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Member of the European Commission
Conference organised by the five Northern German Länder, Committee of
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Brussels is the perfect showcase for the diversity, the competitiveness and the potential of the maritime economy of your Länder. My Services and I are particularly interested in the examples of best-practice that you can contribute to a future maritime policy for the EU.
Most of you are already very familiar with the ongoing consultation. Some of your Länder have in fact been a driving force behind the process – calling for a maritime policy for Europe long before any formal decisions to embark on such an initiative were taken. Some of the organisations in your regions have in fact already provided valuable contributions to the Green Paper. Yet for those who have not, there is still time to do so.
Our approach with the Green Paper is to bring together the many distinct strands that exist so that the areas where they overlap can be considered together. Instead of twenty - or a hundred - different and fragmented policies, with the inevitable conflicts and confusions that arise, we hope to generate an integrated vision that weaves these into one. We feel this is not only a question of better policy-making but one that acknowledges the huge potential of our seas and oceans and the care, with which, we must handle this fragile resource.
The input of the German Länder is particularly important to us in this exercise. This is partly because Germany holds the EU presidency in this first half of this year. And partly due to the influence and knowledge that your Länder have.
The Länder hold a special position within the Committee of the Regions. Your federal government is constitutionally required to take account of the position you express in the Bundesrat on EU actions that affect your competences. And your five northern Länder, with more than 10 million citizens, are a true maritime powerhouse and in some cases, world leaders in your chosen fields. We await with interest the resolution of the Bundesrat on the Green Paper.
I think it is no coincidence that the rapporteurs on the Green Paper, both in the Committee of the Regions, Minister Uwe Döring, and in the European Parliament, Willi Piecyck, come from Schleswig-Holstein. This is a recognition of the competence in maritime affairs not only of the rapporteurs, but also of their sending region. In fact Minister Döring, I would like to take the opportunity presented by this event to congratulate you on the unanimous adoption of your Report in the Committee of the Regions on February 13. The Commission is currently studying this report in detail.
I am happy to say that I can already see one of the elements you raise therein: the catalogue of maritime related projects, becoming a reality. This is due to the fact that, under the European Transparency initiative, all Member States will be obliged to publish the list of beneficiaries of EU funds for the period 2007-2013. Making this information more widely available, and in a user-friendly format, will go a long way to allow policy-makers to see what others are doing with EU funds and in so doing highlight the needs and potential of different Regions. This, in turn, could increase the quality and diversity of projects implemented across the EU.
Such transparency can help also to transfer ideas and hands-on experiences to the cores where political visions are determined and decisions are made. This could in turn make policy better-suited to the realities on the ground. To encourage the spread of best practices even faster, actions such as an annual conference and awards for best practice, could also be contemplated.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am often asked questions as to how this integrated policy is going to work. I shall now offer a brief look at how things are working so far and what is planned for the immediate future.
We have set up a Maritime Policy Task Force to pilot the project within the Directorate General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. A Steering Group of ten Commissioners to lead the political thinking on maritime policy has also been set up and an Inter-service Group which brings together the different Commission Services that deal with Maritime Policy, has also been created. Both these groups are serviced by the Task Force, which, amongst other things, acts as a catalyst for more integrated thinking and greater co-ordination.
Member States have their own methods.
France, for example, has pioneered a form of co-ordination in central government by creating a Secretary General for the Sea, a function that contributes both to policy making and to executive work. In Germany, you have a Maritime Co-ordinator in the Ministry of Economics, while the Ministry of Transport is your lead representative in discussions on the Green Paper. At a Regional level, Schleswig-Holstein has an honorary Maritime Co-ordinator – who is at present Peter Herzig, a leading scientist.
The consultation process is due to come to an end in June 2007, following a stakeholder conference in Bremen in May. In the autumn, the idea is to present an Action Plan on the way forward, indicating a number of concrete projects to enhance the maritime sector. This plan of action will be considered by the Council in December of this year. Such an action plan will focus on the numerous contributions to the Green Paper that have already been received and others that we anticipate will follow between now and June. As an aside, I must remark how encouraging it has been to note the numbers of stakeholders who, like us, are seeing things in a more connected and integrated way.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A European Maritime Policy will not be completed in a day, or a year. Much like Rome, it will have to be built brick by brick, step by step.
As a policy that promises an overall vision of the oceans and seas, one that addresses maritime affairs in a comprehensive manner whilst still taking into consideration specific needs, it will be no easy task. It will need time and effort to develop this new approach. Yet it is something I am confident we can do.
I look forward to hearing more about what the Regions, and the German coastal Länder in particular, have to contribute to this important initiative.