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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Towards an European Maritime Policy

Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe
Santiago de Compostela, 14 January 2005

Mr. Claudio Martini, (President of the CPMR)

Mr. Xavier Gizard, (Secretary General of the CPMR)

Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, (President of the Brittany Region)

Mr. Manuel Fraga Iribarne, (President of Xunta de Galicia)

Members of the Political Bureau of the CPMR,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to thank you for this kind invitation to address the Political Bureau of the CPMR here in Santiago de Compostela - a beautiful city located in one of the leading maritime regions of Europe, Galicia.

I would like to take a look at three specific questions in my remarks to you today.

Firstly, how important are the oceans and seas for Europe and its people?

Secondly what are the arguments for taking action at a European level?

And thirdly, where do we go from here?

Let us take the first question first: how important are the oceans and seas for Europe and its people?

To answer this in brief, I honestly don’t think that the importance of the oceans and seas to Europe’s development can be overstated.

Europe is a large peninsula with thousands of kilometres of coastline. It is surrounded by a number of islands, including island-states. The European Union, in particular, is also surrounded by four seas and one ocean, each of which can count the coasts of several Member States along its borders.

The oceans and seas considerably influence our climate and thus our agricultural productivity. They are of considerable economic importance in sustaining hundreds of thousands of jobs in marine industries such as fisheries, tourism, transport and energy. No less relevant are the social, recreational, aesthetic and cultural uses we make of our ocean and seas.

The following facts give an idea of the significant contribution that the seas make to Europe’s wealth:

European maritime regions account for over 40% of the GNP of the former EU15. This percentage is expected to be larger when considering the EU of 25 member states.

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.

The EU is the third largest fishery producer in the world. More than half a million people work in the fishery sector in Europe and the EU average consumption of fish stands at 24.5 kg per head per annum – a figure which is considerably higher that the world average of 16 kg/head/year.

Other associated variables, such as for example, the monetary value of being able to accurately forecast sea conditions for the safe routing of ships, or to provide storm warnings, is estimated by the insurance industry to be substantial.

These costs could be even higher if one takes into consideration measures to forecast or mitigate the effects of extreme acts of nature, such as the South East Asian tsunami that we have only recently witnessed.

It is also very difficult to quantify the intangible, yet sizeable, benefits derived from the oceans and seas which have a direct impact on enhancing people’s quality of life, health and leisure time.

The centrality of Europe’s ocean and seas to the well-being of our continent is therefore not in question. Yet until now, there has not been any attempt to address maritime affairs in a co-ordinated way at the European level.

This brings me to my second question; what are the arguments for developing a maritime policy at the EU level?

The Preamble of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea makes clear that “all the problems of the oceans space are closely inter-related and need to be considered as a whole”.

The governance of oceans and seas has been on the international agenda since the Rio Summit of 1992 and featured prominently in its Agenda 21. The Annual Report of the UN Secretary General on Oceans and the Law of the Sea repeatedly points out that the increasing problems the oceans are facing are to a great extent due to the lack of cooperation and coordination at all levels of governance.

A call for improvement in this regard resulted in the establishment, in 2000, within the UN General Assembly, of the open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS). The Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development also emphasized the importance of ensuring the sustainable development of oceans and seas.

In this context, countries such as Australia, Canada, and only a short time ago the USA, have all been developing ocean integrated policies in recent years. The principles, objectives and modalities of the ocean policies developed by these countries are largely similar.

They all recognise the high contribution of coastal areas and sea-based activities to their economy, covering a broad range of sectors such as fisheries, agriculture, offshore oil extraction, wind and wave energy and maritime transport. And they have all come to the conclusion that the intense development of these activities is a challenge to the sustainable development and exploitation of sea resources and activities.

Through these ocean policies, attempts have therefore been made to achieve a better scientific knowledge of the state of the oceans, supported by marine research and the sharing of scientific knowledge among stakeholders; to develop sea-based economic activities, in particular with respect to the preservation of ecosystems; and, not least, to implement a new mode of governance for a policy that cuts across many sectors, in particular, one that recognises the need to involve a wide range of stakeholders, both in the public and in the non-governmental sector.

