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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 – An Opportunity for the Mediterranean Basin

Maritime Policy Conference
Antibes, 30 June 2006

Madam Minister,

Dear Ministers, Members of Government,

Deputy Mayor of Antibes,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The adoption on 7 June, by the European Commission, of the Green Paper on a future EU Maritime Policy launched a phase of consultation throughout the European Union on what such a policy should cover and how it should be assembled. The organisation of this high-level event at the very start of the consultation process reveals the fundamental importance France attributes to this debate. I am grateful to France and particularly to Minister Catherine Colonna for holding this conferenceat such an opportune time and in such a beautiful place.

France is a great maritime nation: geography and history have conspired to place it at the forefront of ocean affairs. Your early contribution and continued support to the Green Paper, not to mention this very initiative, clearly shows a forward-looking vision for the sustainable use of our oceans and seas.

I would like to thank all the Ministers and members of government who are here today and who have agreed to share their views within this forum. I would like to thank you also for their contributions prior to the publication of the Green Paper. This is a clear demonstration of your support and commitment.

Allow me to also thank our host, the Deputy-Mayor of Antibes, Mr Leonetti, for his warm Mediterraean hospitality. Our proximity to the sea will certainly inspire our discussions today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My first objective for this Conference is to learn from your own perspective and experiences of the sea.

Allow me, however, to briefly recall the fundamental principles upon which we propose to build an EU maritime policy. I will also look at some of the features of this policy namely its international dimension, governance and the required toolsbefore turning to the cultural dimension or, better still, our maritime heritage.

We have suggested in the Green Paper that a future Maritime Policy should rest on two pillars. First, in accordance with the Lisbon Agenda, we need to unleash the economic potential of sea-based activities and strengthen the competitiveness of our maritime industries in the face of global competition. Second, we also need to recognise that this can only be done by maintaining and improving the status of the resource upon which all maritime activities are based: the ocean itself.

I need not repeat here all the economic activities related to the sea and the huge untapped resources it contains. I would just like to stress that the potential is high in economic and employment terms. However, unless these activities respect the principles of sustainable development, the short term benefits we would extract from them could not be at the expense of future generations.

I am convinced that these two objectives are not contradictory. However, in order to fully achieve them, we will need better marine and maritime science and a more integrated knowledge of the sea. Concepts like ecosystem-based management must be turned into realities and actual policy tools. The Commission has recognised the central place science and research should occupy and that we need to make the best use of the 7th Research Framework Programme to bring this about. EU funded research is however a small part of all the marine or maritime research undertaken by member states. While it may be instrumental in mobilising and bringing together research undertaken by different member states, it cannot altogether replace it.

Two further features of maritime affairs need to be kept in mind. The first is the global nature and scope of the oceans and of maritime activities – for which universally applicable rules need to be developed. The second is the multiple actors that are involved. Various sectoral policies, like fisheries or shipping, are implemented at all levels of government from the EU to the national, regional, and local levels. These, at some stage, need to be integrated so as to ensure that they do not negatively impinge on one another.

Let me take up the international dimension first. The Plan of Implementation of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development declared oceans, seas, islands and coastal areas critical for sustaining economic prosperity. It called for better coordination and cooperation at all levels to promote integrated ocean management. Through these first steps towards a maritime policy, the Commission is today responding to our international commitments for better governance and affirming European leadership in world affairs.

It is also responding to an urgent need: addressing the challenges of seas like the Mediterranean with its increasing maritime traffic, coastal tourism, aquaculture, pollution, depleted fish stocks and migration - challenges that can only be resolved in close cooperation with our neighbours in appropriate international fora, such as the Euro-Med framework and the European Neighbourhood policy.

We are not trying to re-invent the wheel.

In the last decade, several coastal nations of other regions of the world have undertaken concerted efforts to articulate and implement a more integrated vision for the governance of ocean areas under their jurisdiction. These nations are either our trading partners or our competitors or both, we however all have common interests in ensuring that activities based on the oceans and seas are sustainable. As we all know, the seas and oceans do not take account of any international boundaries. It makes sense therefore, to articulate a common vision and to take an approach, based on common principles and parameters, agreed at an EU level.

Yet each part of the oceans and seas is different and may require its own more specific rules and administration. In light of this, we acknowledge that reconciling the global nature of the oceans with the specifities of different maritime areas is a challenge to policy-makers and one therefore understands why questions of governance dominate many discussions.

Moving on to the second feature I mentioned, it is important to recognise that the challenge of good maritime governance is directly linked to the multiple actors involved. A number of sectoral policies have emerged and exist at all levels of government. Proposals for action may be most appropriately taken up by different actors at a variety of levels. However, in the interest of keeping decisions at a level closest to the stakeholders, action at an EU level should be undertaken only where it contributes clear value-added to the activities of others. This is what we call the subsidiarity principle. Providing guidance regarding the appropriate level of different type of decision-making, is one of the key objectives of the consultation process.

Good maritime governance – the effective participation of all stakeholders - needs appropriate tools. Better data on maritime activities is essential. We suggest in the Green Paper that the EU should consider setting up a European Marine Observation and Data Network integrating existing, but fragmented, initiatives. The potential of such an integrated data network for policy makers, industry and research is huge. We also believe that a comprehensive mapping of European coastal waters would be extremely important for the purposes of spatial planning, security and safety. And last but not least, a system of spatial planning for maritime activities on the waters under the jurisdiction of, or controlled by, Member States would be crucial to guide public authorities in the planning of competing activities in coastal areas.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Europeans have had a close relationship with the sea throughout history. From the earliest periods the oceans and seas have served to connect Europeans with each other and with the outside world. They were the first vehicle of globalisation, carrying goods and technologies. They also brought contact with other cultures and values. They have contributed immensely to forge our identity.

A European Maritime Policy will however only work if it is owned by the European citizens, particularly those who have a stake in sea-based activities. The Commission believes that there is much to be gained by encouraging a sense of common identity among all those who earn their living from maritime activities or whose quality of life is significantly connected to the sea. This can foster the necessary understanding of the relationships involved and of the importance of the seas for human life, our economy and our well-being.

Linking culture to the economy is a way to link EU citizens to the EU Maritime Policy. And nowhere has such a link been more obvious throughout history, than in the Mediterranean.

Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the first time in the history of the Union, we have a unique opportunity to together address EU maritime affairs in an integrated way. We are at the beginning of a process which is about our future. A significant first step has now been achieved with the adoption of the Green Paper. We have a one-year consultation period ahead of us to gather information from the wide range of Member States, interest groups and individuals who have a direct stake in maritime affairs within the European Union. Already in the drafting phase of the Green Paper, we received 18 written contributions from member states out of the 20 which are coastal or island states and this is very positive. But we now need a more in-depth view from you during the consultation phase.

Participation at all levels in the consultation process will be crucial to the success of the new EU maritime policy. I take this opportunity to encourage you to organise your own internal consultation and reflection processes on a European maritime policy.

Up till now, the oceans and seas have been approached in a piecemeal way. This is no longer tenable to ensure that we make sustainable use of their enormous potential and to promote European strategic interests, we need to redress this situation.

I know that I can count on your continued involvement for us to achieve this together, with determination and commitment

Thank you.

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