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Brussels, 11 July 2008

Maritime policy: a new step forward towards integrated maritime governance

European Affairs Ministers will take another step towards consolidating the new European Integrated Maritime Policy, ensuring a sustainable future for our oceans and seas, at an informal ministerial meeting in Roscoff on 13 July. Ministers will discuss the recently adopted Commission Communication on maritime governance, which presents ways to better organise their maritime-related domestic policies linked to different issues, including safety at sea, border surveillance, transport, the environment, research, energy and climate change. Member States will be encouraged to develop their own integrated maritime policies and share their experiences to bring about a real change in the way maritime affairs are governed. The focus of this informal ministerial meeting will also be placed on reinforcing integrated maritime surveillance throughout Europe's vast coastal and maritime areas. Joe Borg, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries will be one of the key speakers at this ministerial meeting.

"The European project is being built on solidarity and cooperation. As much as Member States need to work together at EU level, the EU depends on its Member States to realise its goals, and this is also true of maritime policy. The success for this Integrated Maritime Policy will depend, therefore, on the degree to which the integrated thinking which is at the heart of this policy permeates into policy-making and executive action within Member States", said Joe Borg.

Europe is surrounded by 70 000 kilometres of coastline; over two-thirds of its borders are coastal. More than 40% of Europe's GDP is generated by coastal regions and around 50% of the population live in coastal regions. The sustainability of our oceans and seas is therefore a key issue for the Union as a whole and features prominently on the European Union's agenda.

This informal ministerial meeting will discuss and debate the main challenges of the Integrated Maritime Policy. A more coherent maritime governance is a key priority, together with integrating maritime surveillance across sectors. Maritime governance implies the development of a strategic vision on maritime issues that ensures coherence between the various policies linked to the sea, the oceans and coastal areas at all levels of management. Regarding maritime surveillance, there is a real need to step up cooperation between the different national administrations of Member States. A higher degree of coordination on maritime surveillance is expected through deeper cooperation within and among Member States' coastguard and other appropriate agencies, in close collaboration with the specialised European agencies, such as the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European External Borders Agency (FRONTEX), the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA).

Others issues to be discussed will include fighting piracy at sea in the framework of the recent United Nations resolution.

The issue of climate change, which is intrinsically linked to our oceans' sustainability, should also be raised. In this context, the vulnerability of Europe's coastal areas to the impact of rising sea levels needs to be addressed and it is important to develop initiatives to predict, mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change on maritime activities, on the marine environment, and in coastal areas and islands.

In its Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy, adopted on 26 June, the Commission proposed to Member States that they should inject an integrated approach into their domestic maritime governance, which will better equip the EU as a whole to achieve its ambitions for preserving and exploiting the potential of the oceans and seas in an optimized fashion. The Commission is strongly encouraging Member States to move towards overarching maritime governance and stakeholder consultation.

The informal ministerial meeting should take a step forward towards a concrete and positive contribution to furthering sustainable growth in coastal regions and on the sea. Member States' commitment towards promoting an integrated approach within Europe, covering all sectors and activities relating to the seas, oceans and coasts, will pave the way for success in establishing a joint European vision for a sustainable future for the oceans and seas.

At the well known International Maritime Festival of Brest, the Commission will have an information stand on maritime policy which will be visited by European Affairs Ministers with Commissioner Borg on 12 July.

Adopted by the Commission in 2007, the Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU sets out its vision for securing a sustainable future for the oceans and seas as well as sustainable growth, quality jobs and living conditions in coastal areas, together with a detailed Action Plan outlining an ambitious work programme until the end of 2009.

More information:

Guidelines to Member States on an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy: Towards Best Practice in Maritime Governance and Stakeholder Consultation

An Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union and Action Plan

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