Hello Mrs Briano, first of all I would like to thank you for having accepted my invitation to give this short interview to European Generation.
Could you please give me some information on your background and current position in the European Parliament?
Yes, of course. Concerning my first mandate in the European Parliament, I was elected in the constituency North-West, in the regions of Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont and Aosta Valley. My academic background is focused on natural sciences and also in the European Parliament I am mainly committed in environmental issues. I am the Vice Chair of the Committee on Fisheries. Fishery is a very important sector for the European Union and a productive activity, which has to be realized in a way that guarantees the environmental sustainability. In addition, I am a substitute member of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and I follow a wide range of dossiers. In particular, I was the Rapporteur of the opinion on the European strategy for the Alpine region, targeting the macro-region of the zone around the Alps as one of the most important in Europe in terms of environmental issues. Moreover, I am a member of the Scientific Technology Options Assessment (STOA), an organization of the European Parliament that develops scientific research and analysis on different themes, involving scientists and civil society. Despite the fact as MEP I work in Brussels, I try to remain close to the local Italian communities, listening to people’s concerns and inform them on European news and policies. Although some political parties try to spread the feeling of distance between European Union and people, we constantly work on numerous aspects that directly and positively affect our lives as European citizens.
As Vice Chair of the Committee on Fisheries could you please explain the importance of the Common Fisheries Policy and how it contributes to the overall environmental sustainability?
The Common Fisheries Policy, that was adopted the last parliamentary term, represents an enormous innovation because it faces a professional sector from the economic, social and environmental perspective. More specifically, this set of rules helps maintaining a healthy competition in the European fisheries and preserving the fish stocks. How can we guarantee the health of our sea and fish stocks while promoting equal opportunities for fishers? We have to collect and rely on scientific data in order to assure economic and environmental sustainability. Considering the difference of the regional fisheries, EU regulations need a generic approach and specific aspects about different species should be treated separately. In this sense regionalization is very significant because what matters for instance for the Atlantic Ocean does not for the Mediterranean Sea. In order to maintain a sustainable fishery the relations with non-European countries are important and have a huge impact as in Europe we consume about four times the amount of fish we actually catch. As a result, it is necessary to guarantee that third countries from which we import fish respect the regulations of environmental sustainability and labor rights.
I would like to refer now to your initiative with regards to the Bluefin Tuna quota allocation. What is the scope of this action and how will the small-independent fishermen profit from it?
The case of Bluefin Tuna is an example of how we should work in Europe with regards to fish stocks and fisheries. In Italy, small-scale fisheries, usually families or groups of very few employees, are way bigger than the industrial fishery in terms of vessels and catches. Thanks to the mechanism of the quotas, Bluefin Tuna stocks are improving and notably increasing respect to the past. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is the international organization responsible for establishing the number of quotas Member States have to allocate in the national fleet, which means the amount of the fish that can be caught on an annual basis. In the past, Italy was granted a very small number of quotas (more specifically only 12 vessels were given quotas) but recently due to the improvement of the Bluefin Tuna stocks, the number of quotas has increased: despite that, our country continues to allocate quotas to the same vessels (namely industrial fleet). For this reason, considering the unfairness of this allocation system, I tabled an amendment to the proposal of the Commission on a multiannual recovery plan for Bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean in order to invite all the Member States to allocate quotas in an equal way, taking into account the traditional and artisanal fisheries. Moreover, they exist pecuniary sanctions for catching Bluefin Tuna out of quotas and there is a huge demand from other countries (in particular Japan), so that Italy export almost all the tuna caught in our seas. Consequently, the challenge will be to manage to bring this product on our table, in accordance with “kilometer zero” policy.
Which are your next projects?
In the process of implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy, many technical aspects need to be analyzed and treated: the technical measures proposed by the Commission will be adopted by the end of the year. I especially focus on important themes from the Italian perspective, like the issue of the size of the clams and the INI report on fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea. It is necessary to elaborate a management plan in order to preserve fish stock and guarantee at the same time a continuous and sustainable fishing activity.
I would like to bring up the serious problem of illegal fishing, is there going to be any new regulation in order to have a more sustainable Mediterranean?
I am convinced that the fight against illegal fishing activities represent one of the priorities for Europe to overcome. How can we achieve that? By ameliorating the monitoring procedures. We are working on the control system and I believe that Europe has to follow the existing regulations but also the third countries have to comply with the laws, especially the countries from which we import fish.
People are not well informed on environment. What do you think are the reasons?
It is an aspect of education that has to be developed in order to inform better the younger generation. From a legislative point of view, Europe is very advanced on environmental issues, sometimes even more than the United States. Europe has been the leader in the debate about the implications of climate change, as we can see from the Paris Climate Conference in November 2015 (COP 21), and we want to continue and maintain a vision of ambitious objectives. We will have to work on the education of every single citizen because it concerns a series of actions. We are all responsible in small percentages for the global pollution so the educative developments are of vital importance. Preserving the environment is working for the future because we consume much more resources than our planet can provide. So what future can we provide to the younger generation? We need to invest on innovations, new technologies and alternative energy resources in order to have less pollution and respect our planet. Environmental awareness is very important and we need to improve it.
You referred to the Paris Climate Conference earlier, would you like to share your thoughts on this agreement?
The Paris Climate Conference has been a success compared to the past activities when the some countries denied the existence of climate change. With the Paris agreement, all the countries have acknowledged the implications of climate changes and are committed not only to limit the increase of the temperature to maximum 2 degrees but also to maintain it within a 1.5 degrees change. And this is the position that Europe supported and proposed. If Europe had not been so persistent this result would have not been achieved. China, India, Europe and the United States are the top polluting countries worldwide and they all agreed. Of course there can always be improvements because sectors like shipping were absent and they should have been included, however, we are in a good path. During 2018-2023 there will be the first controls and new objectives might be inserted. The main issue right now is that the countries mainly responsible for pollution worldwide have agreed to invest 100 billion a year for the underdeveloped countries for a more sustainable future.
Which is the biggest challenge in your opinion?
The biggest challenge is developing a circular economy model. It is particularly important because we have to change daily habits and push all the sectors towards the direction of innovation and renewable energy resources.
What is a suggestion to people of my age that are interested in the themes that EU proposes?
For people still looking for academic directions, I would recommend them to consider scientific subjects that promote the alternative technologies and environmental protection. In my opinion, science can boost employment and is in constant evolution.
Conducted by Julieta Danksi for European Generation.