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Questions and Answers on a Maritime Policy for the EU
Commission Européenne - MEMO/06/230 07/06/2006
Brussels, 7 June 2006
1. What is the problem with the way things are at present ?
The Oceans and Seas are the basic resource upon which all our maritime activities depend. As these activities continue to grow and diversify, the pressures on our resource base will become increasingly more difficult to manage.
We are facing challenges in relation to the sustainable use and exploitation of the oceans and seas. While their importance is already reflected in our policies, these policies are based on a sector by sector approach. This can lead to inconsistencies or conflict between operators and prevent us from exploiting possible synergies between them. This situation can also lead to the adoption of measures that negatively affect the environment or impose unnecessary constraints on competing maritime activities.
Many approaches are already being developed at regional level with the aim of bringing together different interests and actors, and to develop positive and innovative approaches to dealing with the Oceans. Internationally, important partners such as the USA and Canada, and internally, Member States such as Portugal, have developed integrated approaches to manage this complex area. The aim of the Green Paper is to find ways and means of combining the best of what exists already with the input from the consultation so as to identify the best approach for dealing with our common responsibilities towards the seas surrounding us.
2. Concretely, what are the options set out in the Green Paper?
The Green Paper sets out issues for discussion in a variety of areas using an integrated approach which allows inter-linkages between sectors. First of all, our resource base must be preserved and we believe that the Thematic Strategy for the Marine Environment, the Green Paper’s environmental pillar, paves the way towards greater protection for our marine ecosystems.
The Green Paper also identifies assets which allow the European maritime sectors to be competitive. Research is such an asset and the Green Paper suggests looking at research programmes at the European and Member State levels to ensure that they cover maritime activities appropriately, and to promote the exchange of information among different institutions as well as the dissemination of such information.
Maritime skills are identified as another essential element and other factors determining competitiveness are examined in detail. The Green Paper also looks at what can be done to maximise the welfare of the nearly half of European citizens who live in coastal regions.
On governance, the Paper looks at what the principles of an integrated policy might mean in practice and develops this both in the European Union and globally. Finally, the Green Paper looks at the interlinked questions of safeguarding Europe’s maritime heritage, reaffirming its maritime identity and raising awareness of maritime issues.
3 Is this not another attempt by the Commission to meddle in policy areas under the responsibility of Member States ?
Not at all. The aim is not to give the EU additional powers, but to identify areas where European level action can add value to what is happening in the Member States. The Commission has done an extensive analysis of policies and initiatives that already exist and our purpose in doing this has been to identify gaps which often result in inefficiency. If we can add value by filling in some of these gaps at the European level, then everyone will benefit.
4. Where did this initiative come from?
The Strategic Objectives of the European Commission for 2005-2009 noted “the particular need for an all-embracing maritime policy aimed at developing a thriving maritime economy and the full potential of sea-based activity in an environmentally sustainable manner.”
In March 2005, President Barroso, who initiated this development asked Commissioner Borg “to steer a new Maritime Policy Task Force with the aim of launching a wide consultation on a future Maritime Policy for the Union”. The result was a collective effort, based on intense and fruitful cooperation between no fewer than six commissioners, in addition to Mr Borg: Mr Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, Mr Barrot: Transport, Mr Dimas: Environment, Mrs Hübner: Regional Policy, Mr Potocnik: Research and Mr Pieblags: Energy. Other Commissioners were also asked to participate when the discussions dealt with subjects linked to their portfolios.
The decision to look at a Maritime Policy across the European Union as a whole is not an isolated gesture, but part of a larger international trend of applying an integrated approach to the Oceans and Seas. The Annual Reports of the UN Secretary General on Oceans and the Law of the Sea repeatedly point out the problems affecting the oceans due to a lack of coordination. Several countries, most notably Australia, Canada and the USA have all been developing integrated Oceans policies over the last few years. The guiding principles and objectives of these policies have had a lot in common.
5. Did the Commission consult interested parties before preparing the Green Paper? Who were they and what was the response?
Since the official launching of the initiative in March 2005, the Commission has consulted interested stakeholders. To draft a document which would properly elicit stakeholder feedback and reaction during consultation, the Commission had to ensure that it was addressing the right issues and raising the right questions. That is why as many stakeholders as possible were consulted. These included Member States, regions, industry stakeholders and NGOs. We searched not only in the European Union but also beyond, to learn from some of the difficulties faced by nations while developing ocean strategies and benefited from best practice examples. It quickly became obvious, that stakeholders wanted to get in touch and make their views known to the Commission. The stakeholder interaction and response has therefore been extensive.
6. To what extent did their contributions feature in the Green Paper?
The Green Paper is very much about stakeholder contributions. Their contributions and ideas have been pooled. Many stakeholders had similar proposals. In this way, it was easy to identify the areas of importance for stakeholders, their concerns and expectations. The Green Paper addresses these topics and poses questions pertinent to them.
7. How will the Commission consult people? What are the events planned?
The consultation process starts today, with the launch of the Green Paper and will last until the end of June 2007. The Commission believes that EU citizens whether individually or under the umbrella of a group, NGO, local or regional authority or entity, national or European Parliament or government should be involved in the consultation exercise. This is why comments can be sent to the Commission by mail, in person or through the website dedicated to the Green Paper. The consultation process will be very events-driven in that we have already a substantial list of events which we hope will continue to grow. Some of the conferences concerned have been organised to highlight the Green Paper while others address topics with a link to Maritime Affairs where the Green Paper will also feature. These events will help publicise the Green Paper while demonstrating its integrated approach and encouraging stakeholder reaction and feedback. The hope for this consultation process is that Brussels will not be a funnelling system but that interaction and stimulation will occur in our Member States and regions.