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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Economic Challenges of an European all-embracing Maritime Policy

“Economy of the Sea 2005” organized by Les Echos Conferences in conjunction with the French Ministry for Transport, Infrastructures, Tourism and Maritime Affairs
Paris, 14 December 2005

Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this Conference dealing with the economics of the sea. This is an important initiative as it brings together leading figures of the maritime economy of France with administrators and other stakeholders. It is also important as it is the first conference of its kind on this subject: one organised by the media. For that I would like to thank those at the newspapers Les Echos and Le Marin for taking this initiative. I hope that my intervention and the presence of members of my team, will contribute to a lively discussion, most especially in view of the preparation of a Green Paper on a Maritime Policy for the European Union that is currently underway.

The fact that this is taking place in Paris also provides me with the opportunity to thank the French Government for its support of our efforts to develop an all-encompassing maritime policy. The clear vision contributed by a number of member states, most especially France, Portugal and Spain, has been one of the primary inspirations for our work. For this I thank them.

We all know that Europe has strong maritime traditions. These can be seen in our present day maritime economy whereby the EU merchant fleet is by far the world leader, both in terms of tonnage shipped and by flag. Four of the five biggest container shipping firms hail from Europe. European shipyards are leaders in building innovative, efficient and environment-friendly functioning vessels, such as cruise and passenger ships or small merchant ships. In addition, we have a robust marine equipment industry which supplies our own market as well as others worldwide.

There are some 1,200 ports in Europe, including some of the world’s largest sea and fishing ports. They provide for a whole range of activities related to seaborne transport. Shipping and shipbuilding furthermore benefit from high quality ancillary services, including insurance, financing and brokerage. Our classification societies also operate worldwide.

Europe’s attractiveness as a tourist destination also remains unquestionable. The tourism sector as a whole produces about 5% of the EU’s GDP and although we do not have precise figures on the share in this of sea-related tourism, we do know that Europe’s shores are amongst the world’s most popular holiday destinations.

Offshore energy is another important sector for Europe. In 2004, the production of oil and gas in Europe amounted to some 40% of its demand for oil and some 60% of its demand for gas. When it comes to renewable energy, Europe also tends to be at the cutting edge of developments. The recent dramatic increase in fuel prices has brought home to us all the fact that fossil fuels are not unlimited. Europe is therefore taking a pioneering role in seeking to derive energy from the ocean through wind, wave or tidal technologies. These technologies are still at an early stage of commercial exploitation, but seem to hold interesting prospects.

These are some of the things we do well. Yet in order to continue doing so, it is imperative that we seek ways to secure our leading edge for the future. We are no strangers to the pressures of competition, most especially those that have come recently from Asia. Yet there is still room for improvement in the manner in which we promote our own interests.

As we seek to exploit the sea’s resources we must constantly ensure that we act in a sustainable manner in a way that allows future generations the possibility of gaining the same value from sea that we do.

In this respect, the EU has already made a number of strides in the right direction. The Thematic Strategy for the Marine Environment will be one of the cornerstones of our maritime policy. It will introduce the principle of ecosystem-based spatial planning of economic activities along the coast, without which we would soon be unable to manage increasingly competing economic activities on the shoreline. The designation of marine protected areas with the aim to safeguard biodiversity, to facilitate the transition to sustainable levels of fishing and to restore, over time, the ecological health of our seas, also find their place within such actions. Similarly, the Third Maritime Safety Package, recently adopted by the Commission, should be seen as a substantial component of our maritime policy, which will help to minimise the risk of accidental pollution of our seas in the future.

Within this context of sustainable development, the maritime sector has been identified time and again as a sphere of EU activity where the dual Lisbon goals of increased growth and employment seem well-placed to be realised. Here again, the fact that many maritime activities are interconnected is an important contributing factor.

It is also, I believe, one of the best, first steps that we can take to create synergies and deepen the links that already exist between sectors: so-called cluster-building. We have already had some experience of this in the recently created European Network of Maritime Clusters. This network has demonstrated that not only have we got well-established maritime clusters in a number of European countries, but also that the links between these are being strengthened. Closer co-operation and working towards a common understanding of the maritime sectors may bring other positive spin-offs such as, for example, achieving better data on the maritime cluster at a European level. Such a comprehensive and complete set of data, which is sadly missing today, would greatly improve our policy-making.

