Brussels, 15 October 2009
International dimension of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy: questions and answers
What objectives has the Commission proposed for the external dimension of the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP)?
The European Commission aims to promote Europe's leadership in international maritime affairs, enhance the impact of the EU at multilateral level, strengthen regional cooperation with neighbouring countries in shared sea basins, and to develop and extend bilateral relations with key partners.
The present strategy follows on from the Commission's Communication on "An Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union" of October 2007. It complements the regional approach to maritime affairs by exploring how to extend the Integrated Maritime Policy into the wider international arena.
What are the key elements of the strategy?
The following key themes have been identified for an EU platform in international maritime affairs:
International governance based on the rule of law
If we are to achieve sustainable global governance in the maritime field and effectively tackle global challenges, the rules of the game must be clearly defined, explicitly shared and easily enforceable. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) remains the key reference in this domain. The EU's main objective, therefore, should be to achieve global membership of UNCLOS.
In the context of its external relations activities, the Commission will also develop specific proposals for the further inclusion and extension of maritime issues in dialogues with third countries and for increased support to developing countries in the implementation of the international maritime policy agenda and of their maritime commitments under international law.
Dialogue through multilateral fora such as the UN bodies and the OECD will be the main pillar of the international dimension of the IMP, thus ensuring synergies with existing sectoral dialogues in other policy areas.
Maritime affairs will become a regular topic in discussions with the EU’s partners and a high-level dialogue on maritime affairs will be established by mutual consent with key partners. .
Protection of marine biodiversity, including in the high seas
The Commission will continue to support the integrated approach to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
The Commission will also continue to work on moving oceans and coasts issues higher up the climate change agenda, and will provide assistance for developing coastal and island states in this field.
Ensuring maritime safety, maritime security and freedom of navigation
More actions will be carried out at international level to ensure freedom, safety and security of navigation, including actions against piracy.
Promoting decent working conditions in the maritime sectors
In order to encourage global solutions, the Commission will promote dialogue within the International Labour Organisation on how working conditions in the maritime sectors can be improved.
Understanding the sea better
It is imperative to continue and strengthen research cooperation with third countries in order to enhance participation in large-scale international research programmes, and with countries neighbouring the EU in order to define common regional marine research strategies.
How will dialogue within the United Nations progress?
The Commission will strive to wield more influence on maritime affairs in the United Nations and try to ensure that the annual resolutions are streamlined and focused on policy priorities.
Already now, the annual meetings of the UN Informal Consultative Processes on the Law of the Sea play a role in shaping the agenda for maritime affairs and the Commission will continue to encourage this process.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) remains an important forum to examine international fisheries issues, especially with the developing countries.
Since 2005 the Commission and Member States have prepared either common or coordinated positions before the meetings of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The Commission is working to enhance the role of the EU in IMO by obtaining the status of formal observer, if not full membership in the organisation, without compromising any rights and obligations of the EU Member States.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a key partner for the EU in the area of maritime labour standards and cooperation.
What role can the OECD play?
Maritime affairs are already on the OECD agenda. If OECD served as a forum to discuss maritime affairs, this could help create a higher sense of ownership in the International Community and facilitate the exchange of best practice. The Commission will further explore possibilities in this area.
What are the relations with the EU neighbours at shared seas?
To ensure that the IMP fully responds to the concerns of coastal communities, the Commission favours tailor-made regional approaches for each sea basin. Needless to say, these strategic approaches need to be developed in close cooperation with third countries that share the basin, to make them successful.
Such approaches have already been devised for the Arctic, the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The Commission intends to develop strategies for other sea-basins, in particular for the Atlantic and the Black Sea.
Issues of common concern in the Atlantic include overfishing, pollution from ships, and eutrophication. The Atlantic basin has great potential for tourism and maritime renewable energies. The OSPAR Convention should remain the framework for cooperation.
The Black Sea faces major challenges like eutrophication, chemical pollution, threats to biodiversity and a serious decline of fish stocks, mainly due to inadequate fisheries conservation measures. In the framework of the EU Black Sea Synergy initiative, sectoral partnerships on environment, transport and energy are being developed to implement projects of regional significance. These projects pool together resources from the EU budget and from other sources, including international financial institutions. The Bucharest Convention on the protection of the Black Sea against pollution remains the only major regional sea convention around Europe to which the EU is not a party, which clearly hinders greater EU involvement in actions specifically addressing environmental protection.
How do maritime affairs relate to the European Neighbourhood Policy?
The Commission develops regional approaches for each sea-basin within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
Who are the EU strategic partners worldwide?
Continuous dialogue with international partners provides a platform for alliance-building, promotes mutual understanding and enables the exchange of best practice.
Sectoral dialogues with key partners are underway, based on either agreements or memoranda of understanding. They concern maritime issues such as maritime transport, shipbuilding, marine environment, employment and social affairs and fisheries resources. The Commission intends to gradually expand the scope of these dialogues into a more overarching cooperation on global maritime affairs, which would focus on the cross-cutting tools such as maritime surveillance, marine knowledge, integrated costal zones management and marine technology development. Themes on the agenda of coming multilateral meetings will be given priority, to promote mutual support and where possible develop joint initiatives.
The EU will deepen its relations with those partners who already have an integrated maritime policy, or are taking concrete steps in this direction. Maritime policies currently developed by some of the EU's key international partners share common features with the EU's approach. In particular, they all recognise the value-added of an integrated approach to protect oceans and seas and use their resources sustainably to sustain growth in coastal regions.