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Brussels, 11 September 2009

Towards an EU Integrated Maritime Policy and better maritime governance in the Mediterranean: questions and answers

Key figures on the Mediterranean Sea

  • Approximately 45,000 km of coastline, of which 19,000 km represent island coastlines.

  • Over 150 million inhabitants along its coasts.

  • Bears 30% of the world's seaborne trade by volume.

  • Transit route for nearly 25% of the world's seaborne oil traffic.

  • Over 450 ports and terminals.

  • The major Mediterranean ports each welcome over 1 million cruise tourists a year.

  • EU Mediterranean fishing fleet represents approximately 46% of all EU fishing vessels.

What is maritime governance?

The term "maritime governance" refers to the manner in which authorities and other competent bodies, as well as stakeholders at large, influence, direct, guide, or regulate sea-related and coastal activities, such as maritime transport, offshore energy development, gas pipelines, port development, fisheries, aquaculture, etc.

Good governance should enable stakeholders to participate fully in this process, and should ensure that decision-making is transparent and that the agreed rules are implemented fairly.

Maritime governance is one of the key building blocks of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy, an innovative and comprehensive approach towards maritime affairs.

Why has the European Commission singled out the Mediterranean Sea for special treatment?

Each of Europe's sea-basins has its own unique features and unique challenges. Each one of them therefore needs a custom-made approach. The European Commission has already proposed strategies for the Arctic and the Baltic Sea regions and has now put forward a set of proposals to better address challenges specific to the Mediterranean region.

What are the specific challenges facing by the Mediterranean Sea?

The Mediterranean ecosystem and coasts are under increasing pressure:

  • The Mediterranean Sea links the countries that surround it across the three continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. It is a strategic maritime route, including substantial oil traffic. While safe shipping routes need to be maintained or developed, the impact of this activity on the marine environment also needs to be minimised.

  • The region continues to attract millions of tourists each year, including cruise tourists. Increasing tourist flows tend to trigger unsustainable demands for new accommodation, infrastructure and leisure facilities along the coasts.

  • Fishing, which is generally carried out by small-sized and artisanal vessels, is also of considerable socio-economic importance. Both fish stocks and catches have decreased over the years, due to over-exploitation, fleet overcapacity, non-selective and destructive fishing practices.

Human activity in the Mediterranean Sea produces a range of worrying effects, including pollution and litter from both land-based sources and ships, biodiversity loss and degradation of the coastal environment.

In addition, the Mediterranean region is particularly sensitive to climate change, being the area of Europe most at risk from flooding, coastal erosion and land degradation. The situation is all the more worrying when one considers the special vulnerability of Mediterranean island states and small islands to such unpredictable changes.

Illegal immigration from Africa is another major concern and one that brings a heavy toll in lives lost at sea, as well as directly fuelling political tensions across the region. The Mediterranean Sea is also a one of the major routes through which illegal drugs are known to enter Europe.

Addressing these challenges calls for a more integrated and concerted approach to maritime affairs which can transform today’s challenges into real opportunities for the maritime economies, the environment, and coastal populations. Conversely, short-sighted and fragmented management of key maritime activities in the Mediterranean basin could result in irreversible damage to the environment, and in turn, severely impede economic growth and undermine employment.

Why the emphasis on maritime governance?

The Mediterranean is a fairly large semi-enclosed sea bordered by more than twenty states. Unlike other semi-enclosed seas such as the Baltic or the Black Sea, a large part of the Mediterranean remains High Seas where effective management of sea-related activities and protection of the marine environment necessitates co-operation between neighbouring countries. Maritime governance is therefore the cornerstone of any future positive policy developments.

As the challenges encountered are closely inter-linked, and since a range of different maritime activities may depend on the same marine resources, the European Commission is encouraging decision-makers at all levels to adopt the principles of the Integrated Maritime Policy so as to develop a more comprehensive policy outlook, instead of restricting themselves to a sector-by-sector approach.

The Commission is therefore promoting the development and use of integrated maritime governance tools, in particular spatial planning at sea and in coastal areas, mobilisation of common efforts in marine and maritime research, and further co-operation for the surveillance of operations at sea.

Why should the EU intervene?

