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European Commissioner responsible for
Maritime Policy Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to participate in this Conference and to have the opportunity to say a few words on the development of a Maritime Policy for the European Union. Here, in the coastal town of Turku, the Baltic Sea angle on maritime affairs is certainly clear – a fact which is reflected in the importance attached by Finland to a regional approach when looking at a maritime policy for Europe. Having said that, allow me to express my pleasure at the European-wide approach taken in this Conference. I would like to extend my thanks to all those involved in Turku and in the Finnish Presidency for organising this key event.
The importance of the Baltic Sea is further underlined by the fact that there will be another occasion to discuss once again, issues related to the Baltic, at the Baltic Sea States Sub-Regional Co-operation Conference to be held in Kiel, following the summer.
Allow me now to turn to the process that is currently underway to develop a Maritime Policy for the EU. The idea is to develop an all-embracing maritime policy for the EU that will use an integrated approach to policy-making for all sectors related to the oceans and seas. The Commission has, of course, been dealing with maritime issues for many years, however it was under a range of separate policy fields such as industry, transport, fisheries, regional policy and the environment. This has also been the case with the EU Member States, at all levels of decision-making.
What we are hoping to do now is to develop a holistic approach where each of these sectors is seen as part of a bigger picture. This is of course easier said than done. In fact it is a formidable challenge that demands thorough debate and consultation.
In preparation for this consultation, the Commission has been busy collecting ideas through multiple discussions with Member States and stakeholders. We have looked at best practices around the world – both in Europe and in countries further afield, such as Canada, the US and Australia. These are countries which are also moving towards a new generation of oceans and seas governance.
There is a clear increasing international trend to move towards the development of comprehensive tools to cover related subjects in a holistic way. There is also a growing collection of scientific data and results which has shed more light on the linkages between sectors. Developing technology is not only creating new uses that can be made of the sea but is also generating increasing convergence between different sectors. One example of this is the tendency for military and civil technologies to converge for the purposes of marine surveillance.
On the basis of these trends and the input from various quarters that has highlighted them, a Green Paper was adopted by the Commission last month, on the 7th of June. This date marks the start of a one-year consultation process - of which this conference forms part.
I will now turn to the approach we have taken in the Green Paper.
Our primary point of departure in the Green Paper is the need to develop an integrated approach to our interaction with the seas. Although this might be a new approach for the European Union, it must of course build on what is already being done, which means developing new ideas for added value, rather than trying to create completely new policies and instruments. Let me illustrate this with examples from the tourism sector of coastal regions.
To start with, we believe that there is room for higher growth and employment potential of coastal regions in Europe. Some sectors that are of great importance for coastal economies, such as for example ship-building and fisheries, have been subject to considerable attention at a European level for many years. Other sectors, which have demonstrated high growth and employment potential, have received much less attention. This is the case with coastal tourism, which we believe represents one of our major growth areas for incomes and jobs in coastal regions.
This potential is not surprising as Europe is one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations. Our widely differentiated coastlines, beaches, port cities, traditional fisheries, museums, aquaria and maritime activities increasingly attract visitors from across Europe and beyond. In our discussions with stakeholders that preceded the publication of the Green Paper, there were clear indications that there is much room for further and sustainable exploitation of the potential of tourism in European coastal regions. Against this background we wish to see whether there is a need for action at EU level to develop this sector further in a sustainable manner.
We must bear in mind that many jobs in tourism, although by no means all, require fewer qualifications than in other fields and can therefore often be perceived as being precarious, or more seasonal, in nature. It is, therefore, also a challenge to find ways of making tourism more competitive by employing highly qualified staff, who have good career prospects in a more stable environment. One way of contributing to this may be to develop health, cultural and heritage tourism at the coast; which is not dependent on weather alone and which can provide both better, and more stable, jobs.
Here it becomes obvious that there are strong links with other policy fields that need to be borne in mind. For example, coastal tourism needs a clean and well maintained environment, to thrive. No tourist is interested in swimming in an algal bloom such as the one suffered by the Baltic Sea in the summer of 2005. Cruise ship passengers expect to see seabirds and marine mammals; which are the visible sign of a clean and healthy marine environment. This demonstrates the economic value of investing rigorously in environmental protection. Recognizing this link provides us with a strong opportunity to give further economic weight to our ambition of ensuring a high level of protection for the marine environment. Indeed, the Commission sees the adoption of its proposals for a Thematic Strategy on the Marine Environment as an essential pillar of a future EU maritime policy.
