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Dr. Joe BORG
Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Seaports in the context of a European Maritime Policy
ESPO 2005 – European Sea Ports’ Conference
Valletta, Malta, 28 April 2005

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/05/261   28/04/2005

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SPEECH/05/261












Dr. Joe BORG

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs




Seaports in the context of a European Maritime Policy




















ESPO 2005 – European Sea Ports’ Conference
Valletta, Malta, 28 April 2005

Minister Galea,

Mr. Giuliano Gallanti, Chairman of ESPO,

Mr. Marc Bonello, Chairman of Malta Maritime Authority,

Mr. Fotis Karamitsos, Director Maritime and Inland Waterway
Transport of DG TREN,

Chairmen of the various European Port Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is for me a great honour and pleasure to address this forum: ESPO 2005 as you are gathered here to discuss some of the more pressing challenges facing European sea ports.

It is an honour because as Commissioner with the mandate to steer a Maritime Policy Task Force which in turn will launch a wide consultation on a future Maritime Policy for the Union, it is important to listen to and take stock of the views of the main stakeholders in this area. The European Sea Ports Organisation, representing a number of the main gateways to and from Europe, is clearly foremost among these.

It is also a great pleasure for me to deliver this address in Malta, my home country, as it serves to confirm that Malta continues to contribute actively to maritime affairs, as it has done so often in the past.

Sea ports form a strategic part of any coastal State’s infrastructure especially in today’s world where globalization and commercial international exchanges continue to develop at a rapid pace. The need for transportation of the growing volume of products and goods demanded by increasingly integrated yet still distant markets, together with the need to find cost-effective alternatives to congested motorways, places greater focus on maritime transport and by extension, onto sea ports as well.

Europe is by no means immune from these developments. Indeed as you know, Europe has a strategic interest in all things maritime. Europe is surrounded by four seas: the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea; and by two oceans: the Atlantic and the Arctic oceans. The new Europe of 25 Member States has a coastline of 70,000 kilometres, several times longer than that of the USA and of Russia. Almost half of the European population lives within 50 kilometres of the coast, some of which come from the islands surrounding mainland Europe such as the island nation states of Malta, Cyprus, Ireland and the UK. Europe’s geographical reality means that over two thirds of the Union’s external borders lie along the coast and that the maritime spaces under the jurisdiction of the Union’s Member States amount to an area far greater than their terrestrial territory.

These impressive figures and the reality they give rise to are often underestimated. However an appreciation of these facts is key to understanding Europe’s strong links to the sea.

This geographical reality, in turn, gives rise to the close affinity with the oceans and seas that Europeans have always had. From the earliest times these water expanses have connected European people with each other and with the outside world, generating in the process new sources of wealth and numerous opportunities for development.

Today, as Europe seeks to revitalise and reinvigorate her economy, it is even more important for Europe to recognise and assume the significance of her maritime dimension. As you are certainly aware, the EU has relaunched the Lisbon Strategy, focusing it on a partnership for growth and employment. This strategy is designed to narrow the gap between Europe’s growth potential and that of some of its economic partners, whilst simultaneously renewing its competitiveness, its growth potential and productivity, and strengthening social cohesion. It also places emphasis on knowledge, innovation and the optimisation of human capital.

To achieve these objectives the Union must mobilise all national and Community resources, including those of the oceans and seas.

European maritime regions account for over 40% of the GNP of the former EU15, and although precise figures are not available for the enlarged Union of today, this is expected to be larger when we take into account all 25 member states.

The oceans and seas, through traditional maritime industries alone, sustain between 2.5 million and 3 million jobs in Europe. They also contribute between 3 and 5% of Europe’s GNP. Both figures would be even larger if we include the value of raw materials such as oil, gas or fish, and services with a maritime dimension such as: coastal tourism, real estate, marine scientific research and marine technology development.