Each coastal state is responsible for the governance of its own maritime affairs in accordance with the applicable rules. Nevertheless, the European Union, through its Integrated Maritime Policy, can help prepare a joint response to the crucial maritime challenges facing the Mediterranean basin.

The EU has an increasingly important role to play in the region, particularly in facilitating dialogue and co-operation with the Mediterranean partner countries. The EU can and should help develop integrated and cross-sectoral governance tools which can be shared with its neighbours, and encourage the exchange of best practice.

What is the exact geographical scope of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean?

The EU Integrated Maritime Policy is addressed primarily to the EU Member States. Nevertheless, it also seeks to involve the non-EU States, so as to better benefit the region.

The geographical scope of the initiative is, therefore, not limited solely to the seven EU Member States bordering the basin, i.e. Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta, but naturally seeks to include all other coastal states in the process.

What are the major steps that the Commission intends to take?

  • An ad hoc working group will be set-up at sea basin-level, i.e. including all coastal states, in order to engage them further in the making of the Integrated Maritime Policy and exchange best practices and know-how;

  • Funds have been earmarked for the provision of technical assistance under the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument for those partners interested in an integrated approach. The European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument is open to the following Mediterranean states: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, and Tunisia.

  • Structured and informal dialogue amongst Mediterranean coastal states will be supported through high-level meetings, academic and other international organisations, with a view to improving governance of marine space;

  • An economic study on the establishment of maritime zones (in particular Exclusive Economic Zones) in the Mediterranean will be launched, so as to provide insight into the likely costs and benefits.

  • A study will be launched to identify potential areas for the application of maritime spatial planning in the Mediterranean, and a pilot project will follow to test how this theory might be put into practice, including measures to achieve coherence between planning of onshore and offshore activities.

  • Member States will be assisted in delivering on their obligations under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in relation to their marine strategies, including a comprehensive assessment by 2010 of marine waters and related uses.

  • A web-based inventory on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is being developed, whereby practitioners would have the possibility to consult case studies and experiences from all over the EU.

  • The knowledge-base on ICZM in the Mediterranean will be strengthened through existing funding possibilities under the EU's 7 th Framework Programme.

  • A major cross-thematic research effort will be undertaken under the EU's 7 th Framework Programme to integrate knowledge of the Mediterranean Sea through major topics of marine and/or maritime relevance, such as climate change, or the impact of human activities on coastal and marine ecosystems.

  • A long-term framework for enhanced scientific co-operation at sea-basin level in the marine and maritime fields will be defined.

  • A pilot project is being launched amongst six coastal Mediterranean EU Member States, with the aim of enhancing cross-border and cross-sectoral co-operation in the monitoring and surveillance of operations at sea.

What is the link with already existing mechanisms for regional co-operation in the Mediterranean, in particular the Union for the Mediterranean?

The thrust of this policy has been that of better integrating and coordinating the measures and decision-making processes on national, sub-regional and regional levels. Therefore, the current initiative feeds into and seeks to reinforce existing initiatives so as to better achieve our common goal – sustainability, and a better maritime future for all.

P rojects such as the de-pollution of the Mediterranean Sea, the Horizon 2020 initiative, and the Motorways of the Sea, are at the heart of the agenda of the Union of the Mediterranean. A maritime strategy for the Mediterranean will ensure that these important maritime projects will be developed in accordance with the integrated approach. This means that there is ample room for synergies.

Yet dialogue and co-operation towards introducing the principles of the Integrated Maritime Policy into the decision-making process should work not only through the current multilateral framework, i.e. the Union for the Mediterranean, but should also take advantage of existing bilateral agreements, the frameworks established under the European Neighbourhood Policy and relations with candidate and potential candidate countries, as well as regional Seas Conventions when appropriate – namely, the Barcelona Convention and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.

How did the concept of the Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean come into being?

The present initiative builds on the findings of a set of events aimed at gathering the opinions of national and regional authorities and stakeholders active in the Mediterranean sea-basin. The first conference on Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean was held in Slovenia (Piran, June 2008), an ensuing online stakeholder consultation lasted until December 2008, and a specific workshop on governance of the Mediterranean Sea was held as part of the European Maritime Day Stakeholder Conference (Rome, May 2009).

The European Commission intends to continue to engage all interested stakeholders in a shared effort towards improving maritime governance in the basin.

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