Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none


Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The Commission’s Agenda: Jobs, Growth and the Maritime Dimension

Dinner Speech at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation
Brussels, 1 March 2005

Dr. Weilemann,

Honourable Members of Parliament,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank your very much for your kind words of welcome. I am honoured to be here this evening at a gathering such as this.

Working from some sixty offices in two hundred industrial and developing countries the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, over the past 30 years, has built a reputation for itself as a reliable and effective partner in democracy and institution-building. In my own country, Malta, the cooperation between the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Academy for the Development of a Democratic Environment (AZAD) has long contributed to better informing the Maltese people about the European Union and other topical issues in relation to the Mediterranean. In the best tradition of one of the founding fathers of European integration, Konrad Adenauer, the Foundation is also one of the most active research and policy centres in Brussels. Its well-known dinner debates are landmarks in the plethora of Brussels think tank conferences.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 26 January last, President Barroso presented to the European Parliament the strategic objectives of his Commission. Accompanying this was the legislative and work programme for 2005. As a result of a long and intense internal debate, the Commission decided to place its work in the coming years under the motto “A European Partnership for Renewal: a partnership for prosperity, solidarity and security in our continent”.

Choosing a title, as ambitious as this, has perhaps surprised some. There are people who think that after the unprecedented enlargement of the Union last year, the new Commission should concentrate on policy implementation rather than on new initiatives. Would it not be tempting to just take a step back and concentrate all our efforts on this enlargement, preparing for the arrival of the Constitution, finalising and adopting the financial perspectives and carrying out what has been agreed to in Justice and Home Affairs and in European Security and Defence Policy?

In an increasingly competitive world we cannot afford the luxury to do this. Despite all that has been achieved so far, we have still a long and difficult way to go to create an appropriate framework of prosperity, solidarity and security that EU citizens aspire to and that would allow them to bring to bear their full socioeconomic potential.

With annual growth rates of 2% on average, that is at least 1% less than a generation ago, Europe is lacking economic dynamism. The impact of this on our societies is quite acute and if this continues we will simply not be in a position to curb structural unemployment and to create more and better jobs. We need therefore to deregulate the economy, mobilise the full potential of the single market and make Europe attractive for national investors and foreign direct investment.

Without innovation, higher investment in research, and excellence in education we stand no chance to stay competitive.

Without investment, we will be unable to generate sufficient jobs and beneficial standards of living for our citizens.

Without prosperity through growth and innovation, we will find it difficult to further solidarity and the social cohesion of European societies.

More than ever, following the accession of countries from central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, there are significant disparities in wealth and welfare in Europe. Demographic changes fuelled by our ever-aging society also create new tensions that will be hard to solve if we cannot develop more economic dynamism. Sustainable growth is also an inevitable prerequisite of environmental protection: nothing is more conducive to the unsustainable use of resources than a lack of wealth and prosperity.

However people do not need to work and earn an income only - they also need, and deserve, security. Carrying forward the European area of justice, liberty and security under the Hague agenda will bring practical benefits for the quality of life for European citizens.

The single market and justice, liberty and security are reverse sides of the same coin. When we act together at European level to better manage and reduce the threat of terrorism, drugs, people trafficking and organised crime, we are better off as a society and as an economy. If we improve the proper access to justice and guarantee the fundamental rights of people throughout the Union, this means progress for us all. It also means more cohesion for the Union as a whole.

This Commission is also committed to giving the Union a stronger voice in the world. Our focus therefore is not solely at home. We have objectives to achieve beyond our borders, namely in: preparing future enlargements, bringing the Western Balkans closer to membership, establishing effective and productive partnerships with our southern and eastern neighbours and working on the international stage with a view to extending stability and democracy beyond the Union. We have a role to play in contributing to a peaceful and democratic Middle East, we must be an ever more reliable partner of developing countries on the way to attaining the Millennium Development Goals, and we must also assist the developing world in its quest to obtain better market access through the Doha Round of WTO negotiations.

Putting prosperity and solidarity, security and freedom, and Europe’s duty towards the rest of the world, in first place, as the Commission has proposed, seems an obvious thing to do. Not surprisingly, the Council and the European Parliament, appear to agree with this too.

This should therefore provide a sound basis and the right focus for the way ahead both in interinstitutional cooperation and in the joint efforts that Member States and the Commission will deploy.

Against this background it is all the more surprising to hear some of the comments and objections that have been made to this programme. There has been a lot of talk about the wisdom of putting growth and jobs first, and some observers have even indulged in an almost philosophical debate about the right balance between prosperity and solidarity.

Frankly, I find this discussion somewhat artificial. It should be clear that without prosperity it is difficult to make available the means for solidarity in society to preserve the environment and develop cultural diversity. In a society where mass unemployment has become a reality – in Germany alone more than 5 million women and men are unemployed – focusing on growth and jobs is a must for any responsible politician.

Growth and sustainability are not in opposition to each other. Growth simply cannot be maintained at the expense of the sustainable use of resources. This is why higher investment in research and development should be one of our foremost priorities. Research and technology can provide us with knowledge and skills to achieve prosperity.

I do not think we can afford to pass up the challenge of concentrating our efforts on growth and jobs, knowledge and innovation and simplified economic governance. The revamped Lisbon Agenda offers a focus on each of these things. And it includes the right recipes when proposing sound macro-economic policies, labour market reform through deregulation and the completion of the single market.

Another criticism made to the Commission was that by re-launching the Lisbon Agenda and concentrating that hard on growth and jobs, we would be left with our hands tied, and our action would be subjected to the readiness and the willingness of Member States to implement our proposals. I admit this may sound as if it is the case. But do we really have an alternative? Should we refrain from saying the right thing because it is not certain that all will subscribe to it?

