The European Parliament has launched a journalism prize in tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist murdered in 2017. The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, launched on the third anniversary of her death, will reward outstanding journalism reflecting EU values.

"The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize will recognize the essential role that journalists play in preserving our democracies and serve as a reminder to citizens of the importance of a free press. This prize is designed to help journalists in the vital and often dangerous work they do and show that the European Parliament supports investigative journalists," said Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautala.

Prize money of €20,000

The €20,000 annual prize will be awarded as of October 2021 to journalists or teams of journalists based in the European Union. Candidates and the eventual laureate will be chosen by an independent panel.

Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist, blogger and anti-corruption activist who reported extensively on corruption, money laundering, organised crime, sale of citizenship and the Maltese government’s links to the Panama Papers. Following harassment and threats, she was murdered in a car bomb explosion on 16 October 2017.

The outcry over the authorities’ handling of her murder investigation ultimately prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Critical of failings in the investigation, in December 2019, MEPs called on the European Commission to take action.

Parliament strongly advocates the importance of a free press. In a May 2018 resolution, MEPs called on EU countries to ensure adequate public funding and to promote a pluralist, independent and free media. Parliament has once again underlined the importance of media freedom in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the Facebook live interview about the Daphne Caruana Galizia Journalism Prize.

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Coronavirus risks running out of control in Germany, warns Soeder




The leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), Markus Soeder (pictured), warned on Wednesday (21 October) that the coronavirus is at risk of spiraling out of control in Germany, writes Paul Carrel.

While Germany’s infection rates are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating and hit a daily record of 7,830 on Saturday, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

“Corona is back with full force ... the second wave is here,” Soeder told the Bavarian state assembly, adding caution and prudence were required.

On Tuesday, residents in the Bavarian district of Berchtesgadener Land went back into lockdown, the first area in Germany to do so since April.

Soeder said he nonetheless wanted to keep open borders with neighbouring countries. Bavaria borders Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic. He was also determined to keep the economy functioning and schools and nurseries open as long as possible.

“Our priority is to avoid a blanket lockdown,” he told the Bavarian state assembly, adding that he would introduce a “dark red” alert level with tougher restrictions for areas in Bavaria that have 100 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days.

Earlier, a spokeswoman for German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was staying in quarantine at home until Oct. 29 after a bodyguard tested positive for the virus.

Steinmeier, whose role is largely ceremonial, has now twice tested negative for the virus, the spokeswoman added.

“There is light on the horizon,” said Soeder. “Of course, the vaccine will come, of course the situation will be very different in spring next year ... There is a tomorrow after corona.”

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