I have also been informed about the promising initiative to create four maritime “poles of competitiveness” here in France as part of a larger industrial policy that will assist French industry to better tackle global, economic changes. This policy not only promotes competitiveness - a worthy goal in itself – but chooses ‘innovation through research’ as one of its main focuses, an approach that I can only support.

Another way Europe can maintain its leadership is by having competitive and technologically advanced companies – companies that are able to respond to the variety of needs of maritime actors. We need to improve our knowledge and technical know-how. We need to re-examine our scientific research programmes to make sure that they address key priorities and the necessary procedures are in place to maximise getting both the results of the research, and the associated spin-offs, to industry and governments as fast as possible. Data is of course of major importance. We shall also be examining what gaps there are in the data collected, whether data collection can be better managed, what analytical capabilities we should be developing, and what data is required under which timeframes and for which people.

Enhancing the number of, and skills of, Europeans working in the sea-faring sector is also a vital area that must receive our attention. The steady decline of Europeans opting for work in the maritime sector means that renewed efforts are required on our part to stimulate the interest of individuals in maritime careers. EU maritime sectors also need to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and policy-makers need to be reminded to maintain flexibility to facilitate this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We know that close to 50% of the EU population live within 50 kilometres of the coast. The role of maritime regions will be one of the most challenging areas to be delved into by the Green Paper, as we will need to determine how best to ensure that increases in jobs and the welfare of those living and working near the coast are achieved. We shall be looking at the experiences of others with Integrated Coastal Zone Management, how this interfaces with spatial offshore planning, and how this can increase the revenue and benefit from tourism, for example.

We will need to engage in some creative thinking as to how best to use EU structural funds for maritime purposes. The EU’s structural funds have already had a significant effect on the sector, coupled as they are with funding made available by Member States. The ERDF by itself, provided some two billion euros for port development in the period 2000-2006. The Maritime Safety Umbrella Operation also brings together several INTERREG projects around maritime safety, covering for instance risk management, planning systems, databases or models. The Commission is also currently working on the next generation of Structural Funds in the hope that agreement on the Financial Perspectives will be reached by the end of the year.

Apart from the financial aspect, there is another broad issue of concern which relates to the question of governance. President Barroso recently said: “we often speak of the importance of innovation in the private sector, but innovation in government has become equally important if we are to deliver on our goals”.

It is no coincidence that President Barroso said that with the proposed maritime policy in mind. Our preparations for an integrated maritime policy for the Union should be a perfect opportunity for this kind of innovative thinking to take root.

One of the many subjects therefore, that the Green Paper will undoubtedly have to address, will be governance and its implications for decision-making. At an international level it is clear that the adoption of a maritime policy for the EU will not be without consequences for bodies such as the United Nations, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) or the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

At a Community level, the need for an inter-sectoral approach is already well understood. In fact, part of the team working on the elaboration of a Maritime Policy for the Union, is made up of an inter-sectoral Task Force which draws on different expertise in order to take into account the interconnection of maritime activities. I am hopeful that other European institutions, namely the Council and Parliament, will also provide appropriate inter-sectoral input.

Finally some Member States have also already equipped themselves with inter-sectoral structures while others are fast moving in that direction. The involvement of actors at both the national and regional levels will be key for the success of any EU maritime policy, as will the involvement of business partners, industry, researchers and related pressure groups.

Member States will also need to co-ordinate their activities in coastal waters with regard to search and rescue, fisheries inspections, border controls with respect to illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking, pollution control and spatial controls such as obligatory shipping routes. These activities are organised in differing ways in different Member States thus revealing a very real and tangible need for cooperation across Member States. We are convinced that new governance can help to render these activities more coherent and sound.

Ultimately it will be the Member States to decide about implementation; which responsibilities will belong to which part of the institutional set up; and what role industry and the private sector can play. Yet, it will be the Green Paper that will address these issues first and in so doing, open up the debate.

The debate, that I hope will follow the launching of the Green Paper in the first half of next year, will concern itself with how to ensure that participation in decision-making procedures is sufficiently broad to give all stakeholders a sense of ownership. This is also relevant for giving Europeans a better sense of their relations with the oceans.

Leaders of the maritime industry, such as yourselves, can play an important role in this process by drawing our attention to examples of good practice. It would also be of significant interest to understand how priorities are identified and challenges faced. Your contribution to an all embracing European maritime policy is really quite indispensable and will bring to our pool of ideas and concepts, a fresh, economic perspective that will add significant value to our work.

I look forward to your close involvement with the process.

Thank you.

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