Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will hold centre stage not only during the first half of the year, but throughout 2012 and not only in the work programmes of the Danish and Cypriot EU Presidencies, but also for the European Commission. The debate has barely taken off yet and Copenhagen can hope at best to secure by June a general position in principle on the three components of the reform - the basic regulation, common organisation of the market and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The Council will hardly be able to go further since it cannot adopt a real common position until the European Parliament wraps up its first reading, probably in autumn 2012.

Basically, things should go relatively smoothly between the Commission and the Danish Council Presidency. Denmark shares the same overall approach to what the reformed CFP should be. Yet the fact that they see eye to eye does not rule out potential pitfalls or stalemate in Council, since member states are hardly on the same wavelength. Since the three proposals are closely linked, the Presidency will organise a series of transversal' thematic debates in Council. Controls or implementation of the ban on discards, for example, have implications in terms of the EMFF (support for fishermen to adapt and to fit their vessels with the necessary equipment).

One of the main difficulties - if not the greatest - is likely to be the proposal to introduce a system of transferable individual quotas. France and some states are vehemently opposed, while others, like Denmark, may be able to present positive results in the framework of capacity reduction. Many members of the European Parliament are sceptical about the measure. Behind this issue loom other probable bones of contention, such as the proposals on the target for achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY, namely the catch level that ensures species renewal) by 2015, the ban on discards and the landing obligation with its related technical, market and support measures, "fully documented" fisheries or certain environmental protection measures.

While all member states agree to support the development of aquaculture (in both fresh and marine waters), their interests diverge and many are reluctant to see the EU become too involved, as this question is directly related to the sharing of waters and coastal zones (spatial planning), a competence the 27 intend to guard jealously.

In terms of legislation, the Danes will work on...

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