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Brussels, 15 May 2008.
Why a European Maritime Day?
There are a number of good reasons for celebrating Maritime Day in Europe. Firstly, it is an opportunity to turn the spotlight on the important contribution which the maritime regions and sectors make to Europe's economic, social and cultural well-being. Maritime issues touch the lives of all EU citizens, whether or not they work with or live by the sea, and yet many of us remain unaware of their importance to us. Furthermore, Maritime Day helps raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges facing the maritime sector and encourages networking among its different players.
Last year's inaugural Maritime Day was a great success, due in large part to the support it received as a joint initiative by the three main European institutions – the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. The aim then was that, in future years, Europe's maritime sector and regions would embrace European Maritime Day as their own and serve as the driving force behind the activities organised every 20 May, to bring Europe's maritime heritage and future to the attention of the wider public. The interest in this year's edition of Maritime Day proves that sectors and regions are indeed responding to this call.
European Maritime Day was set up as one of the key actions of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy launched in 2007, see:
What is happening this year to mark European Maritime Day?
This year, in cooperation with the Italian government, the Commission is hosting a major 3-day stakeholder conference in Rome from 18 to 20 May. The conference brings together stakeholders and players from the European Union and third countries to discuss the global challenges faced by maritime Europe today (see IP/09/792).
In addition, a large number of side events are taking place around the conference. Here stakeholders - be they national and regional governments, NGOs, employers, unions, scientific institutions, port authorities, environmental groups or other – will showcase their activities related to the sea, exchange best practices and get to know each other.
Across the EU, around 40 other stakeholder-led events are planned, which will be targeted at professionals, civil society, the general public and the media. These local events take the form of conferences, workshops, debates or exhibitions, but also of open days at ports, harbours, museums and aquaria, or environmental school projects, study or press visits highlighting maritime projects and activities. The breadth of topics they will be covering – ranging from de-pollution and excellence in maritime transport to anti-piracy initiatives and the use of space technologies in European Maritime Policy – is testament to the extent to which maritime issues are intertwined with a vast array of issues.
An updated list of Maritime Day events in the Member States and the side events in Rome can be found at:
How is maritime policy relevant in today's world?
The broad spectrum of topics with a maritime dimension is ample proof that maritime policy is relevant to our lives in many ways which may not immediately seem apparent.
If Europe is to keep on delivering employment and prosperity to its citizens, it needs to remain competitive in a globalised world. With 40% of the EU's gross domestic product being generated in maritime regions, and maritime sectors creating some 5 million jobs directly and indirectly across the EU, enabling European maritime sectors to retain their competitive edge is crucial.
Maritime spatial planning:
Prerequisites to a competitive economy include a stable and transparent legal framework to plan investments and access to reliable data, so that informed decisions can be made. In the maritime field, the Integrated Maritime Policy develops and promotes the use of maritime spatial planning (see http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/spatial_planning_en.html) to provide the legal certainty and predictability that attracts investors and facilitates long-term management of maritime activities and resources.
Late last year the Commission issued a roadmap identifying ten maritime spatial planning priorities, which are being discussed with experts and stakeholders at a series of workshops this year. The conclusions will be drawn up at a final conference in Sweden in September. This year the Commission will also launch pilot projects to test in practice how cross-border co-operation in maritime spatial planning can best be organised.
Maritime clusters offer an additional means of strengthening the competitiveness of maritime sectors. That is why support for networks and platforms for cooperation between different maritime industries and partners from both the public and private sectors is a key feature of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy (http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/clusters_en.html).
To improve and facilitate access to marine data, the Commission has set up European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODNET) (http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/consultation_emodnet_en.html). At the moment, a public consultation is being conducted to gather opinions as to the state of Europe's marine knowledge infrastructure and what steps are appropriate to be taken at an EU level to create a marine knowledge infrastructure that helps authorities meet regulatory requirements and stimulates the development of an innovative value-added industry.
Research which brings together science, business and policy-making can ensure that the best choices are made by all concerned. The Commission's proposed strategy for marine and maritime research seeks to ensure that, beyond championing the excellence in research that is needed in the EU, we also accrue vital benefits in the generation of knowledge-based skills, new jobs and markets and turn environmental challenges into competitive advantages.
Climate change is another topic that concerns all Europeans. Oceans are major climate regulators, and the Integrated Maritime Policy can ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach to adapting to the consequences of climate change in the coastal regions and mitigating the impact of all maritime activities on the climate. Coastal regions are especially vulnerable to climate change because of rising sea levels, coastal erosion and increased flooding. The costs already being born by these regions in coping with climate change will only increase over time.
With more and more Member States and regions embracing integrated maritime policy as an approach, the Commission has issued guidelines to assist them in sketching out their policies. It is hoped that this will also foster exchanges of best practice between Member States and encourage maritime governance at the most appropriate level, not necessarily from the top down.
It is clear, then, that maritime policy is of huge relevance to our everyday lives. Moreover, the initiatives outlined here – together with the many others underway – show that the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy is indeed progressing. All of these issues are already being addressed by the Commission via ongoing initiatives to implement Integrated Maritime Policy in the EU. See full list of initiatives and progress on the 2007 Action Plan:
What are the next steps on the Integrated Maritime Policy?
In October 2009 the European Commission will deliver a progress report on the value and achievements of the Integrated Maritime Policy since its launch in autumn 2007 to EU heads of state or government meeting at the European Council. The outcome of the discussions on that report will set the tone for the future of the Integrated Maritime Policy.
Further information can be found at:
See also IP/09/792