I do not think that it is certain a priori that on prosperity, jobs and growth we are not sitting in the same boat as Member States. It is true: some Member States may be more hesitant than others to proceed with reform. But at the end of the day I am sure that our commitment to securing jobs and prosperity for our citizens will prevail. Both in the Member States and in the EU institutions we will be called to account for it. Therefore, the Commission must not be shy to assume its central role of initiating policy and work closely with the Council, the Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions to ensure the implementation of reform at the EU level. I am confident that at the March European Council Member States could agree not only to the approach as a whole, but also make firm, measurable, time-related and concrete commitments within their own national action programmes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I do not wish to be misunderstood. Speaking about jobs and growth in a sustainable economy are not themes for a pleasant but non-committal fireside chat. It is rather an urgent challenge for the entire European Union and an ongoing task, which as a member of the Commission I have a responsibility to deal with as concretely as possible in my portfolio. Fisheries and Maritime Affairs is certainly well suited to contribute its part to furthering these goals.

In its strategic objectives (2005-2009) the Commission 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. Such a policy should be supported by excellence in marine scientific research, technology and innovation.”

Tomorrow the College of Commissioners will discuss a Communication under the title “Towards a Future Maritime Policy for the Union” that President Barroso and I have prepared. Let me shortly introduce you to this subject. I think it is a good case in point to reveal just how the artificial ‘contradiction’ between growth and sustainability can be overcome through the combined management of different policies and goals.

The sheer scale of the oceans and seas has traditionally led people to perceive them as an inexhaustible source of wealth. Human exploitation of the oceans has in general been limited only by the degree of technological development and by the resistance to human agency offered by the marine environment. The growth of coastal tourism and of the aquaculture sector, the development of maritime transport, and the growing use of the energy, mineral and genetic resources of the seas present significant new opportunities for growth and job creation. Yet at the same time the effective protection of the resource-base is a precondition for achieving sustainable wealth and generating employment from Europe’s oceans and seas.

The competing uses of the seas must therefore be managed carefully if their full economic potential is to be realised in a sustainable manner. In the past years several countries including Canada, Australia and the United States have developed new integrated ocean policies recognising the high potential for growth of sea-related activities in the economy. Through these policies they have demonstrated that the intense development of these activities in a sustainable way is a major challenge requiring a comprehensive and coordinated approach.

Acutely aware of this, we should now channel our own efforts to ensure that maximum use is made of our maritime potential. There is a strong case for acting at European level:

The EU is surrounded by four seas and two oceans, and has a coastline seven times longer than that of the US and four times that of Russia. On account of its outermost regions the European Union has the world’s largest maritime territory. Twenty Member States are coastal states. And with the accession of Romania and Bulgaria expected for 2007, the EU borders will be extended as far as the Black Sea.

The maritime regions of Europe account today for nearly half of the EU’s population and GDP. The maritime areas under the jurisdiction of the Member States are larger than their terrestrial territory, and could be extended further in the future.

Between 3 and 5% of Europe’s GNP is estimated to be generated directly from marine based industries and services. This figure does not include the value of the raw materials as for example, oil, gas or fish, nor does it take into account indirect economic benefits arising from other services such as tourism and real estate.

Maritime transport and intermodality in the transport chain are of increasing importance.

Europe faces the challenge of maintaining a competitive commercial fleet and a healthy shipbuilding industry. This requires proactive industrial policies, based on science, research and innovation, and within a sustainable European maritime policy framework.

The precarious state of marine ecosystems and fisheries resources in European waters, with the inevitable attendant economic and social damage, cannot be tackled by Member States individually, or in isolation from other factors.

If, therefore, Europe is to make the most of its maritime potential, we need a policy framework for co-ordinated action at an EU, Member State and regional level. In order to develop such a framework President Barroso has asked me 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 Task Force will consist of a secretariat in DG FISH and an inter-service working group comprising all the Commission services concerned.

Both of these will work under the guidance of a Steering Group of Commissioners that I will chair. In addition to fisheries and maritime affairs it will bring together the Vice-Presidents for enterprise and for transport and industry, and the Commissioners in charge of environment, regional policy, research, and energy. Other Commissioners will be invited to meetings of the Steering Group when issues falling within their portfolio are on the agenda.

The first task of this group will be to produce a Green Paper in the first half of 2006 and to launch a wide public debate. Already during the preparation of the Green Paper, stakeholders will be consulted extensively. The Green Paper should address the value of the oceans and seas to Europe, their future potential and possible risks on the basis of an analysis of the geographical, ecological, economic, social and legal realities. It should also identify how marine science, research and innovation may be better integrated with industry and policy making; and it will describe to what extent the maritime dimension is taken into account in various sectoral and regional policies.

The Green Paper shall also deal with the international dimension of ocean and sea affairs, including the relationship between the Law of the Sea and Community policies. It should set out options for promoting EU principles and objectives in international fora, relevant regional organisations, and towards third countries, especially neighbouring countries. It will examine the institutional and operational framework that may need to come into existence to ensure coherent and integrated governance, and it should define who and at what level is responsible for what.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Achieving prosperity through growth, jobs and innovation requires a comprehensive approach. It needs economic common sense, the ability and readiness to mobilise the full potential of our human and natural resources, and regulation to the extent that is necessary to ensure that we make use of our resources sustainably now and in the long term.

This is what we hope to achieve in a future European Maritime Policy. Conceiving of an integrated, comprehensive and effective maritime policy represents a considerable and exciting challenge. I would be happy if during the process I could count on your interest and your support

Thank you.

Side Bar