How well are fishermen really doing

It is the annual fisheries trade show in Brussels this week. Taxi drivers are trebling their prices, and hotels only doubling their rates. Autumn weather has returned for a visit at the end of April. Is the economic outlook for fishermen so uncertain?

There is an easy way to find out how the catching sector is doing and that is read the annual “The 2015 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet” (STECF) available here. If you don’t want to read the 434 page report, here are some highlights.

2013  and 2014 were  good years for most, and spectacular for some

If you listened to the ongoing debate about the UK membership of the EU, you would think that fisheries in the EU and the UK in particular was a disaster. The economic data is less exciting.

STECF state” The amount of Gross Value Added (GVA) and gross profit (all excl. subsidies) generated by the EU fishing fleet (excl. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Malta) in 2013 was €3.4 billion and €1.3 billion, respectively. GVA as a proportion of revenue was estimated at 49% and gross profit margin at 20%. With a total net profit of €506 million for the EU fleet in 2013, 7.8% of the revenue was retained as net profit. Sixteen out of nineteen member states (excludes Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Malta) generated net profits in 2013; the remaining three MS (Belgium, Finland and Portugal) generated net losses” (page 24). 2014 projections are positive with ” all Member States analysed generated net profits in 2014, with the exclusion of the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland” (page 24).

This said, as someone mentioned to me  this week, fishermen and farmers are the same, how ever good it is, they will always say it is bad. There is an objective way to see how an industry is performing. It is to look at the RoI – the Return on Investment. In this low interest rate environment, some of the returns from some countries are enticing.

You’ll see from the chart below, that some countries are doing very well. The British fleet in 2013 was making 23% net profits!

Indeed, the large-scale fleet was making in 2014 a projected net profit margin of 32.6% and a RoFTA of 84.9%. These numbers would have put the best hedge fund manager to shame in the hey day. The small-scale fleet was not doing so well, but not too badly, making 6.5% net profits or 10.2 % RoFTA. These are levels many firms would be very happy with, especially in the hight of a grim recession.


Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.56.13

See Report, page 55.

The report provides clear summaries of the economic performance of each country’s fisheries. I have listed them below. The report uses RoFTA (Return on Fixed Tangible Assets)  is used as an approximation of ROI

You’ll see that economic performance between large and small-scale fisheries can often vary a lot within a country and between countries. Some fisheries are clearing excellent net profits – some in excess of 30% –  and others making continual losses.


See Report, p.385.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 84.9%, small-scale fleet 10.2%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.13.50



See Report, p. 367.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 12.6%, small-scale fleet – 65.1%, distant water fleet 59.2%.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 15.11.49



See Report, p.322.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet – 3.5%, small-scale fleet -2.9%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.45.58




Report, p.356.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 49.6%, small-scale fleet -8.7%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 15.06.16


Report, p.349.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 15.7%, small-scale fleet 56.2%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 15.04.33


Report, 331.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 2.3%, small-scale fleet 22.4%, distant water fleet 28.2%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 15.00.24



Report, p.311.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet – 0.3%, small-scale fleet – 22.4%


Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.49.45



Report, p.303.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet – 3.1%, small-scale fleet 10%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.52.58



See Report, p.204.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet – 15.9%, small-scale fleet 11.1 %, distant water fleet 314.4%


Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.55.33



Report, p.280.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 6,4%, small-scale fleet 3.5%


Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.58.53



Report, p.270.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 30%, small-scale fleet 12%, distant water fleet 5.1%.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.00.04



Report, p.257.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 13.7%, small-scale fleet 50%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.03.15



Report, p.239.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 5.6%, small-scale fleet -46.3%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.07.38



Report, p.229.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet -1.9%, small-scale fleet 3.0%, distant water fleet N/A

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.09.35



Report, p.214.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 32.2%, small-scale fleet -21.6%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.12.44



Report, p.204.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 10.1%, small-scale fleet 18.1%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.15.04



Report, p.194.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet 10.4%, small-scale fleet -13.2%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.17.40



Report, p.187.

