France fined £14m for breaching fishing rules
France has been hit with the biggest fine ever levied against an EU member state for flouting European fishing rules over a period of 14 years.
France slapped with an immediate £13.7m fine
Judges at the European Court of Justice ordered France to pay a lump sum of £13.7 million for “serious and persistent” failure to comply with EU law and a fine of £212,600 per day over six months – which could total £38.7 million.
The £13.7 million fine is payable immediately. The £212,600 per day fine is only payable after six months if the long-standing illegal fishing has not stopped, and again every subsequent six months until French fishermen comply with the rules.
Today’s ruling said the continuing fishing illegalities found by the Commission were caused by French authorities failing to conduct “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” controls on French fishermen, as required by EU rules.
The persistence of the French fishing practice of offering undersize fish for sale and the lack of any effective crackdown by French authorities were so bad that they seriously prejudiced EU fishery conservation efforts, said judges.
In 1991, the court ordered France to comply with EU fishing rules but inspections at French ports over the following 11 years convinced the Commission that France was still not complying fully with its obligations.
EU judges can impose lump sum fines or daily penalties on member states flagrantly breaching European rules – but this is the first time they have decided to hit a country with both.
The judges justified the move today saying they could trigger both types of penalty at the same time “where the breach of obligations has both continued for a long period and is inclined to persist