In brief, due to Europe’s geographical realities and its consequently strong historical links with the sea, compounded by the present international economic context where demands on the oceans and seas are ever-increasing, maritime activities are increasingly of critical importance to the European Union.

Sea ports have a key role to play in supporting this trend.

Ports have always been a means to serve the prosperity of Europe. Be it in terms of trade from the Far East or following the important discoveries in South America in the west, sea ports were the safe haven for vessels laden with goods after sometimes treacherous seas crossings. Some of the oldest European civilisations with ports along the Mediterranean shoreline, prospered because of the increased commerce and exploitation of resources farther afield, facilitated by their ports. The ports of the Atlantic coast, the North Sea and the Baltic, are also famous for their flourishing trade and for the exchange of ideas, architecture styles and peoples. Clearly, seaports were at the forefront in bringing new prosperity, ideas and practices to Europe.

Today, seaports have not only maintained this role. In some cases they have even increased it. They are indispensable not only to Europe’s positioning in the world market but also to Europe’s single market and its Trans-European Transport Network.

As you well know, over 90% of Europe’s trade with the rest of the world is shipped through its sea ports. This is also the case for almost half of intra-European trade. Sea ports also handle a total of 3.5 billion tonnes of cargo per year. Approximately 350,000 people in Europe work in over 1,000 seaports or work in directly related services which together generate a value-added of about 20 billion Euros. This is the value added over and above the income generated by the total European maritime cluster which is estimated at a sizeable 111 billion Euros.

Apart from the clear inclination in favour of maritime transportation for goods to and from Europe as these figures clearly demonstrate, there are additional factors that support increasing transportation by sea. A clear example of this has been brought about by the heightened awareness of the environmental costs of road transport.

In this context, the new possibilities offered by the Trans-European transport networks must be fully exploited: there is a need for the specificities of ports to become better known at a national level so more projects can be brought forward in the future. This is particularly so now that ports can be considered for priority projects on the motorways of the sea, which come with higher financing percentages.

A trend towards maritime transport brings about a challenge. The challenge is for Europe to be equipped with efficient ports and to maintain a competitive commercial fleet and ship building industry, whilst simultaneously ensuring that these operate in a sustainable manner. This requires proactive policies and an overarching, sustainable maritime policy framework.

It is because we understand the critical importance of ocean and sea affairs to Europe, and because we recognise the need for these to be managed in a sustainable manner that the European Commission is looking at developing a new vision for oceans and seas and a Union-wide all-embracing maritime policy.

The current fragmentation of decision-making that exists with respect to maritime activities at the national, regional and EU levels, makes it difficult to reconcile competing uses of the oceans and seas. It is consequently also difficult to define our priorities. This often results in the adoption of conflicting measures, which in turn have negative consequences on the marine environment and also on competing maritime activities.

Moreover, fragmentation of decision-making with the involvement of many different agencies and entities, makes it difficult to comprehend the potential impact of one set of activities upon another. It also prevents us from profiting from untapped synergies that could otherwise be explored between different sectors of the maritime cluster.

These effects also carry an economic and social cost to the regions concerned. At present this is still somewhat limited to the coastal areas in the strictest definition of the terms, however we can expect it to affect more and more marine areas further afield. With the widespread recognition of Exclusive Economic Zones extending up to 200 miles offshore, the occupation by nation states of the ocean space goes far further beyond the strict definition of coastal areas.

Development of offshore mariculture in the future, for instance, will pose a challenge to maritime transport. Similarly, siting energy-generating wind farms off the coast and defining aquatic nature reserves are all uses of the sea that will need to be accommodated side by side with other activities.

It is our concern with these competing and often conflicting alternative uses of the maritime environment that underlines the importance of anticipating the future and developing appropriate responses. This could include looking at the oceans and seas in the same way as we currently look at territorial spaces: and that is in terms of marine spatial planning and zoning.

