Summary: The European Commission sketched out on December 14 new rules for the European Union's Structural Funds helping the fishing and aquaculture community for the 2000-2006 period. The 40-page draft Council Regulation - which will replace the current Regulation 2468/98/EC, expiring at the end of December - sets detailed rules and conditions for Structural measures in the fisheries sector include a series of figures for applying EU and national aid, as well as the maximum ceilings available.

The mechanisms and support rules in the new Regulation are based on the Commission's Agenda 2000 proposals for reforming the overall Structural Funds Regulation, issued last March. The Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance's (FIFG) priorities include a wide range of different activities like cutting the current over-capacity, renewing or modernising the fishing fleet, using coastal areas to protect or develop fishing resources, processing and marketing of fisheries products, research into new outlets for fisheries products, and re-directing fisheries activities through temporary business associations and mixed companies. The proposal, which has to be approved by the EU's Council of Ministers, determines the ares in which assistance is to be provided and lays down the rules on funding. This entails four changes: - provisions on programming are to be adjusted; - some provisions seen as insufficiently explicit or difficult to enforce are updated and reinforced; - assistance is extended to new areas; - premiums and scales are to be brought up to date. Three measures are proposed for the fleet, while maintaining the multi-annual guidance programme (MAGP: 1997-2001) of fleet cuts as the reference...

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