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European Commission assesses and sets out reform priorities for the Western Balkans and Turkey

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The European Commission has adopted its 2021 Enlargement Package, providing a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkans and Turkey, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell (pictured) said: “We have to maintain a credible enlargement process. The new methodology is a merit based approach. It puts a stronger focus on fundamental reforms, such as rule of law, fundamental freedoms, economy and functioning of democratic institutions. Our partners need to address them, in the interest of their citizens and to advance on the EU path. And they need put aside their differences. On the EU side, we need to deliver on our commitments. It's time we come together and unite in building a stronger Europe.”

Presenting this year's Package, consisting of Communication on EU enlargement policy and annual reports, Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, said: “Enlargement policy is a geostrategic investment in peace, stability, security and economic growth on our European continent. It's a merit based process, to which we provide a factual and fair assessment as well as a clear roadmap to accelerate and deepen reforms in our partners. This is in line with our revised enlargement methodology, enhancing the credibility of the process.” A press release and a detailed findings and recommendations on each partner are available online.

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Baltics

Baltic Sea: Agreement reached on 2022 fishing

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The Council of the European Union has reached an agreement on the fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2022, on the basis of the Commission's proposal. The agreement comes at a difficult time for the Baltic Sea, as environmental pressures and challenges stemming from pollution are taking their toll on fish stocks as well. Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius welcomed the agreement: “Restoring the marine environment and the fish stocks in the Baltic Sea is at the heart of the Commission's approach to setting fishing opportunities and I am happy that the Council has agreed to follow it for most of the stocks. In recent years, the problems in the Baltic have had a devastating impact on our fishers. This is why our comprehensive approach, with concrete actions targeting environment, is crucial. The decisions reached are difficult, but necessary, so that the Baltic Sea can remain the source of livelihood for fishermen and women today and tomorrow.” 

The Council adopted fishing opportunities for several stocks with substantial reductions, such as -88% for western Baltic cod. It also agreed on additional recovery management measures, such as limiting fishing to unavoidable by-catches for salmon in the southern main basin and western herring, as well as extended spawning closure and a ban on recreational fisheries for western Baltic cod. The agreement on the Joint Recommendation of Baltic Member States for a more selective fishing gear for flatfish is a step change in fisheries management, which allowed to increase the plaice total allowable catch (TAC) accordingly, without putting at risk the ailing cod stocks. The Council agreed increases for herring in the Gulf of Riga, sprat and salmon in the Gulf of Finland. More information in this news item.

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Baltics

Listen to the ocean: EU AGRIFISH fisheries minister demand to end Baltic overfishing

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As EU fisheries ministers arrived for the AGRIFISH Council meeting on 11 October in Luxembourg, they received a musical exhortation from a quartet of classical musicians and an opera singer, calling on them to Listen to the Ocean and the science, by setting fishing limits within scientific advice. Arel Ensemble performed excerpts from String Quartet No. 4 by Bacewicz, String Quartet No. 8 by Shostakovich, String Quartet in E Minor by Czerny, and Movement for String Quartet by Copland, and were joined by mezzo-soprano opera singer Luisa Mauro for Il Tramonto by Respighi outside the European Convention Centre in Luxembourg, where EU fisheries ministers are gathering to set fishing limits for Baltic Sea fish populations for 2022.

Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius attended the performance. “I’m performing this morning because I am sensitive to the future of our planet and music is my way of expression,” said mezzo-soprano opera singer Luisa Mauro.

“I believe it is important to use an ecosystem-based approach to regulate access to marine resources, in order to ensure sustainability, and to prohibit destructive fishing methods”.

“The Arel Ensemble is proud to play outside the AGRIFISH meeting here in Luxembourg this morning, to promote the need to fight for the planet and a better, sustainable future!” said Bartłomiej Ciastoń, first violin. “With our Polish roots, the musicians of Arel Ensemble are well placed to respond to, and understand the need, to protect the Baltic Sea from overfishing. As musicians, we are taking action to preserve nature and help the marine environment in a way that we do the best and with heart - by playing music.”

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“Today, the EU AGRIFISH Council will set fishing limits for Baltic Sea fish populations for 2022. We are running against the clock to stop the collapse of the Baltic Sea ecosystem and deliver on political promises to halt the climate and nature crises”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Program Director. “The setting of fishing opportunities at sustainable levels is an essential precondition to deliver on these promises. Baltic Fisheries Ministers must listen to the ocean and the science, by setting fishing limits within scientific advice.”

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