The fishery and aquaculture sectors have been hit particularly hard by the Coronavirus crisis. Markets were disrupted and many businesses suffered severe economic losses because of the lockdown. For many coastal communities, who strongly rely on fisheries for their livelihoods, the situation was - and still is - dramatic.
The European Commission acted decisively from the beginning of the crisis. Our immediate concern was to ensure that this short-term disruption would not lead to long-term socio-economic damage such as bankruptcies and major job losses in coastal communities.
As a first step, the Commission proposed a first rescue package directed at promoting investments by mobilising available cash reserves in the European Structural and Investments Funds, to fight the crisis immediately. That proposal extended the scope of mutual funds and aquaculture stock insurance under European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to the compensation of losses caused by a public health crisis.
Secondly, the Commission reinforced measures to support general economy with a new Temporary Framework for State aid targeted to fisheries already in mid-March. It allowed Member States to support their fishers and aquaculture producers with up to EUR 120 000.
Thirdly, after intense coordination with the sector and the other institutions, the Commission proposed a second rescue package. It introduced an amendment of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to support fishermen and women for the temporary cessation of their activities.
The proposal, which was prepared and then adopted by the co-legislators in record time, also included compensation to aquaculture farmers and the fish-processing sector as well as storage aid to producer organisations. At the same time, we have cut red tape where possible to allow Member States to implement these measures as soon as possible.
The aim of these initial actions was to avoid an immediate collapse of the sector. It is still early days, but we have all reasons to believe that thanks to these measures and to the excellent collaboration with all partners, we are well on our way to achieve that goal.
Now that economic activity is slowly restarting across Europe, we are moving to a second phase of action, which is to support recovery and, importantly, to make the sector more resilient to future crisis.
Drafting the recovery package we always knew that we simply cannot forget our fishermen and women, our coastal communities serving us food even at the most extraordinary times. And we did not forget them.
Last week the Commission presented the recovery plan, where we added serious firepower to our arsenal. As part of that proposal, the post 2020 European Maritime Fisheries Fund, the EMFF, is strengthened with an additional EUR 500 million. This is an increase of more than 8% compared to the budget initially proposed for the EMFF in 2018.
The Commission will work closely with Member States to set up their programmes.
I would like to stress that the Recovery Package goes beyond short-term thinking. It aims to deal with some of the structural challenges and is based on our shared European priorities.
This additional funding aims tostrengthen the resilience of the fisheries sector and provide the necessary scope for crisis management in the future. In this respect, all EMFF funding will continue to promote the achievement of the economic, social and environmental objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy. Achieving sustainable fisheries is an investment in the resilience of the sector and in the future of our fishermen and women and the generations that will follow them.
All-in-all, this funding is for an inclusive and fair future for Europe, for our fishermen and women, for our seas and oceans, for each of us.