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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission responsible for
Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

What can a Maritime Policy do for Europe?

5th National Maritime Conference
Hamburg, 4 December 2006

Madame Chancellor, Federal Ministers, Dear Participants,

I am honoured to address such a distinguished gathering, at this, Germany’s National Maritime Conference on a future maritime policy for Europe.

We are living through exceptional times – times where change seems to be the order of the day. Globalisation and modern technology have brought about new opportunities and new challenges to which we need to be able to apply new strategies and new thinking. Other trends whether in the form of an ageing population, falling levels of growth or increased competition from abroad, are also upon us and too require an immediate response.

With a view to meeting these challenges, we need to take a strategic look at the things we do best: enhancing the ones in which we perform to the highest standards and in which we can obtain the maximum return on our inputs. One such area, identified by President Barroso at the outset of this Commission’s mandate, is maritime affairs.

The maritime sector has experienced high growth rates over the past few years and has been at the cutting edge of innovation. It has also performed well vis a vis our competitors. Europe also has an established maritime tradition and Europeans have long enjoyed a close relationship with the seas.

The shape and form that a future Maritime Policy could take is the subject of a Green Paper issued by the Commission in June of this year. This paper presents the prevailing situation and seeks to stimulate an exchange of ideas by raising questions as to what benefits we can hope to have from a new, integrated and wide-ranging maritime policy for the Union.

We believe that the maritime sector can become a flagship for Europe. We also believe that the best way for it to do this, is by widening its scope to encompass all the segments of the economy having a maritime slant.

The idea behind our drive for an all-encompassing approach to the maritime economy is simple. This is a multi-faceted sector, with multiple actors acting at a variety of levels: regional, national, European and international. The oceans and seas also know no boundaries and are thus difficult to manage. Finally, the oceans and seas are a fragile resource that must be preserved.

In light of this reality, and fuelled by the positive response we have received thus far, we are pushing ahead in an attempt to bring together the branches that make up the maritime economy to work together, to produce synergies, to maximise output and to offer better growth and employment prospects.

The reasons for an integrated approach are clear. The oceans and seas, and the ways in which we use them, have changed dramatically in recent years. Seaborne trade, for example, has grown by about 400% in the past 40 years; coastal and marine tourism are booming; we are moving towards deep-sea drilling for oil and gas; and new sectors are emerging such as renewable energy and blue biotechnology.

Cutting edge technology offers new possibilities for development all the time and we need to be able to take advantage of this in a structured manner.

The health of our oceans and seas is also at stake. Man's exploitation has left its mark through activities which have been carried out unsustainably. Clearly this cannot continue as we are threatening the very foundations upon which a substantial part of Europe’s wealth, and health, depend.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As part of this Commission's drive to 'do business better', we are developing policies in the EU in a new way: through extensive consultation and stakeholder-led initiatives. We, as decision-makers want to make sure that policy-making is conducted with you in mind: over the long-term to give you the stability you need and to cater for your realities.

This approach to policy-making is further underpinned by the similar, inherent need in maritime affairs, to move away from the sectoral approaches of the past to a more coherent way of thinking. We need to bring the individual threads together to weave an all-embracing vision for the maritime sector. It is my belief, that it is precisely the interactions between different maritime activities that we must understand, if we are to make sense of our relations with the oceans and thereby maximise the benefits we derive from them.

We have long invested in developing policies for shipping, ports or shipbuilding, or to protect the marine environment and its rich resources. Yet I am not sure that this has been consistently done with the broader picture in mind. By and large, it is Europe’s land-based space that has been the beneficiary of Europe’s policy-makers’ attention. It is now time, I feel, to bring the pieces of the puzzle together and to give Europe’s oceans and seas their rightful place in the ongoing process of building a better Europe.

As I indicated at the outset, globalisation and technology are contributing to an intensification of international trade – 90% of which is carried by sea. Europe will depend ever more on the competitiveness of its seaports and its complex web of multimodal logistics, its shipping industry, high-tech shipyards and its marine equipment sector, if it wishes to remain a leader in world trade.

It will need to depend ever more on knowledge and research, critical for bringing innovative products and solutions to the marketplace and for resolving some of the issues of sustainable development that we are faced with.

Foremost amongst these is the formidable challenge posed by climate change. In many ways, the oceans are key to understanding more of what is happening to our planet. Coastal regions will be the first to be affected by rising sea levels. We need therefore, more and better marine research to help us predict weather trends and the impact these may have over the longer term. We also need to avoid much of the overlapping and duplication of efforts that exists today in order to target our often limited research funds. This calls for closer integration in marine science and research at a European level.

Energy is yet another variable in the mix. This is an issue that is also firmly at the top of our agenda. To improve the security of energy supply we need access to more and different types of energy. We cannot avoid continuing current offshore oil and gas operations – conscious however that these are finite resources. Yet we must diversify entry routes for energy into Europe, relying on the safe maritime transport of these energies. Maritime transport must also be further encouraged through short sea shipping and the motorways of the sea. And finally, in order to reduce our dependence on imported oil and gas, it is clear that Europe also needs to continue developing renewable sources of energy, including expanding offshore wind energy and working on the future exploitation of wave energy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There can be no doubt that the way in which we organise our economic activities related to oceans and seas is important. The high level of participation at this Conference reminds us that this is so - in Germany, as in other parts of the Union.

The maritime sector in Germany accounts for almost 36 billion EUR and provides an estimated 280,000 jobs, excluding fisheries. Germany forms a strong component of the world merchant fleet of which the European share is 40%. Commercial shipping and port operations account for a third of the economic value of the maritime cluster and German seaports are seen as important new growth areas for employment, notably in the field of logistics.

