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RACs To Receive More EU Funding

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

29 November 2006

The European Commission on Monday announced that it would further acknowledge the important contribution of the recently established Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) to the application of the Common Fisheries Policy, by proposing an increase in the amount of EU financial support that they currently receive.

To allow for this, the Commission plans to amend the legal base of the RACs, and to define them as bodies contributing to the European interest.

The Commission’s proposed amendment would strengthen the RACs and provide them with a stable annual contribution from the EU budget. The EU grant would cover up to 90% of their costs, and the annual allocation would amount to EUR250,000 per RAC. This should cover both their operational costs and their translation and interpretation costs.

“RACs are fast becoming full players in the management of European fisheries. This is a positive development which must be encouraged. Their contribution must not be hampered by lack of funds. This proposal fully recognises the crucial role that they have to play in our common efforts to achieve sustainable management of our fisheries and to secure a more stable situation for the industry," explained Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.

The stakeholder-led RACs were established as a result of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2002, to improve stakeholder involvement in policy-making. The role of the RACs is to provide advice to the Commission and Member States on fisheries matters which fall within their area of competence. The Commission must respond to this advice.

The EU financial assistance currently allocated to the RACs is scheduled to decrease with each year of operation, coming to an end after five years. Funding would then be gradually found from other sources. However, the existing RACs have experienced difficulties in operating effectively within this financial framework. There are concerns that this situation could seriously hinder their ability to meet their objectives in the near future.

The RACs focus on specific geographical areas or fisheries. They are composed of representatives of the fishing sector (shipowners, small-scale fishermen, employed fishermen, producer organisations, processors, traders and other market organisations and women’s networks), who make up two-thirds of their members. The other stakeholders include environmental organisations, aquaculture producers, consumers and recreational fishermen. Scientists may be invited to participate in the RAC meetings as experts. Representatives of the Commission and the Member States may also participate as active observers. Most RAC meetings are open to the public.

Out of the planned seven RACs, four are fully operational: the RACs for the North Sea, the pelagic stocks, the North Western waters and the Baltic Sea.

Since their establishment, these RACs have already submitted more than 40 recommendations to the Commission. Discussions are still ongoing among stakeholders concerning the setting up of the three remaining RACs: for the long-distance fleet, the South Western waters and the Mediterranean sea.

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