Yet, as the CPMR itself pointed out in its recent paper ‘For a coherent seas policy in Europe – proposal for a European Union Green Paper’, despite this clear international trend towards more integrated oceans and seas management, European policy has thus far, tended to look at oceans and seas in a fragmented manner. EU policies in areas such as Transport, the Environment, Fisheries, Regional Development, Research, Shipbuilding, Energy, Tourism, Civil Protection, and Justice and Home Affairs, all deal with questions to do with oceans and seas to a greater or lesser extent.

While each of these policies has reached a high degree of sophistication and organisation in its own area of competence, a coherent framework for policymaking relating to oceans and seas is yet to be developed.

There are also clear signs that the scale of the challenges with a maritime dimension that Europe faces can only be adequately tackled collectively.

It is clear, for example, that we must devote considerable resources, far beyond the capacity of any one member state, to further develop marine science and research. This is a necessity if we are to develop new technologies and techniques for improved sustainable uses of the seas and their resources, such as vessel monitoring and offshore exploration. Efforts at an EU level are required if we are to create cross-sectoral synergies.

Similarly, the near collapse of a number 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 that may have an impact on ecosystems.

The growing awareness of the need for integrated coastal management and development has also started to be taken into account in European regional policy. This trend should be encouraged, particularly in view of the strong urban, infrastructural and tourism development in coastal regions.

The impact of globalisation and the relocation of manufacturing activities outside Europe also poses a major challenge to the maritime transport sector. Around 90% of merchandise is transported by sea, with high quality European shipping playing a very important role. This, combined with the high environmental costs of road transport, continually raises the importance of maritime transport in relation to other means of transport.

A policy framework at a European level that can take all of these divergent, and often competing, elements into consideration, in full respect of the principle of subsidiarity, is vital if Europe is to make the most of its maritime potential.

Our vision then, should be that of a Europe with a dynamic maritime economy in harmony with the marine environment, supported by sound marine scientific research and technology, which allows human beings to continue to reap the rich harvest from the ocean in a sustainable manner.

So where do we go from here?

It is clear that the Maritime Policy Task Force that President Barroso has asked me to lead will have to be guided by a recognition of the need for an integrated, intersectoral and interdisciplinary approach to the ocean and the seas; an awareness and recognition of the environmental threats and problems; and an awareness of the importance of the ocean and seas as a continuation of European territory for the purposes of spatial planning, management and conservation.

The Task Force will be steered politically by a Group of Commissioners whose areas of responsibility have a direct maritime dimension. At a technical level it will have to draw on expertise in a wide range of fields like marine environmental protection and pollution; marine biodiversity; integrated coastal estuaries and seas management; marine science and technology; the law of the sea; maritime safety and security, fisheries and aquaculture; maritime transport and ports; ship and fleet management; shipbuilding and ship repair; energy; job creation; training; tourism and governance, amongst others.

The Task Force will aim to produce a Green Paper as early as possible in 2006 and should address issues such as:

  • the contribution of Europe’s maritime dimension to the Lisbon and Gothenburg objectives;
  • to what extent the maritime dimension is taken into account in the various sectoral and regional policies, and drawing attention to consistencies and inconsistencies;
  • the reach of the policy, in other words, how comprehensive it will be
  • its legislative framework – whether it will rely on existing frameworks or create an over-arching one to include both new and existing legislation
  • the institutional and operational framework that may need to come into existence to ensure coherent and integrated governance.

While the Green Paper will serve as the basis for the extensive and systematic consultation of all stakeholders, I intend to seek the views of key stakeholders even during the preparation of the Green Paper itself. In this regard, I look forward to continued dialogue with, and input from, the CPMR in the coming year; the maritime regions of Europe are central stakeholders in this work and I welcome the value that they can add to our common project.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Working on a future European Maritime Policy represents a considerable and exciting challenge.

It requires, nevertheless, both patience and prudence.

I am confident that in the coming years we can set ourselves squarely on the road towards an integrated, comprehensive and effective maritime policy.

I know that, in the process, I will be able to count on your full support

Thank you.

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