RoFTA  large-scale fleet -6.3%, small-scale fleet -5.8%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.39.19




RoFTA  large-scale fleet 12.2%, small-scale fleet -18.6%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.43.25





RoFTA  large-scale fleet -18.6%, small-scale fleet 3.5%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.47.41



Report, p.160.

RoFTA  large and small  scale fleet – 4.05%

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.52.08

Delegated legislation – the pre-adoption phase

The “Inter institutional Agreement Between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission on Better Law-Making” was adopted on  13 April 2016. It is now in force and new Commission proposals should be following it. Below is the signing event in Strasbourg.


The Agreement will have an important impact across many areas of EU law making.  I have reservations that Commission Services will follow the letter and the spirit transparency provisions of the Agreement, but I hope to be proven wrong.

One of the most important changes will be in the  pre-Commission adoption area of Delegated Legislation, in particular on how delegated acts are adopted.

Here I consider what those changes will be by cross-reference to the Agreement and the Commission’s Guidelines and the Toolbox. When one of the Institutions publish a new process chart for this pre-approval stage for delegated legislation,  I will post it. The Agreement needs to be read in tandem with Guidelines and Toolbox as the later are commitments the Commission have made on themselves, and so some operational mechanics fall outside the scope of the Agreement.

The Institutional Agreement deals with changes to Delegated and Implementing acts in Section V (para 28-31) and the Annex of the Agreement.

The main changes are:

  • Member State experts, along with European Parliament and Council experts, will be involved in the early preparatory phases of developing a delegated act. This  will happen by way of meetings.
  • Member State experts, presumably along with European Parliament and Council experts,  will also see the draft legal text of the Delegated Act,  before it posted on a new web portal.
  • A new web portal will be established where the public will get to see the draft legal text following the Inter-Service Consultation.
  • Delegated acts will have their own stand alone register. But, for the meantime, implementing acts will for a while use the existing comitology web platform.
  • Only delegated acts with a significant impact will be accompanied by an impact assessment.

I have tried to summarise this pre-adoption phase for delegated acts with significant impacts below. This is a work in progress, and all errors remain mine! As soon as I see something better, I’ll post it.


DA - New Page

This chart can only be broadly correct.  First, the fine print of how the new system will be work is being worked out, even the IT system to operate it needs to be set up. Second, there are always exceptions to the general rule, and in all likelihood a separate process chart for each the pre-proposal phase for significant and non-significant delegated acts and implementing acts should be prepared.



Stakeholder Feedback Built In – A Final Quality Check?

The introduction of  feedback for draft delegated and implementing acts is arguably the most significant contribution to open law making from the Agreement. This will involve two components, first, the listing of Agenda Planning proposals being considered, and second, stakeholders will be given 4 weeks to provide feedback on the drafts.

These important provisions should come on stream around 1st July 2016.

There are exceptions to this general rule (see below pages 67-68 of the Guidelines).


Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 14.05.40

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 14.07.07

Commission Adoption

Depending on the measure at stake, different internal Commission Procedures for sign off will be used. This checklist on page 14 of the Guidelines provides a helpful summary.


Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 13.55.58

This is helpful to look at.  Many initiatives for delegated legislation (delegated acts and implementing acts) are not internally flagged as having significant impacts, even when it is clear that they do.  This can mean that many of the Commission’s screening controls can in practice be by-passed. This means that important proposals can land up on the desk for inter-service consultation and then adopted by the College of the Commissioners without any serious review, discussion and quality control.

Long Term Thinking – Ideas for Beyond Juncker

Sowing the seeds for political life beyond Juncker

President Juncker is coming up to two years in office. He was elected to office on 15 July 2014 and his new Commission was appointed on 1 November 2014 for a five-year term.