The Green Paper identifies two specific lines of action to facilitate the implementation of this environmental strategy. First it points to the need to improve the database which is available for the development of indicators which are necessary to measure progress towards a clean environment. Second it calls for systems of spatial planning to be set up to regulate all the various and growing human activities which compete to use our scarce ocean resources. Such systems can provide our economic operators with greater predictability for their investments and they can also provide some form of assurance that the various activities will be carried out in a sustainable manner.
Along similar lines, in this town where the biggest passenger ships in the world are being built and which is home to leading engineers in the field worldwide, I would like to recall the important role played by engineers. Their contribution to sustainable growth, by combining technology with economic development and environmental protection, is an example to us all. It is these engineers who, through innovation and state-of-the-art contributions, develop technologies that make cruise-shipping attractive, while at the same time assuring the mutually reinfocing goal of achieving a healthy marine environment.
In our efforts to pursue both economic development and environmental sustainability, the contribution of the shipbuilding industry, and in particular that of Turku, is of great importance. In the Green Paper we emphasise the importance of our knowledge base and of the research which contributes to it. We want to explore with the engineering and scientific communities how best we can ensure that the maximum is obtained from our research programmes and made available in a timely fashion and in the right form, to those who can use it best – particularly as a source for innovation.
The safety of the seas, another topic under discussion in this Conference, is obviously also another important element in the coastal tourism and cruise shipping mix. Again, engineers play a key role in developing and implementing technology which serves the common interest of safety and environmental protection, while keeping our shipping fleet competitive. I believe engineers and politicians, technology and the law, can inspire each other in finding new solutions for competitiveness and sustainability in the future. Let me go even further to say that politicians need to understand what engineers can do, in order to be able to bring forward good policy. Through the Green Paper, we are looking for this kind of knowledge transfer and inspiration, and we trust you will accept our invitation for you to contribute with your views and ideas.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now return to the policy process that will unfold during this one-year consultation period. European Council Presidencies have an important role to play within this process and I am pleased to note that the current Finnish presidency, together with the next three – those of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia – represent a good geographical distribution of maritime interests that will ensure a broad coverage of our subject from different angles.
The Presidency Conclusions of the last European Council in June highlighted as one of its main themes: "Europe listens". This is exactly the context within which the consultation process on a future maritime policy for the Union, finds itself.
The theme "Europe listens" applies to all European institutions. This means that it is not only the Commission who is now called upon to listen, but other institutions including Member States, are also invited to go into listening mode. We, therefore, appreciate the efforts that are being made by all the institutions, in their willingness to listen to the interests expressed by stakeholders during this consultation process.
This extends also to the Finnish Presidency, where we are hopeful it will undertake to explore, identify and bring forward best practices in holistic approaches that have been developed in Member States, or to identify gaps in the Green Paper that need to be filled in order for us to get the full picture of issues and interests. We want to make sure that we do not fall into the trap of making up our minds before we have carefully listened to stakeholders. Indeed, Member State Governments, and the Commission in particular, share the responsibility to remain open to stakeholder input throughout the entire consultation process.
We are thus very much looking forward to the Finnish Presidency stimulating some initial thinking among the Member States through the "Friends of the Presidency" Group of the Council. This Presidency takes place during a crucial phase of the consultation period. It is important that we honour our commitment to seek input from all relevant stakeholders, who are of course extremely numerous, given the vast range of areas and activities on which the future maritime policy will have an impact. This explains why we have opted for such a long consultation process, which runs until 30 June next year and which will allow us to listen carefully to the views and ideas of stakeholders, without rushing to reach conclusions or set priorities for the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Green Paper offers an excellent opportunity for in-depth discussion. This can serve to clarify the links between ocean and sea-related sectors, to get a feel for the perceptions of stakeholders and to identify what action at European level can help to enhance the future sustainable development of the coastal and sea-related economy.
I would like to thank the Finnish Presidency for its support in organising this conference and for setting up the "Friends of the Presidency" working group. We are at the beginning of a new chapter in maritime history, searching for a solid new basis on which to develop our relations with the oceans in a sustainable manner. It will require all of us to be creative, to innovate and to think ‘outside the box’.
I believe that it is only by mobilising the creative energies of all those Europeans who have ‘the sea in their blood’ that we will succeed.