Belgium. European Commission has decided France has fully met her fisheries obligations

Friday, 24 November 2006

 

The European Commission has decided that France has fully met her legal obligations with regard to previous shortcomings in the enforcement of some fisheries measures. After a thorough evaluation of the situation in France at the end of the second 6-month period since the judgment of the European Court of Justice, in July 2005, the Commission concluded that France had fully implemented the Court requirements. As a result, France will not incur a second penalty payment. This decision also brings to an end this infringement procedure against France which goes back to 1991 when the Court fist passed judgment.

“This is good news all round.”, commented Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. “The sustainability of fisheries depends entirely on the proper implementation of all fisheries measures. The changes made by France will strengthen our common efforts to effectively discourage illegal fishing activities.”

In its evaluation of the situation in France, at the end of the first 6-month period, the Commission had welcomed the positive steps taken by France. (See IP/06/1 March 2006). It also said, however, that a number of the measures taken by France still had to have the required impact on the ground, while others still had to be put in place.

With regard to control, shortcomings were still noted in the numbers, quality and thoroughness of inspections of the fishing, landing, transport and marketing activities. As to the effectiveness of sanctions, the Commission noted the entry into effect, on 6 January 2006, of changes in the French legislation. These extended the application of administrative sanctions to all infringements of EU fisheries rules. Naturally, this was too short a time to have had a practical impact on the ground.

On the basis of continued close contacts with the French authorities and several inspections by the Commission in France, the Commission carried out a new rigorous and thorough evaluation of the second six-month period. As a result of this evaluation, the Commission has concluded that huge progress has since been achieved. The Commission has therefore decided that France now fully meets all her obligations with regard to the ECJ ruling. The infringement procedure against France is therefore now closed.

The Commission has expressed its conviction that France will be able to maintain and consolidate the efforts that she has deployed in order to put in place an effective control and sanction regime. It has also assured France of its full availability to maintain the existing cooperation between the two Parties.

Background

On 12 July 2005, the European Court of Justice condemned France to pay a lump sum of € 20 million and a periodic 6-month penalty of € 57,761,250 starting from that day. This was due to non-compliance with the requirements from a previous Court ruling, in 1991, on serious shortcomings in the enforcement of some fisheries rules. These related to ensuring both the correct application of some technical measures and to providing deterrent sanctions for those found infringing the rules. The Court noted some progress in some areas and deficiencies in others.

In the absence of progress in this area in subsequent years, the Commission asked the Court, in August 2002, to impose a daily penalty of € 316,500 until France complied with the relevant obligations. In its ruling of 12 July 2005, the Court imposed the payment of a lump sum and a periodic penalty. The Commission had to assess whether or not, at the end of the first 6-month period, France had fully complied with all the obligations under this ruling.

On 1 March 2006, after thorough and rigorous evaluation of the situation, the Commission decided that, despite progress, France had not taken all the necessary steps to comply fully with the July 2005 Court obligations. Today’s decision relates to the second six-month period up to 12 July 2006.

Member States decided to include a provision in the Maastricht Treaty that would ensure compliance with ECJ rulings.The special judicial procedure concerned provides for the imposition of penalty payments or lump sums by the ECJ on Member States which fail to comply with earlier ECJ judgments having found them in breach of their obligations under Community law. The 12 July 2005 case against France was only the third under this provision. The other two related to Greece in July 2000, and Spain in November 2003.

Last Updated ( Friday, 24 November 2006 )