After a slow start,  a full legislative package on President Juncker’s priority areas is in full swing. Asking people who know what happens after the first tranche of laws is adopted, there is a look of mild bemusement, and a response “that is it”. Sometime in  early 2018 this Commission will start to wind down, and clear the decks for the appointment of the next Commission President.

I’ll not dwell on whether the Spitzenkandidat candidate process will be followed again. There are too many political unknowns from now until 2019. Indeed, a small matter of the UK’s In/Out vote on staying in the EU, will paralyse the EU for most of the rest of President Juncker’s term of office if the UK votes Out on 23 June 2016.


Time for a Cultural Change in the Commission

Whilst President Juncker claims of  his administration  of  “I want to be serious about being big on big things and small on small things” (speech 10 September 2016) it is not clear that the Commission Services have heard him.

Several Directorate-Generals are still trying to push out the door their pet initiatives. Indeed, some Directorate Generals seemingly ignore the new internal checks and balances built into the Commission system introduced via the Better Regulation agenda and Operating Procedures. Others seek to bring back to failed failed policies and rejected by previous Commissions, Council and European Parliament.

Today, it is surprising how many proposals, often with significant impacts, are tabled without having a Road Map, let alone an Impact Assessment. This is a particular issue with delegated legislation. Sometimes it is like only a handful of officials in the Commission understand the Commission’s Working Instructions issued at the start of Juncker’s Presidency.   This is bedeviled with a Secretary-General who is reluctant to intervene and quash proposals and initiatives that are outside President Juncker’s priorities , or are in line with Better Regulation guidance.

Vice-President Timmermans tasked with implementing the Better Regulation agenda must wonder what he needs to do to ensure only well designed, European value added proposals make it through to the College. A specific solution would be for a more interventionist Secretary-General or for the Vice-President himself to block non-compliant proposals. It is at time shocking to see proposals being tabled that seek to resuscitate presumed existent policies, that previous Commissions and Heads of State have clearly rejected. This creates unnecessary regulatory and political uncertainty, and it would be easier if pet projects from officials or Commissioners were culled earlier on.

Second,  a culture inside the Commission that makes it acceptable to admit that policy or legislative initiatives have failed would be welcome. I have just read the Court of Auditors report on the Baltic Sea Strategy and the Commission’s pitiful reply. Too often, the Commission do not seem prepared to admit that the thinking, implementation and  several billions of euros of taxpayers money has failed to deliver on its stated objectives. A culture of denial will not help bring about more effective solutions going forward and will in all likelihood lead to reusing failed thinking .


Sowing the Seeds for Change

The new Inter-Instutitonal Agreement on Better Regulation spells out that the Commission will work with the Council and the European Parliament in the establishment of the priorities of the Commission and the Commission’s multi-annual and annual work programme (see paras 4-11). This will be important when the next President takes office.

This provides a forward thinking organisation  with the opportunity to provide the “seeds to land on fertile soil” for the next Commission.  Such an organisation would provide clearly thought out solutions and “legislative” templates to solve important problems.

That so few organisations do this in Brussels is surprising.

That said, two studies of the experience in the USA, show that whilst long-term thinking of influencing policy at a structural level is rare and often partisan, the organisations  that do embark on a longer term approach, often find their agenda co-opted by  an-incoming new Administration or used as the template for a bi-partisan solutions by Congress. For more on this I’d recommend reading “Think Tanks, Public Policy and the Politics of Expertise” by Andrew Rich, and “Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies” by John.W.Kingdom.



Burden Reduction – A long-term game

In case people don’t believe me the Commission, Council and European Parliament have agreed to remove burdensome regulation and simplify existing laws.

“By way of contribution to its regulatory fitness and performance programme (REFIT), the Commission undertakes to present annually an overview, including an annual burden survey, of the results of the Union’s efforts to simplify legislation and to avoid over-regulation and reduce administrative burdens.” (see para 48,ii, Institutional Agreement).

I understand that a group inside the Council will follow this and it a standing item for each Member State Presidency, along with the Commission’s annual report. They will supplement this  agenda with “targets” for reductions. It is not an issue that is going to go away.

