French seek fisheries-reform involvement

French fisheries minister Bruno Le Maire on Monday kicked off the 'Assises de la mer', an initiative that aims to provide stakeholders in the fishing industry with an opportunity to feed into the heated debate surrounding reform to Europe's Common Fisheries Policy.
A nationwide consultation, the 'Assises de la mer' initiative — launched in the presence of EU fisheries commissioner Joe Borg — aims to prepare the French position regarding CFP reform, responding to the green paper launched by the European Commission earlier this year that mapped area key areas for change to the current European fisheries policy.
"The response from the French government to the European Commission will contribute to the lengthy debate and should propose a vision for European fishing in the long term," said Le Maire.
Set against the backdrop of growing global competition, fluctuations in price for fuel and the increased scarcity of fish, Le Maire added, "I have decided to organize the Assises de la peche with the aim for us to reflect together on what is at stake, and the future of the sector."
A major industry for the country — employing more than 25,000 people to harvest fish, crustaceans, mollusks and seaweed — the French fishing industry is the fourth largest in the EU-27 bloc, capturing 11 percent of the region’s fishing total.
In order to guide the debate in France, five “colleges” have been formed that aim to take into account leading players in the fishing industry: professional organizations, fishing unions, elected members, representatives from the community and experts from specialized institutions and the civil service.
"If the Commission's green paper has provided guidelines for reflection, it is not a closed book: In our first contribution, we can go further than their proposals and questions asked," said Le Maire.
The European Commission launched a public consultation on the future of European fisheries in order "to hear the views of all member states and stakeholders before embarking on a root-and-branch reform."
The consultation is now in full swing and, according to the Commission, the "French initiative will undoubtedly produce a significant contribution to what is expected to be a lively, innovative and no-holds-barred debate until the end of December."
The EC, Europe's executive arm, claims it will sum up the results of the debate early in 2010 and produce conclusions on the general direction that the CFP reform could take. In 2011, the Commission is scheduled to draft a proposal for a new basic regulation that will be presented to the European Council and the European Parliament in 2011, with a view of adoption before 2013.

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