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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The Green Paper on a Future Maritime Policy for the Union

AMRIE High Level Conference on “Integrated European Maritime Policy – the Future Challenge”
Gijon, 1 June 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to address you on the subject of the future Maritime Policy for the European Union, and the Green Paper on this subject, that is to be adopted next week by the European Commission.

One of the political priorities of the European Commission under President Barroso is to enhance Europe’s maritime dimension by developing an all-embracing and integrated Maritime Policy for the EU. This work has already been underway for some time - proceeding apace at different levels. I have chaired a Steering Group of seven Commissioners whose competencies are related in one way or another to the seas – be it in the fields of environment, transport, energy, research and so on. And this group in turn has provided guidance to an inter-disciplinary Task Force that has been drawn from representatives of the various services of the Commission.

We have had a first round of reflection and consultation with Member States, interested parties, organisations and individuals. We have also intensified our dialogue with countries outside the EU in the search for best practices of an integrated maritime policy. Now, the next step in the process will be the publication of the Green Paper that the Commission has scheduled to adopt next week, on the 7th of June. The Green Paper will then form the basis for an extensive consultation process with all interested parties, many of whom have already provided us with comments and input during the preparation of the Green Paper. AMRIE too submitted a thorough paper to us which was very well-received. This consultation process will go on for approximately 13 months, until the end of June next year.

The Green Paper seeks to address, in a holistic and cross-sectoral way, the challenges we are facing in relation to the oceans and seas. It defines options for a future Maritime Policy that will maximise the benefits that Europe draws from its maritime activities in terms of growth and employment. And it contains ideas intended to launch the debate on a number of different angles of the maritime policy sphere:

  • how to preserve European leadership in sustainable maritime development,
  • how to maximise quality of life in coastal regions,
  • which instruments can be used to manage our relation to the sea, including data collection, spatial planning and financial instruments,
  • how to establish a better governance in maritime affairs – at national, European and global level,
  • how to sustain European maritime heritage and strengthen the maritime identity of Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For obvious reasons, coastal regions and organisations have a particular interest in the European Maritime Policy that we are about to develop. Let me assure you that I believe you will find that these interests are well addressed in the Green Paper. What I now would like to focus on is what follows after the publication of the Green Paper, namely, the consultation process I mentioned earlier. In particular, I want to stress the need for concrete, clear and constructive input.

There are two levels of the debate where the need for your input can be clearly illustrated. I would like to outline these to you now.

The first one relates to the positioning of maritime regions in the political discussions that are of interest for these regions. As an example I could cite one of the thorniest issues in any Member State, namely the financing of major infrastructure projects where different regions compete for access to scarce resources, including funding. I believe that if there is an increasing awareness of the maritime regions’ importance and contributions to national objectives, these regions will of course gain an advantage in this kind of discussions. I also believe that there is already heightened awareness of such matters, and I augur that the Green Paper will strengthen this tendency further. The point here, is that your input, together with well-founded arguments and facts, constitute a key element for this process of awareness-raising to continue.

The same reasoning is valid at a European level. As you are well aware, there is a difficult balance to strike between competing demands on funding also at this level. It is in some cases even more complex than at the national level. Again, if there is increasing recognition of the contribution of maritime regions to the EU’s objectives, this might have an important impact on the future allocation of funds in the EU budget for the budget period starting in 2013. The next occasion where this crucial subject will be discussed is at the European Council in 2008 when a first discussion on the future budget will be held. Similarly to the situation in a national context; whether the outcome of these discussions will be beneficial to maritime regions or not will depend on convincing and timely input being received.

The other level of the debate that I wanted to highlight relates to the specific themes that are contained in the Green Paper. Examples of such themes are the protection of the marine environment, tourism and maritime heritage. A prerequisite for us to move forward on these themes is to base ourselves on clear and precise input on each of them – most notably from the maritime regions. In other words: What concrete action do you believe should be taken at European level to promote your interests in these spheres?

As you can see, at both a general and specific level, my message to you is that we are now in ‘listening mode’ and wait eagerly for you to make your voices heard. This means that now is the time for maritime regions and organisations to assess their interests and convey clear messages to us, the European Commission, as well as the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. I would like to encourage you to invest in these activities now, at this turning point when the new policy is taking its shape.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure that you now ask yourselves the following question: How much of our contributions and input that we are asked to deliver, will actually influence the Green Paper debate and the action that will be taken within the Maritime Policy framework later on? This is certainly an important question. My answer to you is that in the process so far, since the very start of our internal deliberations on the Green Paper, we have constantly been working with a vast number of stakeholders, organisations, individual regions, the Committee of the Regions and so on. We have been inspired by the more than one hundred substantial contributions that have been received from a wide range of stakeholders. Among these, as I mentioned earlier, is the paper from AMRIE. AMRIE has also expressed its support for the Commission’s initiative to launch a wide debate on this subject.

I can assure you that in the Green Paper you will see that this input from various stakeholders has not only been reflected, but inspired much of its thinking. Therefore, rest assured that your contributions in the discussions that will follow after the publication of the Green Paper will equally carry weight in the continued development of the future Maritime Policy for the EU.

We now need both your reactions to the ideas contained in the Green Paper and, at least as importantly, whether you find that there are other themes and elements that should also be discussed when developing the new policy and that you believe are missing from the Green Paper. In general terms, I would like to encourage you to be as concrete as possible on what precise actions and initiatives you expect on a European level in order to implement an all-embracing Maritime Policy.

Next year, in the first half of 2007 and under the German Presidency of the Council, there will be a stakeholders’ conference on Maritime Policy which will be a key event in this process. I sincerely hope that this conference will be concluded with a broad consensus on the way forward. This would then enable the Portuguese Presidency, in the latter six months of 2007, to draw the conclusions from the Green Paper debate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe that AMRIE will continue to be one of the key players in the development of the European Maritime Policy. I note with pleasure that the contacts that my services have had with you so far, show that you are making determined efforts to provide us with substantial and clear input. We are looking forward to your continued input on the Green Paper once the consultation procedure is launched. All of you are part of this project, and, clearly, the broadest possible participation in the debate is a key element in achieving a successful future Maritime Policy for the EU.

I will end my intervention recalling something the great painter Picasso once said: art is created with 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. I think it is fair to say that the same will probably go for the creation of a new maritime policy framework at a European level!

I look forward to completing this task with the involvement of all of you who will be the main stakeholders in a new Maritime Policy for the European Union.

Thank you very much.

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