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45. The Secretary introduced this Agenda item, referring to document GFCM/XXVIII/2003/3. He recalled the evolution of the process that originated in the adoption of the amendments to the GFCM Agreement in 1997 and led to the adoption of the scale of contributions for the autonomous budget, at the Twenty-fifth Session (Sliema, Malta, 2000). He informed the Commission on the efforts made by the Secretariat during the intersession to promote ratifications. These included meeting relevant Authorities in a number of Member countries and highlighting the importance of the autonomous budget to enable GFCM to strengthen its contribution to responsible fisheries and aquaculture management. He stressed the increasing difficulties the Commission is facing as a result of the present "transitional period" whereby activities of the subsidiary bodies are implemented in the framework of the new arrangements adopted in 1997, but without the benefit of additional human and financial resources that only the autonomous budget might supply.

46. The Commission was informed that thirteen Members (Albania, Cyprus, European Community, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, Spain, Turkey and Tunisia) out of twenty-four had deposited their instruments of acceptance of the amendments relative to the autonomous budget.

47. While acknowledging that some progress has been made since the last Session of the Commission, some delegations expressed their disappointment and stressed that additional efforts must be made to reach as soon as possible the quorum of sixteen which is required for the amendments to enter into force.

48. The EC and its Member States emphasized the urgent need of completing the process of ratification, if possible before the Venice Ministerial Conference.

49. The delegates from Egypt, Japan, Morocco and Syrian Arab Republic informed the Commission that their respective governments intended to finalize the on-going processes towards ratification at the earliest convenience.

50. The Commission welcomed this information and agreed on the need to foresee the convening of an Extraordinary Session of GFCM to be held as soon as possible after the deposit of the sixteenth instrument of acceptance with the Director-General of FAO. The Extraordinary Session will address the procedural, legal and technical issues that are still pending and must be solved in order to ensure the good operation of the autonomous budget and the strengthening of the Commission. The Commission requested the Secretariat, with the support of experts or consultants as required, to prepare and circulate a comprehensive document on these issues to serve as a basis for discussions among the Members.

51. The delegate from the EC expressed readiness to ensure the financing of the Extraordinary Session.

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