Here again the pro-active organisation would submit clearly thought out solutions that identifies the problem, establishes the unnecessary costs and impacts, and provides a template policy and legislative solution.   Some sectors, like chemicals, are ever popular  with Member States for simplification and burden reduction . But, despite a complicated mishmash of hazard and risk management approaches across a broad array of laws, no-one has yet tabled coherent and substantive turnkey solution. Indeed, when pushed for specific details of specific impacts, and their associated costs, most of the time  officials working on burden reduction  are met with a blank response from industry for specific details.

This must be challenging for the cadre of officials in the Commission, Council and Member States who have been tasked with meeting targets for burden reduction, but face few willing meaningful suggestions, beyond that of re-known, and often decades old, trade association and NGO mantras.






A model for winning legislative campaigns in the EU

I thought it was time that I write out the model I use for winning legislative political campaigns in the EU. I have been asked to write it before, but I now have a lot of time on my hands, so got around to it.

I am sure there are many holes in it. I’d welcome hearing from you.

The ideas behind it are not complex. They are born from nearly 20 years working in Brussels working on passing or campaigning to influence EU legislation. During that time, I have looked to refine the model, take on board what works, and more importantly, discard what does not work. As a model, it is tested with each new campaign, and the model is  constantly refined. If it does not work, I’ll get rid of it.

I could summarise the approach as “speaking to the right people, at the right time, in language they understand”.   I’ll go into more detail in four sections:

  • What game are you playing
  • Value Based Communications
  • The key people
  • Understand the game you are playing


What game are you playing

I am always curious if people campaigning or lobbying on a proposed law are in the business of winning or whether they want to convert people. There is a big difference.

If you want to win, at the end of the day, you want your proposal (or amendment to it) to be adopted.  You don’t really care whether the majority of politicians voting for your proposal (or officials if it is delegated legislation) support your position, let alone believe in it. All you care is that for that one moment in time when they come to vote on it the majority you need back your position.

I have seen politicians and officials back an option I have campaigned for knowing full well that many of them opposed it personally. But, events were engineered so that at the right time, on the right day, they voted for the right thing.

On the other hand, I have seen many lobbyists, campaigners, companies and NGOs wanting to convert people to their position. I find the practice of converting people to be time and resource consuming. Given so many NGOs and companies are in the business of converting non-believers and opponents to their position I am sure it must sometimes work. I just guess that my not seen visible signs of mass conversions of non-believers and opponents is a sign of being general sceptical and broadly agnostic.

But, the general practice of “conversion or nothing” dominates Brussels, and I think most political campaigns.  It perhaps explains why so few campaigns deliver. It’s like Jehovah Witnesses going to the Holy See and being surprised how few, if any, of the flock of Rome, admit the errors of their ways  and switch sides. In reality, many companies and NGOs are asking non-believers and opponents to accept that they are wrong, usually on an issue that is deeply important to them as an individual, and publically convert.  That the issue is usually sold to them in terms that amounts to as nothing more sophisticated as ” you can’t do that because it will hurt my profits”, or “we need to stop modern industrial production, even if the technology does not exist to replace it” –  here I basically paraphrase opening gambits I have heard from industry and NGOs –  it is not hard to understand why the modern business of conversion is a hard slog.

Value Based Communications

I have written about Value  Based Communications before (please see here).

If it worked for Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair it can work for you. It works for Greenpeace and Toyota. Yet despite working, a lot of people don’t like it for what I can see as  two reasons.

First, they think communicating to people in ways that makes sense to the target audience as manipulative.  Second, a lot of people don’t like idea of changing the story they tell to different groups of people.

First, the business of political persuasion could be seen as manipulation. It is about putting the best set of ideas forward to a given individual that will persuade them. As people seem to have one of three value sets (Settlers, Prospectors, and Pioneers) who look at the world in very different ways, the only hard part is to re-articulate your case in language that resonates with each of those three groups. It perhaps explains why many people use the same arguments to Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Greens, Communists, nationalists and fascsicts.  That this assortment of political interests look at things very differently shows that it is vital to adapt your story for these political traditions.

