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Brussels, 15 October 2009

Progress Report on the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy: questions and answers

What does the Progress Report include?

The Progress Report sets out the achievements of the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) since its creation in 2007. The accompanying annex provides the full details of the various initiatives, projects and measures undertaken, as well as new activities.

The report also outlines the next phase of the IMP, which should feature more structured stakeholder involvement, strong integration of the IMP into other EU policies and into the EU institutions, and, most importantly, coordinated responses to the challenges arising from climate change and the economic crisis.

The report was requested by the European Council of 14 December 2007.

What are the origins of the IMP?

The IMP was defined by the Commission in 2007 through the so-called Blue Paper and the accompanying Action Plan, following an extensive year-long consultation with stakeholders and the general public. The response was overwhelming and confirmed the necessity for an Integrated Maritime Policy for the UE. Stakeholders agreed that EU policies affecting seas and coasts must be coordinated in order to yield the best results and avoid conflicts.

Since then, the IMP has grown into a stable and dynamic framework for a wide range of policy actions and dialogues. It allows the Commission, EU Member States and regions to turn the economic and environmental challenges of today into opportunities for tomorrow through better knowledge, planning and surveillance. It functions as a hub and a catalyst for all EU sea-related policies; it enhances synergies and stimulates joint initiatives that may not have happened otherwise. Its unique governance structure with the Steering Group of 10 commissioners and its inter-services working group is being emulated by national, regional and local authorities, resulting in more effective measures and increased involvement of citizens and economic actors.

Through its open and transparent structure and commitment to continuous stakeholder involvement the IMP can provide answers to the most pressing maritime issues of our times, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable energy supply, and the economic crisis which broke out in 2008 around the world and which is affecting the maritime industries in a serious way.

What are the main achievements of the IMP so far?

The Action Plan from 2007 set out a particularly ambitious work programme. It included new working methods, cross-cutting tools and a wide range of specific actions that aimed to benefit the maritime economy, protect the marine environment, strengthen marine and maritime research and innovation, foster economic development in coastal and outermost regions, address international maritime affairs, and raise the visibility of Europe's maritime dimension. All these areas have seen good progress and all actions announced are on track, as documented in the present report.

Out of 65 actions in the Action Plan, 56 have been completed or launched, some with only minor delays. That leaves only 9 actions for which no documents have been adopted yet. In addition, the Commission has launched a number of maritime activities not originally included in the Action Plan.

The report provides information and references for a total of 62 items related to the integrated maritime policy, ranging from awareness-raising measures to legislative acts. The actions are divided into the following chapters:

  • Maritime governance (8 items),

  • Activities in relation to specific sea basins (8 items),

  • Tools for integrated policy-making (3 items),

  • Maximising the sustainable use of the oceans and seas (29 items),

  • Building a knowledge and innovation base for maritime policy (2 items),

  • Delivering the highest quality of life in coastal regions (5 items),

  • Promoting Europe's leadership in international maritime affairs (3 items), and

  • Raising the visibility of Maritime Europe (4 items).

What will happen during the next phase of the IMP?

Following the first phase, the Commission and EU Member States are now focusing on implementing the policies, strategies and instruments arisen from the Blue Paper and its Action Plan.

The report sets out six priority areas for the future:

  • integrated Maritime Governance

Enhancing integrated maritime governance requires continued internal co-ordination and working closely with Member States, the regions and a wide array of stakeholders.

In light of the dynamic changes towards more integration, not just in Europe, but also, for example, in the US, there is ample scope to encourage common learning and joint definition of best practices. This could be carried out through dialogue with Member States, but also for example in the context of the OECD.

Momentum needs to be maintained in the dialogue with stakeholders, through new platforms and on the occasion of European Maritime Day, whose next edition will be held under the aegis of the in-coming Spanish Council Presidency on 20 May 2010 in Gijon, Spain.

  • cross-cutting tools

The cross-sectoral instruments of the IMP will be further developed on the basis of the results obtained in the pilot phase. At the time they were first conceived, the economy was growing and industry was facing resource shortages. The situation today is somewhat different. More attention therefore needs to be given to how we can relaunch economic growth. Maritime spatial planning already provides better predictability for long-term investment projects. This can be complemented by measures to rationalise planning of new projects, such as the introduction of a single impact assessment to large-scale cross-border projects in sea basins.

For more on an integrated approach to maritime surveillance, see MEMO/09/454

  • Sustainability

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is the vital environmental component of the EU's maritime policy, and is designed to achieve the full economic potential of our oceans and seas in harmony with the marine environment. The Strategy's aim is to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe - the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. Each Member State, in cooperation with its maritime neighbours, including non-EU countries, is required to develop strategies for their marine waters. These strategies must contain a detailed assessment of the state of the environment, a definition of "good environmental status" at regional level and the establishment of clear environmental targets and monitoring programmes of cost-effective measures. Defining boundaries of sustainability will help all maritime activities to develop with greater regard for their cumulative impacts on the environment;

  • Economic growth

The Community needs to support sustainable economic growth for maritime activities through further exploration of the possibilities linked to marine resources, including deep-sea ocean technologies, emerging markets and industrial innovation, as well as through the cross-sectoral “cluster” approach to maritime economic activities. Economic growth can also be stimulated through encouraging eco-tourism and tourism linked to the conservation of natural and/or cultural maritime heritage.

Reinvigorating economic activity must be coupled with new quality standards in terms of sustainability. This could entail, for example, a scheme to replace older ships, leading to more efficient and less polluting maritime transport, while providing impetus for European shipbuilding.

Another new opportunity for improved coordination is the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The coordination mechanism of the Integrated Maritime Policy will make it easier to align priorities and actions in the field of fisheries with development in maritime regions, with the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and with employment issues.

  • Sea-basin strategies

The sea-basin approach should be enhanced to address the specific maritime challenges and priorities in Europe’s sea basins, which differ in their geophysical, political and socio-economic composition. Future initiatives should be defined in synergy with other policies, such as territorial cohesion and funding instruments.

The Commission has already adopted regional integrated approaches for the Arctic (see IP/08/1750 and MEMO/08/726 ), the Baltic Sea Region, with its strategy, (see IP/09/893 ), and the Mediterranean (see IP/09/1305 and MEMO/09/387 )

  • International dimension

In view of the global nature of many maritime issues, the European maritime agenda should be promoted actively through the relevant international fora such as the the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea and the International Maritime Organisation.

The Commission also adopted a Communication on this issue, see MEMO/09/453

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