EFTTA lobbyist Jan Kappel brings you his latest round-up of important developments affecting the European fishing tackle industry. This month he reveals more about the EU Parliament’s proposed lead ban and plans to shake-up how VAT is managed across the union.  

Lead Ban Update
The EU Parliament’s aim of securing a ban on the use of lead in fishing tackle has been defeated – for the time being!  If you remember, the Parliament is pushing for the inclusion of 28 more priority substances, nearly doubling the existing list of 33. Parliament considers 22 of these 28 substances to be priority hazardous – including lead – and it voted to upgrade a further ten substances on the existing list to priority hazardous.
But on June 28, the EU Council reached a so-called ‘political agreement’ on water quality standards and stuck to the Commission’s proposal whereby it doesn’t support the Parliament’s wish to expand the existing list of toxic substances.

However, this isn’t the end of the matter. The Parliament and the Council are set for a second reading and the Commission believes that a “tough battle” can be expected with Parliament on the issue. The next step is for the Council to agree a common position. Once the common position is agreed – probably around the end of 2007 – the Commission will publish its opinion in the form of a Communication.
Then it will be Parliament’s turn to read and amend or – which seems highly unlikely – adopt the text.
My gut feeling is that this battle over toxic substances will not end with the second reading but go all the way to the Conciliation Committee. It’ll all take time. I wouldn’t expect a conciliation agreement before autumn 2008. The most likely scenario is that the Council takes on board some, but not all, of the Parliament’s proposed substances and that the phase-out year (2015) will be a later one. No doubt lead is for various reasons one of the obvious candidates for a substance to be accepted on the list by both parties.
When Denmark was the first country in the world to introduce a lead sales ban in 2000, the angling tackle trade got two years to phase it out. This was extended with another year ‘to empty stores’. Commercial fisheries followed the same path but some derogations for some gear containing lead are still in force even today.
In another interesting move, the draft report from the Parliament Committee on Environment had proposed that DEHP – a phthalate, which in Western Europe accounts for just less than 20% of all plasticiser usage – is put on the list deemed a priority hazardous substance. But the Parliament Plenary disagreed.

EU VAT reform on the table
A significant issue around VAT is brewing for Europe’s fishing tackle industry, with plans to move to a single VAT rate per EU Member State.

The current situation with VAT rates remains highly disparate and very complex. Yet the basic rules are simple: supplies of goods and services subject to VAT are normally subject to a rate of at least 15%, but the Member States may apply reduced rates of not less than 5% to goods and services set out in a restricted list. However, these simple rules are complicated by a multitude of derogations granted to certain Member States – and not to others – during the negotiations preceding the introduction of the VAT Rates Directive (1992) or in Acts of Accession.
In February 2006, The European Council requested the Commission to present an overall assessment report on the impact of VAT reduced rates in terms of job creation, economic growth and the proper functioning of the internal market, on the basis of a study carried out by an independent economic think-tank.
Now the Commission has adopted a communication based on an economic study undertaken by the independent think-tank, ‘Copenhagen Economics’. The main conclusion of the study is that a single VAT rate (per Member State) is the best possible choice from an economic point of view. It would slightly improve consumer welfare in comparison with the current situation, reduce distortions in the functioning of the Internal Market, simplify the rules and thus reduce compliance costs for business.

However, for political reasons the Commission doesn’t suggest a single VAT structure in the short term but ‘simplification and rationalisation of the current VAT rates structure, in particular the reduced VAT rates’.
“Reduced VAT rates are a politically sensitive issue. Most Member States consider the introduction of reduced rates as an important policy tool. However, the subsidiary principle has to be carefully balanced with the imperatives of a well functioning Internal Market and the need to ensure competitiveness of European business through a simple tax system,” says the Commission.
The Commission strategy is to launch a broad debate in the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee to obtain all relevant views. This is essential before initiating a more far reaching proposal on reduced rates the Commission believes.
The Commission considers that one of the possible ways forward would be to allow for a very low rate for goods and services of first necessity, such as food. A second, but higher, reduced rate could then be applied to goods and services deserving preferential treatment for cultural, educational, public transport, employment, environmental reasons. Clear categories subject to these rates would need to be defined at the same time to limit compliance costs. This would create a simpler situation than today and would take into account both the economic effects and the political sensitivity of reduced rates.
On the basis of feed-back notably from the Council, the European Parliament and the ECOSOC, the Commission could put forward legislative proposals at the end of 2008/beginning 2009. This would allow an adoption of the relevant legislative act by the Council in time before authorisation for Member States to apply specific arrangements for labour-intensive services will expire at the end of 2010.

5th World Recreational Fishing Conference
The World Recreational Fishing Conference takes place annually, and targets the tackle industry, the angling sector, angling tourism, as well as representatives from non governmental organizations and fisheries science and management.

The venue and dates for the 5th World Recreational Fishing Conference in 2008 have just been announced: November 10th-13th, (*conference dates November 10th-12th) at the International Game Fish Association, Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, FL 33004, Florida, US.

Topics will include historical and recent trends in participation, emerging fisheries, recreational fisheries science and management, socioeconomics, and catch and release. Full details can be found at www.igfa.org. For information on the conference or sponsorship opportunities email Jason Schratwieser or Emily Collins at wrfc@igfa.org.

EFTTA attended and gave a presentation at the last conference in Trondheim (Norway) in 2005 and it is expected that EFTTA and EAA (European Anglers Alliance) will apply to organise the 2011 venue in Europe.

EAA Updated website
The European Angers Alliance is a useful source of information and research, which EFTTA members should find beneficial. The organisation’s website has just been updated and the section on Socio-economic studies contains a lot of information that might prove useful.
Visit http://www.eaa-europe.org/web/Frames/PFSocEco/SocEco_List.htm to find out more.