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22.3.  Common organisation of EU's fisheries market

    Contrasting sharply with the gestation of the policy for the management and conservation of fishery resources, the creation of a common market for fishery products did not come up against major difficulties. Such a market organisation was moreover expressly provided for by the EEC Treaty, with Articles 32 and 34 (ex-Art. 38 and 40 TEC) stipulating that the operation and development of the common market for agricultural products (including fishery products) should be accompanied by the establishment of a common (agricultural) policy and that the latter should incorporate common organisation of the market. Common organisation of the market in fishery and aquaculture products was born in October 1970 and amended several times at later stages. The most recent Regulation in this field aims at ensuring that the rules governing the organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products contribute positively to better management and utilisation of resources [Regulation 1379/2013, last amended by Regulation 2015/812]. It provides for consumers to be informed by means of labelling of fishery and aquaculture products when offered for retail sale, strengthens the role of producer organisations in achieving the objectives of the CFP and of the CMO and overhauls the intervention mechanisms, the main purpose of which is to act as a safety net [Regulation 104/2000, last amended by Regulation 2015/2265]. In fact, the current CMO laid down in Regulation 104/2000 has moved away from a mere intervention system and now lays more emphasis on sustainability-supportive fishing and marketing activities [COM/2006/558].

    One of the measures necessary to implement the common organisation of markets is the application of common standards for the marketing of the products in question, to ensure that products which do not meet a sufficient quality level are not marketed and to stimulate trade on the basis of fair competition. A Regulation sets common marketing standards for certain fresh or chilled fish for human consumption [Regulation 2406/96]. In accordance with this Regulation, fish freshness plays a determinant role in assessment of its quality. The common marketing standards therefore take the form of a breaking down into freshness grading on the one hand and size grading on the other, the latter due to differences in consumers' buying habits. The application of these standards means that there must be inspection of the products subject to them. Member States must therefore submit products to a conformity check, which can take place at all the marketing stages and also during transport. The Member States must also take all appropriate steps to penalise infringements of marketing standards.

    A guide price is set at the beginning of the fish marketing year for the main fresh or chilled products [see e.g. Regulation 232/2013]. This price is based on the average of the prices recorded on wholesale markets or in representative ports during the three previous fish marketing years. It makes allowance for possible evolution in production and demand and for the need to ensure stable market prices and to contribute to supporting the income of producers, without forgetting consumers' interests. A withdrawal price is set in line with the freshness, size or weight and presentation of the product, which must be equal to at least 70% while not exceeding 90% of the guide price.

    Within this range, producers' organisations can set a withdrawal price below which they no longer sell the products supplied by their members. Should this situation arise, the organisations must grant compensation to member producers in line with the quantities of the main fresh or chilled products withdrawn from the market. The organisations set up intervention funds formed by contributions based on the quantities put on sale or run a compensation system to finance these withdrawal measures. A producers' organisation is taken as being any recognised organisation or association of such organisations, set up on the initiative of producers in order to take measures ensuring that fishing is carried out in a rational manner, to improve sales conditions for their production and to stabilise prices.

    The adjustment of supply to market requirements is left in the hands of producers' organisations, but they must not hold a dominant position on the common market. The Member States officially recognise producers' organisations which so request provided that they meet certain conditions [Regulation 104/2000 last amended by Regulation 2015/2265]. They can be granted national aid in the three years following their recognition, to help with their operation and with the investments engendered by the application of common rules. Regional fisheries workshops, within the wider framework of the dialogue with the sector, serve as a forum for all those with an interest in the common fisheries policy to exchange views on its implementation, in particular from the standpoint of the features peculiar to the various regions and fishing zones.

    As part of their support for the organisations' activities, the Member States grant financial compensation to organisations operating in accordance with European regulations. Financial compensation is only granted for products which, once put up for sale under normal conditions, do not find a buyer at the withdrawal price. Products for which financial compensation has been paid must be disposed off for use other than human consumption [Regulation 2509/2000].

    The common organisation of the market in fishery products entails a system governing trade in these products with third countries [Regulation 2371/2002]. It lays down the criteria and conditions for allocating catches in European waters to vessels of third countries authorised to fish in those waters. For the main fishery products, a "free-at-frontier price" is set on the basis of the prices recorded by the Member States. Depending on the products, various measures can be taken should the free-at-frontier price remain below the reference price during at least three successive market days and if large quantities of products are imported from third countries. However, the fishing vessels of third countries may land directly and market their catches at European ports, subject to special conditions concerning health checks, declaration and prices [Regulation 1005/2008, see section 22.2.1]. The EU suspends customs duties on imports of certain fisheries products, which are necessary for its supplies [Regulation 2803/2000]. Inasmuch as is necessary to enable economic export on a large scale of fishery products on the basis of the prices for these products on the world market, the difference between the latter and European prices can be made up by an export refund [Regulation 686/78].

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