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Maritime Policy Green Paper
In June 2006, the Commission published a Green Paper on the different aspects of a future Community maritime policy. The Green Paper highlights Europe's maritime identity and leadership, which is worth preserving at a time when environmental pressures are threatening the future of maritime activities. Consequently, the maritime policy must aim to promote a maritime industry that is innovative, competitive and environmentally-friendly. In addition to maritime activities, the Green Paper proposes that the approach include the issue of quality of life in coastal regions. With this aim in mind, the Green Paper considers what new tools and modes of maritime governance should be developed.
Commission Green Paper: Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: a European vision for the oceans and seas [COM (2006) 275 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Green Paper is in line with the Lisbon Strategy. Its aim is to achieve sustainable development by reconciling the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the exploitation of the seas and oceans. For this reason, these latter aspects should be at the heart of the debate.
Maritime activities are an important area for the Lisbon Strategy, given the importance of the maritime economy. An estimated 3-5% of the European Union's GDP is generated by marine-based industries. The EU is the world's leading maritime power in terms of:
- maritime transport (because of the level of seaborne trade);
- coastal tourism (because coastline accounts for two-thirds of the EU's borders);
- offshore energy production (because of the North Sea gas and oil resources);
- shipbuilding technologies (because of the construction of ships of exceptional quality in terms of their complexity, safety and environmental impact);
- related services (because of the expertise in marine technology).
The EU is also the leader in a number of probable growth areas, such as the building of cruise ships, renewable energy and ports.
It is vital to maintain Europe's competitiveness in these areas, which have an important socio-economic role. For this reason, the Green Paper examines the factors influencing competitiveness: the state of the marine environment, scientific knowledge in all areas relating to the oceans, innovation and the expertise of the workforce.
The marine environment
Some of the issues that the marine environment is facing include:
- increasing loss of biodiversity (which has a knock-on effect for achieving the potential of "blue biotechnology");
- over-exploitation of resources (which has a knock-on effect on fisheries);
- climate change (which has consequences for fisheries and coastal tourism);
- land-based pollution;
- acidification of seawater;
- pollution caused by ship-based operational discharges;
- maritime accidents (due to the absence of better maritime safety).
In order to reduce the impact of these environmental pressures, the thematic strategy for the marine environment is designed to:
- further strengthen legislation on maritime safety;
- introduce risk assessment as an instrument for drawing up policies in this field;
- assist developing countries so that they can apply the " Global Ballast Water Management Programme ";
- introduce ballast water treatment technologies.
Research is important for making fully informed strategic choices. It may benefit from the 7th Framework Programme, which pays particular attention to priority inter-thematic scientific areas. At the same time, Member States may go further by coordinating their national research programmes, so as to create a pan-European research network and avoid duplication. Cooperation between scientists and technology developers is also important.
Innovation may help to find solutions in areas that are currently undergoing change, such as energy and climate change. The solutions can also benefit third countries choosing to adopt the model of sustainable development; in this way, such solutions could constitute a competitive advantage. Wind energy, tidal current turbines and deep sea gas and oil resources may provide new sources of energy. Carbon capture, the reduction of NOx emissions from ships, the abandonment of road transport in favour of maritime transport and methane hydrates may help in the fight against climate change.
Expertise of the workforce
The Green Paper examines ways of compensating for the lack of qualified labour resulting from the combination of a number of negative factors.
"Clusters" and the regulatory framework
These factors could also contribute to sustainable development. The private sector could organise itself into networks of maritime excellence, or 'clusters', around common projects. For its part, the legislature should simplify the legislation, to avoid the objectives of one policy having a negative impact on and contradicting other maritime objectives. It is essential for there to be a stable and coherent regulatory framework that has the support of stakeholders. The Green Paper also examines the establishment of incentive mechanisms for ship owners and even the monitoring of international rules on the high seas to combat the flying of flags of convenience.
Quality of life in coastal regions
Nearly half of Europe's population lives on or close to coastlines, while the attraction of coastal areas is constantly increasing. For this reason, targeted statistics should be compiled to establish the transport infrastructure and services of general interest that are best suited to this trend.
Alongside the increase in the population living in coastal areas, the risks this population is facing are growing as a result of climate change among other things. Public authorities must therefore assess these risks in order to plan how to protect the population, economic activities and the environment, and how to manage the costs entailed. Once new responses to these risks have been established, the expertise gained can be exported to other countries.
The Green Paper examines the impact of sustainable tourism on local economies and studies the inter-relation between land- and sea-based activities. It takes into account the inextricable link between these two elements and proposes a unique and integrated management of the sea and land in coastal areas. Such integrated management would prove particularly useful with regard to managing marine pollution originating from land-based sources and managing the expansion of ports as multi-functional platforms.
New tools to manage our relations with the oceans
There is a need for a new European marine data network to incorporate existing national networks. The objective of this network would be to harmonise and collect data from multiple sources in order to serve a wide range of activities. It would form part of the GMES system.
Access to better data in real time would facilitate navigation and the detection of illicit activities at sea. Although the EU already complies with the provisions of the International Maritime Organization in this respect, interoperability with external systems can always be improved.
The Green Paper also proposes a spatial planning system to allow various activities to coexist along coastlines and to eliminate uncertainties on the part of investors with regard to obtaining authorisations. It is important to define spatial planning principles and to draw on the experience of Canada in this area.
As regards financial support, the Green Paper supports the need to improve global data on financial assistance and to examine how these resources might contribute to maritime policy.
New methods of maritime governance
The governance by sector or geographical area that is in force at present must be replaced by a cross-cutting approach. This will have consequences at national, European or international level.
Some Member States have already transferred a number of responsibilities from public authorities to single national authorities. The Member States may however deepen integration in the field of customs or in the safety of goods, as demonstrated by the examples of Frontex and the European Maritime Safety Agency. The establishment of a European coastguard service and the creation of a common maritime space for the European Union governed by the same set of rules are examples of other possible projects.
The integration of policies makes economies of scale possible and means that certain types of equipment and technology, such as marine surveillance systems, are more affordable.
Because of certain characteristics, marine ecosystems could be managed better at regional level. The European level could be used to defend the common interest and provide tools for spatial planning and supervising their use.
Climate change, the protection of biodiversity, illegal immigration, piracy, non-discriminatory access to the market for maritime services, and other phenomena make it imperative that the European Union share these new ideas with the international community and consider the best ways of promoting its vision.
Protecting maritime heritage and increasing public awareness
The various maritime sectors should cooperate to raise public awareness of maritime heritage and the role that oceans and seas have in all our lives. The Commission suggests using education as a channel for action. A more positive image would make it easier to recruit seafarers.
Maritime policy forms part of the Lisbon Strategy by proposing to exploit synergies between regional policy and policies on fisheries, research and innovation, businesses, maritime transport, the environment and energy in order to promote sustainable development.
In addition, in its strategic objectives for 2005-09, the Commission has called for an exhaustive maritime policy, in other words one that will provide growth and ensure job creation, and therefore lend itself to the emergence of a strong maritime economy that will grow, be competitive and sustainable, in harmony with the marine environment.
The Green Paper calls on stakeholders to participate in the development of a cross-cutting vision of the oceans and seas. They have until 30 June 2007 to provide the Commission with their comments on the issues raised. By the end of 2007, the Commission will have completed the process by issuing a communication containing its proposals for the future.