European shipyards and their suppliers lead the world market in terms of technology and turnover, and Germany is the number one in shipbuilding and ship repair in Europe. That the maritime economy is a substantial component of the European economy can be seen at almost every turn – and possibly nowhere else is this more apparent, than in Germany.

Our shipping companies and equipment manufacturers are among the most competitive in the world, and so are our shipyards. Here in Hamburg we have the world's biggest centre for ship financing. The shipping industry is booming. And we have, arguably, the world's best training and certification bodies right here on our doorstep.

Yet despite these achievements, we still have certain demons to deal with.

Some of our competitors try to undercut our operations, compromising along the way: quality, safety and value for money. In an attempt to level out the playing field, some in Europe may be tempted to do the same. Employment levels in maritime related industries are also declining, particularly with respect to qualified, experienced and able seamen. These clearly affect our ability to compete on world markets. Our shipping industry and our shipyards will not remain world leaders if they do not continue to outperform others in terms of quality, safety, efficiency and value for money. Our skilled seafarers and those who aspire to maritime careers, in the widest sense of the word, will not find jobs if they are not sufficiently qualified.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Seizing business opportunities is your role. Our role is supporting you to do that and it is exactly here that Europe has value to add. By looking at policies for the maritime sector from an integrated perspective, we can ensure that a coherent vision for this sector is translated into reality. Yet to help us do this, we need to know what you need.

The European Commission's Green Paper on a future EU Maritime Policy already makes suggestions about a number of issues.

For example with respect to clusters, the Green Paper asks: what is the role of maritime clusters in increasing competitiveness? Can the competitiveness of various maritime sectors be enhanced and their productivity strengthened, if a common understanding can be developed of the interrelationships between them? We are interested to hear what you think about clusters particularly given the experience of LeaderSHIP 2015.

Another area that the Green Paper looks at is better regulation. In your businesses you invest in products designed to last for years. We know that you therefore need a conducive and stable business environment, and this is indeed our responsibility to provide. But we also know that many of our most competitive industries are active where international standards are the highest. We have every interest to maintain those high regulatory and technological standards. Double hull tankers, manufactured by the world leader right here in North Germany, is ample demonstration of this. Thanks to efforts on the regulatory side to make double-hull tankers the norm, and on the industrial side to build them, our seas are better protected from oil spills which benefits both industry and the environment.

Knowledge is also crucial. It is often the answer to problems, the key to progress and is certainly the basis for good decision-making. This is why I believe knowledge must be a cornerstone of any maritime policy. But to build our policies on knowledge we need information based on sound data. In too many cases, we are still short of data or have data collections which are scattered, stored in heterogeneous formats and where monitoring is sporadic.

The management and surveillance of marine resources would profit enormously if data were shared. A case in point is surveillance systems to track activity on the seas. Whilst there is a lot of thinking and co-operation on bringing systems together, each Member State has different agencies or government bodies – in shipping, fisheries or immigration - using that data. It would make sense to develop systems that can interface and provide a complete picture of a given situation within the shortest possible time. If the appetite for this was there, a European Marine Observation and Data Network could also be established.

As policy-makers, we must ensure that the right procedures are in place to deliver results to industry and governments as fast as possible. This is why we support, and will continue to support, the establishment of European Technological Platforms, such as the waterborne platform within the transport sector. These technology platforms bring together industry, researchers and policy-makers to develop a shared strategic research agenda in a way not previously seen.

Marine spatial planning is another tool that should be more widely applied, to manage and plan the uses of Europe's marine and coastal areas. In the Green Paper, we have recognised that as maritime activities continue to thrive, there will be increasing competition between them for the use of European coastal waters. Without some form of planning, investment decisions may be hampered by uncertainty. Although decisions should certainly continue to be taken at a national, regional or local level, a degree of commonality between the systems, or in other words a common framework for marine spatial planning will be needed, namely to ensure that decisions affecting large marine regions and ecosystems or affecting cross-border activities, such as shipping routes, are dealt with subject to the same principles and in a coherent manner across Europe's seas and oceans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Consultation on these, and other, ideas expressed in the Green Paper is now well underway. We shall spare no effort to ensure that continues and I encourage you to make your opinions heard.

We have been working closely with institutional stakeholders which are key to the development of this process, and with the Member States, who have already contributed much to the preparation of the Green Paper itself. The Austrian Presidency supported us with a positive reference to the Green Paper in the conclusions of the European Council in June this year. And the current Finnish Presidency has been similarly supportive, organising a series of discussions on the Green Paper. They are currently preparing a report of Member States' discussions to date.

In 2007, we are counting on the German Presidency to take the process the next step forward.

I am delighted that the Federal Government has decided to include Maritime Policy as one of the priorities in its EU Presidency programme. In the first half of the new year, the consultation of stakeholders on our proposal will enter a decisive phase. It will culminate in a major conference in early May, towards the end of the consultation process, which the German Presidency and the Commission will organise at a high political level.

The debate at, and the conclusions of, this conference will help us summarise the views of EU Member States, regional authorities and stakeholders. It will also enable the Commission to report on the results of the consultation and propose where concrete action can be taken.

As a coastal state and major maritime power, Germany clearly has a vital interest at stake here, and I count on all of you to contribute actively in the stakeholder consultation that has already started.

Your leadership in this process towards an integrated Maritime Policy for the EU is not only most welcome – but also most necessary.

Thank you.

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