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Brussels, 15 October 2009

The Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU – priorities for the next Commission

The European Commission today presented a Progress Report outlining the achievements of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) over the past two years and looking out into its future. Alongside this, the Commission has tabled concrete proposals on two major IMP issues – the integration across sectors and countries of maritime surveillance and the international dimension of Europe’s maritime policy. Taken together, these three documents provide compelling evidence of how the IMP can unlock the economic potential of Europe’s vast maritime and coastal areas, while making its seas safer and more secure through streamlined new governance and by exploiting synergies across the full range of sea-related policies.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso commented: "The first time ever launch of an ambitious integrated maritime policy is a key achievement of the present Commission. It is also a challenge for the next Commission. Maritime policy is an indispensable element of sustainable climate and energy policy. I believe that we can build on our work so far and take the next steps with vigour and confidence. For example, I want the Motorways of the Sea to become a reality. For the sake of a responsible and useful development of the oceans and the sea, we must develop maritime spatial planning; integrate maritime surveillance across borders and across countries; and build a marine observation and data network."

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg said: “Although the Integrated Maritime Policy is a very young European policy, it has already succeeded in changing the way Europe deals with its maritime assets and has placed maritime issues high on Europe's agenda. The excellent start we have made with the IMP should spur us on to even bigger and bolder thinking in the future. It should encourage us to keep pushing the boundaries when it comes to taking concerted action for the good of our marine environment, maritime economy and security.”

Progress on the Integrated Maritime Policy

The Progress Report takes stock of two years of IMP achievements. It also sets out six strategic policy orientations for the future:

  • Integration of maritime governance: EU institutions, Member States and coastal regions have a particular responsibility in ensuring upstream policy integration and in adopting coherent, joined up agendas for maritime affairs, further counteracting the prevalence of isolated sectoral policy thinking. Effective structures for cross-sectoral collaboration and stakeholder consultation need therefore to be put in place to harness all synergies from sectoral policies impacting on the seas.

  • Development of cross-cutting policy tools: namely maritime spatial planning, comprehensive marine knowledge and data, and integrated maritime surveillance.

  • Definition of limitations to maritime activities as necessary in order to guarantee sustainability: within the framework of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, this will ensure that no maritime activities are allowed to develop without real consideration for their cumulative impact on the marine environment.

  • Development of sea-basin regional strategies: priorities and policy-making tools of maritime affairs need to be adapted to the unique geo-physical, economical and political context of Europe's major maritime basins.

  • Development of the international dimension of the Integrated Maritime Policy: the EU leadership in global maritime affairs, including in debating climate change and preservation of marine biodiversity will greatly strengthen the EU's position in multilateral and bilateral relations.

  • Renewed focus on sustainable economic growth, employment and innovation: The EU should have a coherent, comprehensive agenda for economics on maritime affairs, including pushing for the development of intra-European maritime transport, stimulating investments in EU flagged shipping and in the shipbuilding sector, taking forward the project of clean ships, linking further the EU energy and climate change policies with maritime policy, and by ensuring that in the debate on territorial cohesion policy maritime and coastal areas are fully taken into account.

A detailed policy document to develop these six strategic orientations will be published during 2010.

Maritime surveillance

To allow for integration in the field of maritime surveillance, the Commission has set out guiding principles to help EU Member States establish a common information sharing environment for their numerous surveillance authorities. Currently, it is still standard practice in Member States for each sectoral authority that monitors and surveys actions at sea to gather operational data independently of its counterparts. If these data were shared, surveillance activities would become more efficient and cost-effective. However, data-sharing and the interoperability of surveillance systems pose certain technological, legal and security challenges. These challenges are identified in the Commission’s proposal, and solutions to them are put forward.

Also by making best use of existing systems, different user communities – from border control to fisheries, from maritime transport to the fight against irregular immigration, from customs to defence – will be able to obtain an enhanced maritime awareness picture, which will boost their respective operational effectiveness.

Among other initiatives being envisaged, two pilot projects to test the integration of maritime surveillance in practice are in the process of being launched – one in the Mediterranean and its Atlantic approaches and another in a Northern sea basin.

International dimension

The Commission has also published a strategy document which sets out the way to ensure that the EU exert stronger influence in the international arena on maritime affairs in order to strengthen the global governance of the oceans and seas. This would be the best guarantee for the safeguarding of the economic, ecological and social interests of the EU in the maritime sphere. The Commission pinpoints a number of areas that clearly require international solutions, such as the protection of marine biodiversity, including on the high seas, climate change, maritime safety and security, decent onboard working conditions and marine research. It also reviews the instruments that are available at the international, regional, neighbourhood and bilateral levels to fulfil its strategy and the priority actions that it envisages to undertake in order to contribute to sustainable maritime governance at the global level.

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