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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission responsible for
Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

3"Looking for answers on a Maritime Policy for the Union"

Conference organised by Les Echos: "Les assises de l'économie maritime"
Paris, 6 December 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your invitation to be here today. I regret that my French, despite some minor improvements, still does not allow me to address you in your own language. I shall however attempt to give you an update on the progress that has been made thus far as we move towards a new maritime policy for Europe.

The sea is, and has always been, of vital importance for Europe. Suffice it to say that Europe's commercial power depends almost exclusively on the sea: 90% of its external trade and 40% of its internal trade is already shipped through seaports. Europe is also a world leader in the areas of scientific marine research and technology, shipping, shipbuilding, off-shore energy, coastal and marine tourism, including recreational boating and cruise shipping, and ancillary services. Europe also has a window onto three oceans thanks to its outermost regions, and, the majority of Europeans have long felt a close affinity with the seas.

The Green Paper issued last June is all about capitalizing on this natural link between Europe, Europeans, our oceans and our seas. The objective is to take the overall maritime dimension into account through an integrated policy which connects all sectors of the maritime economy together. What we hope to do is to maximise the benefits to be reaped from our marine resources.

Our oceans and seas are clearly the foundation upon which our maritime economy is built. This economy can only thrive, and remain dynamic, if this marine environment is preserved and exploited in a sustainable manner. The effective protection of the marine environment is therefore an essential pre-condition to achieve the full economic potential of the oceans and seas.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Green Paper has been the subject of much discussion for 6 months now. We are half way through the one-year consultation period that will expire on the 30th of June next year. So far, we have witnessed tremendous interest and received several positive responses from industry, NGOs, citizens, coastal regions and Member States to the ideas contained therein. Certain Member States have also taken this a step further by organizing, or undertaking to organize, their own national consultation on the Green Paper's ideas.

We have been delighted by this favorable response – a response which has been most encouraging.

France has also been particularly active. My participation here today, at the second such event organized by "Les Echos" and "Le Marin", demonstrates to me the strong interest of the French maritime community. France has been one of our most solid supporters since the beginning of the process, both in terms of detailed contributions but also in terms of its continuous political support. In fact, the French maritime reality is probably one of the best case studies demonstrating the need for a more integrated approach to our oceans and seas.

France's presence is felt in the Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Atlantic oceans thanks to its overseas territories. France is also a global leader in the fields of marine research, sailing boats, naval capabilities, maritime innovation and technology, and coastal tourism. France could therefore probably benefit from a more coherent and rational approach to its maritime activities.

In order to deliver just such a coherent approach, we feel that it is now time to move things up a gear. What we need now is, to determine the fields in which there is already a broad consensus for concrete action. As we do this, we will also be in a position to highlight those areas that require more time to progress, or that require more refinement before a consensus can form. Simultaneously, we will also be able to identify those areas that are not likely to be ready to move forward in the foreseeable future.

I would therefore like to raise a few questions, questions that clearly do not need to be answered immediately, but ones that certainly can serve as food for thought.

One of the topics, foremost in people's minds, is the issue of governance. This is a subject where we can learn from your experience.

Given France's long tradition of maritime governance, with its specific set-up that includes the post of a Secretary General for the Sea - a position ably filled by Mr. De La Gorce - and its specific administrative capabilities, there is much that needs to be understood in order to truly appreciate France's approach to this issue.

The Green Paper clearly declares the need for subsidiarity within a future European maritime policy. There are certain things that are best handled at a Member state level. Yet, given that the oceans and seas take no account of national boundaries, it is also clear that there are some things that would be well-served by having a common vision or a single approach at an EU level.

The international competitiveness of maritime industries, given their global nature, would also appear to indicate a need for certain policy measures to be taken by Member States collectively, at a European level. Marine related research is another such case in point. Today's situation appears to indicate that there are often poor contacts between researchers, and as a result, the duplication of effort. There are other such examples where broad decision-making can be of benefit. Each and every one of these cases can be characterised by the need for more coordination and information-sharing, and better co-operation and articulation, in order to ensure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.

If we can agree that more, and better, co-ordination is needed, then the next question is: what is the right level of such integration and co-ordination? The Green Paper promotes integration in both the management of maritime affairs and in the improvement of cooperation in the offshore activities of governments. The future role of navies is of great interest for the Commission. This is particularly so since the technology used in the surveillance of the sea appears to be converging more and more between civil and military applications.

I would now like to draw your attention to ship dismantling. I know how sensitive this issue is, particularly in France where so many efforts have been made to find a global solution to this difficult question. The European Commission would like to be as constructive as possible in the delicate discussions underway in the IMO, the ILO and the Basel Convention. This case is particularly indicative once again of the inter-relationships that exist between, for example, the marine environment, working conditions and the shipping sector in general. It illustrates again the need for an integrated approach.

This Commission is working hard to stimulate growth and jobs in the Union. We are confident that a future maritime policy for the Union will be a new tool for us to achieve these goals. We need however to focus our efforts on improving competitiveness. To do this we need excellence in knowledge, innovation and research & development.

France has already come some of the way to meeting the goals of the Lisbon Strategy particularly in the maritime industries. The "pole of competitiveness" dedicated to the maritime community in Brittany and in Provence is precisely the kind of tool we need. It connects marine research to academic knowledge and favours local development in the coastal regions.

We also need to focus our efforts on cultivating the attractiveness of maritime jobs. France has a long tradition of maritime training. Its maritime schools produce excellent seafarers and officers. France is also at the cutting edge of social protection for seafarers. Given this, how would you answer the questions posed in the Green Paper on these issues? Which exclusions from EU social legislation are still justified? Should further specific legal instruments on employment conditions in the maritime sector be encouraged?

We also need to promote better regulation. This does not necessarily mean "less regulation" but better, more relevant regulation that will facilitate investment or prevent loss of life to European citizens.

The Green Paper also addresses the quality of life in coastal regions. As maritime activities continue to thrive, there will be increasing competition between these various activities for the use of coastal waters. Without some form of planning, investment decisions may be hampered by uncertainty. The Commission therefore believes that a system of spatial planning for maritime activities in the waters under the jurisdiction of the Member States should be created.

Although decision-making on the uses of coastal areas should be taken at a national, regional or local level, a common framework for marine spatial planning could be appropriate in order to ensure coherence across the board.

Last, but by no means least, I said at the beginning of my intervention that we will not benefit from our maritime assets if we don't act seriously to protect the marine environment. The European Commission is actually working hard in this direction by proposing the ERIKA III package to improve safety and security at sea. I would like to reaffirm here my full support for the excellent job which is being done by Vice-President Barrot. This package is of great importance for the sustainable development of the maritime economy and the protection of the marine environment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe I have given you more than enough to 'chew on', that is to say, aside from your lunch. Allow me to conclude by repeating something I said to you last year:

"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. Your contribution to an all embracing European maritime policy is indispensable and will bring to our pool of ideas and concepts, a fresh, economic perspective that will add significant value to our work."

Thank you for your attention. I sincerely hope to hear from you over the coming weeks and months.

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