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Commissioner for Fisheries and maritime affairs
Conference “Sea our future: the regional approach to an integrated
European Maritime Policy”
Secretary General of the Committee of the Regions, Mr. Gerhard Stahl,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Committee of the Regions, who upon the proposal of Minister Uwe Döring, have taken this initiative to look at a European maritime policy from a regional perspective. This is both timely and opportune.
I should also like to make special mention of the Land Schleswig-Holstein, the other North German States involved and the CPMR. The interest of European regions, and the leading role they have adopted towards developing new thinking for the way we, in Europe, are to manage and benefit from our oceans and seas is indispensable, and certainly most welcome.
I am delighted that I have been invited to address this forum and I understand that there will be some time for a discussion at the end of this afternoon’s first session. While I am very much looking forward to this exchange of views, I regret to say that I will be unable to stay on for this afternoon’s second session as I have other commitments that prevent this. However, allow me in advance, to wish you well with your additional discussions after the break. I have every confidence that they too will contribute to the timely discussion you have launched.
I applaud the leading role you have adopted for a number of reasons. Firstly, given your close proximity as regional and coastal entitities to the realities of the maritime economy, you are well-placed to influence our debate. Secondly, the move towards an integrated policy for European oceans and seas is clearly an exciting step in the right direction. It is a move that calls for the active participation of interested parties so as to ensure the process is all-encompassing, coherent and consistent with our aims. Ultimately, as we are also navigating through somewhat uncharted waters, it is fitting that experts in the field guide us in our work.
As the Own – Initiative Opinion entitled “EU Maritime policy – a question of sustainable development for local and regional authorities” puts it:
“this is the first time in the history of the European Union that the sea as a whole has been the subject of political focus, and it is the first time that individual EU measures, some of which have been in operation for many years, can be brought together constructively, under a common approach that takes into account their synergies”.
We are therefore breaking new ground. We are attempting to bring together differing, and sometimes competing, aspects of our relationship with the seas and the oceans into an integrated framework.
Yet we are not doing this in a vacuum. We have a vision for what we are doing – a vision which tells us that the oceans’ and seas’ enormous potential should be recognised and preserved so that it can be put to effective and sustainable use to continue to create wealth for present and future generations. It is a vision which compels us to choose an integrated approach as the overarching principle by which we will achieve maximum synergies between our policies, without allowing current political priorities to fall by the wayside. Yet, above all, it is a vision by which the EU will be able to face up to the considerable challenge of globalisation, whilst still maintaining a balance between its maritime traditions and way of life in coastal communities, and its competitive edge in the sector overall.
The Commission also believes that an integrated maritime policy must have sustainable, long-term aims and ought to put people at its centre. We are not aiming at preserving maritime industries or in opening up new opportunities, nor are we aiming at the protection of the marine environment as ends in themselves. We are hoping to design a policy aimed at enabling people to maximise their benefits through the sustainable use of a resource that has for countless years been our source of ‘bread and butter’.
Inasmuch as it is about people and natural resources, a maritime policy must necessarily have a strong local and regional dimension. In this context, I am glad to recognise that some excellent work has already been done within the EU at the regional level. It is now necessary to collect this work, to compare approaches and to identify best practices.
The Committee of the Regions can play an important role in this by drawing our attention to examples of good practice within the regions and to the concept of model regions. We can learn from the ways in which you have identified the priorities and addressed the challenges that face you. Moreover, you already have much experience to share in the implementation of policy, the gathering of data and the involvement of stakeholders. The contribution of the regions to an all embracing European maritime policy is therefore quite clearly indispensable. It is only you who can bring to our pool of ideas and concepts, a fresh, regional perspective that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The importance of the regional perspective of a future European Maritime Policy lies also in the recognition that we cannot adopt a “one size fits all” approach for the entire European Union. Challenges are not the same for all coastal areas and all territorial waters.
For example, in relation to the Mediterranean, most States have not yet declared Exclusive Economic Zones, a fact which enhances the importance of international cooperation. Conversely, the Baltic Sea is covered almost entirely by the Exclusive Economic Zones of EU Member States, which gives the EU the possibility to take many measures autonomously within the limits of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Taking similar actions in areas where EEZs have not yet been declared, has been that much harder. The Green Paper on Maritime Policy may lay out options in this respect.
This example highlights the need therefore, for a future all-encompassing European maritime policy to be developed in line with the principle of subsidiarity whereby sufficient flexibility is used to find regional responses according to specific needs. The CPMR initiative entitled “L’ Europe de la Mer” highlights this to good effect. This perspective should be kept foremost in our sights so as to ensure complementarity with the ongoing work of the Maritime Affairs Task Force of the European Commission, which of necessity must take a more comprehensive view based on a European-wide level of action.