Second, only very unsuccessful salespeople use the same story line all the time. Why people buy into something is individual. Not understanding what makes those people tick you are trying to sell to,  and adapt your case and language to support that case, is at best lazy and at worst politically suicidal.

I find the chart below helpful in that it provides examples of what drives people in Settlers, Prospector, Pioneer groups.  The language and case you need to put to these groups is very different to win them over is very different. You can of course use your standard presentation with the same language to everyone, but please don’t be surprised if it does not influence many people.



I have used this on some campaigns. The most dangerous side effect I found that a very broad coalition of politicians supported the issue, for a whole variety of reasons, and most of the time not for the same reasons that the client backed the campaign.

I recommend anyone to read Chris Rose’s book “What Makes People Tick” and the excellent analysis from Pat Dade at Cultural Dynamics.

Key People

I used to think that on any given issue on a piece of EU legislation 500 people count. I have just looked over a very detailed list of the key decision makers across the EU 28 on an issue I have followed closely for a long time. To my surprise the number is 228 people.

That list includes:

  • Commissioners
  • Cabinet Advisers
  • Key officials in the Services, including drafters, legislative team, inter-service steering group
  • MEPs working on the issue
  • Key advisers to those MEPs
  • Ministers
  • Key political advisers
  • Permanent Representative officials
  • Key Directors and officials in national Ministries
  • Active and influential journalists in the EU 28

Each and every one of those people has a name, email, phone number, mobile number, and postal address. Each and everyone of them has a general position on the broad issues, and sometimes specific positions on specific issues. For key people, specific argumentation points will of course be developed in advance, and even have rehearsed. Understanding from where they are coming from and adapting your conversation to win them over is essential.

Whilst having the list in advance, please bear in mind that the list will alter for two main reasons. First, some key players will appear during the process, that were at the start of the process unknown. You can even sometimes engineer for new players to enter the process if you think that will assist you. Sometimes a President may overrule a Minister after some well targeted media. Second, governments in an EU of 28 are having elections, and Ministers come and go. Key allies or opponents one day may not be in power the next day.  The list is of course a living list.

Also, depending where a proposal is in the process will be vital. At the start of a proposal, the Inter-Service Group and Cabinet leads will be vital, but the same people will have little or no role when the final conciliation meeting starts.


Understand the game you are playing

Europe deals with two main types of legislation: ordinary legislation (co-decision) and delegated legislation.

The process for the adoption and passage of both types of legislation are very different. The people who make decisions and by why what majorities are very different. All too often campaigns use a reverse read across and hope what worked once before will work again. This in my view takes faith healing to a new level of blind adherence. If you’d don’t read the correct map (the process and the rules for your specific proposal) it is very likely that you will get lost and not turn up on time, if it all.

All too often, campaigns will blame the system as being unfair when they get lost and loose. In reality, what has happened is that the campaign has not looked at the right map, or not even picked up a map at all. In retrospect, their loss is not a surprise, it is more just a foregone conclusion.

Finally, the opportunities for planting seeds that lead, over time, to new proposals and maybe laws are plentiful. Yet again, few people take the time to plant the seeds. For one NGO I worked, a report we published that provided a template solution to a seemingly intractable problem, which provided substantive, practical and real life solutions, was co-opted in large part by the Commission and tabled in a proposal. This long-term thinking requires you to delay the instant gratification of instant changes, and rather allow ideas to blossom over years and have them become mainstream and co-opted by others. The results are usually more positive and longer lasting. It’s better to help at the very start design a system than to campaign and alter a component of the  overall solution.

Lattice Work


I hope that this lattice-work of campaign approaches is clear and provides you with some ideas on how not to turn up late and influence the adoption of legislation.