What we need therefore is to increase cooperation, coordination and integration of ocean and sea-related policies at the European level. We need to develop an integrated maritime policy framework that will facilitate the development of the diverse sea-based activities. We need a framework which will allow us to contribute to economic development without compromising the welfare of future generations. And we need to do this without much delay in order to limit any adverse affects that could irreparably damage the marine environment and its biodiversity.

A European maritime policy should therefore bring a new approach to ocean and sea affairs. It should be integrated, inter-sectoral and multidisciplinary rather than a collection of vertical sectoral policies. It should look at the oceans and seas based on a sound knowledge of how they work and how the sustainability of their environment and ecosystems may be preserved. It should aim to provide answers as to how decision-making and the conciliation of competing interests in marine and coastal areas can result in a climate more conducive to investment and to the development of sustainable economic activities.

What we are looking at is the gradual reinforcement of the concept of a “one stop shop” in terms of policies, governance and decision making on ocean affairs. To achieve this, that is, to improve decision making and to promote effective coordination, a new European oceans and seas policy framework is needed.

We are still at a very early stage in our thinking on a European policy for the oceans and seas. It is already clear to me, though, that in the process leading to such a policy we should identify those sectors whereby efforts and capabilities could be further integrated. The definition of areas where reinforced co-ordination, rather than full integration, might be called for, would also be a valuable contribution. Closer cooperation, proper articulation, and increased complementarity between the different decision-making levels would clearly be welcome.

Let me turn now to the immediate tasks that lie ahead.

A Green Paper on a future EU Maritime Policy, to be adopted by the Commission in the first half of 2006, will constitute a first step towards the establishment of an all-embracing EU Maritime Policy.

A Maritime Affairs Task Force has already been established by the Commission to produce this Green Paper and to launch a wide public debate on the subject. Vice President Barrot, the Commissioner responsible for Transport, is a Member of the Steering Group of Commissioners that will pilot the activities of this Task Force. Other Commissioners too, will play an important role.

The Task Force is charged with building upon existing EU policies and initiatives. It will also seek to identify beneficial interfaces and synergies between the sectoral policies relating to the oceans and seas. It will also aim to strike the right balance between the economic, social, safety and environmental dimensions of a maritime policy whilst ensuring the preservation of the resource base. This is a key element for improving the EU’s competitiveness, long-term growth and employment in the maritime sector.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Without seaports it would be difficult to envisage the European Union as an economic world power or even to envisage the smooth functioning of our markets. Your activities and your views are a matter of great interest for the European Commission. Your thoughts as major stakeholders on oceans and seas affairs are also very important in the process of formulating the Green paper on a future maritime policy.

The EU Commission which is represented here by high officials from DG Transport and DG Environment as well as myself, will take good note of your debate and will be listening to your aspirations, namely in relation to:

- the development of adequate port capacity, of maritime access and hinterland connections that may allow ports to fulfil their role as gateways for Europe’s external and internal trade;

- questions of the environmental compatibility of these relevant investments;

- the role of ports in the development of the motorways of the sea:

- the increased requirements for improving security of operations in the ports;

- the fostering of competitive and more efficient services in ports and within the entire transport chain; and

- the finding of ways to stimulate the wider community responsibilities for ports.

This is an agenda that I fully support and to which, I am confident the Green Paper on a future European Maritime Policy will contribute. I trust that our combined efforts will bring about better coordination of the decision making which has so significant an impact on your work. I also augur that it will improve the application of existing legislation affecting seaports, thereby facilitating the introduction of modifications where necessary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Europe’s maritime heritage, and more importantly its future with the growing use of oceans and seas, brings us many opportunities and challenges - all of which are strong reasons for the European Union to act, to act together and to act now.

For this purpose, in its strategic objectives for the next 5 years (2005-2009) the EU Commission already noted “the particular need for an all-embracing maritime policy aimed at developing a thriving maritime economy, in an environmentally sustainable manner. Such a policy should be supported by excellence in marine scientific research, technology and innovation.”

This is the basis of our vision for the future of our oceans and seas.

Thank you.


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