In this context, I would like to point a number of key issues which deserve to be studied from a regional perspective. These issues correspond to the following questions:
What is the real weight of the maritime economy vis a vis the various maritime regions and how important is this in terms of regional growth and jobs?
Which are the main social and cultural features of maritime regions?
What is the value of maritime transport and ports to the non-maritime regions of Europe?
Which are the best models of regional governance in terms of maritime affairs and integrated coastal zone management? Who are the players? And to what extent do their competences fall within other levels of governance, in particular at a national level?
What is public perception on the importance of oceans and seas at the level of the EU regions?
Mr. Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you are no doubt aware, I have been steering a Group of Commissioners whose portfolios are related, in one way or another, with maritime affairs. I also have responsibility for a Task Force that is charged with preparing a Green Paper on a future maritime policy for the European Union.
Many of you may be asking yourselves what it is that we envisage when we refer to such a maritime policy.
In answer to this, allow me to state unequivocally that we are not talking of a policy that focuses exclusively on raising the competitiveness of the European maritime industries. We are also not talking of a policy that only serves as a model of governance to integrate decisions on oceans and seas affairs with a view to rationalising their conservation and protection.
What we have in mind is a broader and more comprehensive goal: our goal is to contribute to the well-being of Europeans, both present and future. As I have said at the outset, people are at the heart of this policy. Their welfare, and the ability to make sustainable use of the oceans and seas’ resources for their benefit, is the final goal of our efforts. Improving our economic development and preserving the environment are some of the means that we foresee to achieve that goal - means that are, in themselves, undoubtedly worthy of the highest praise and most vigilant efforts.
In so far as the economy is concerned, our oceans and seas offer clear potential for growth, namely in sectors such as tourism, fish farming and sea ranching. There is also increased opportunity for real estate development as people seek second homes by the coast. There is sustained growth in shipping, transport and in port services. Off-shore oil and gas extraction and the use of new sources of energy, including renewable sources, are also competing for the shoreline. The biotechnology industry in Europe has also got great scope for development through the exploration of marine biodiversity and new genetic resources of the seabed.
We need to make sure that this potential for growth will not be hindered by conflicting ocean uses. To do so we need to avoid fragmentation of decision-making as otherwise we stand to lose sight of the synergies that can be created between different uses. We will also need to do better in terms of reducing the red tape that hinders or reduces the impetus of economic initiatives and investments.
We can only achieve these benefits, however, in the context of a healthy marine environment. There is still much to be done in this regard.
To start with we have to fulfil international commitments such as the one that the Member States of the Union undertook in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. This concerns reversing the current trend of depleting marine living resources and the reduction of marine biodiversity. We also need to provide answers to the public and respond to their calls for more safety of navigation, for coastal protection and for a reduction in marine pollution. The tragic Erika and Prestige incidents are still painfully alive in the mind of European citizens.
This is why the first paragraph of the Commission’s Communication on a Maritime Policy for Europe says that the sustainability of the marine environment is a prerequisite for the potential of oceans and seas as a source of wealth to be fully realised.
Mr. Secretary General, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The work of the Maritime Policy Task Force to prepare the Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy is now well underway. Two meetings of the Steering Group of Commissioners have taken place. Work now concentrates on assessing the remits of the wide range of issues and ideas in order to pin down those areas where substantial issues have to be resolved.
It is clear that the Task Force will require a cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach. It is also clear that the debate on the Financial Perspectives will have an impact on any future Maritime Policy. Already today, the Structural Funds give an important impetus to the development of maritime regions. By way of example, I would like to mention that the Regional Fund alone, allocated about 2 billion euros to help develop ports for the period 2000-2006."
Thus the Green Paper should seek answers on the best approach to issues as:
More concretely, and without wanting to prejudice the work of the Task Force and the Steering Group of Commissioners in any way, there is an emerging recognition of the need to develop measures designed to facilitate the maintenance and promotion of highly skilled jobs for Europeans in the maritime field, in particular in seagoing sectors. In relation to spatial planning in EU waters, there is room to develop a framework of governance that reconciles competing uses of ocean resources. This will in turn demand the development of a comprehensive programme to identify all sources of data available to those involved in the maritime sectors, ensure compatibility between different sources, and fill any remaining gaps.
Attainment of scientific excellence in the oceans and seas’ sectors is decisive if we are to be able to respond to the above mentioned needs. This will mean promoting the necessary exchanges of information and synergies between all the marine scientific and technology institutions in the EU and elsewhere, as well as ensuring that EU research programmes develop their maximum potential to contribute to this.
While the Green Paper will be the basis for in-depth consultation, I welcome the submission of views by stakeholders throughout this preparatory phase. In this regard, I particularly appreciate the input from the regions, which have a vital role to play in this exercise. Your vision is already clearly reflected in the title you have chosen for this conference: “Sea our future”, which I think is particularly appropriate.
I wish you well in your efforts and thank you for the willingness you have already shown to support our work in this field.