Speech by José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
"Bounding Europe, binding Europeans: a maritime policy for our oceans and seas"
Maritime Policy Conference
Bremen, 2 May 2007
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking you for inviting me to address you today. I am pleased to see, from the wide range of participants, that there is such broad interest in a European maritime policy.
I would particularly like to thank the Land of Bremen and the Federal Government of Germany for hosting this conference. Bremen, the Free and Hanseatic City, whose history is a constant reminder of the opportunities - and the obstacles – of maritime development, is a very appropriate setting, as Europe focuses on constructing a new vision for the oceans and seas.
To underline just how challenging this task will be, let me take you on a brief voyage. From Bremen the European coast stretches in both directions for thousands of miles. That coastline is long, but not homogeneous. It delineates Europe from the Barents Sea round to the Aegean.
Just reflect for a moment on the rich diversity it encapsulates in climate, culture and custom, as it winds round the Hebrides and the Azores, the Canaries and Cyprus, as its waters flow through the English Channel or the Kattegat, the Straits of Gibraltar or Messina, and washes both remote and rocky western promontories, and densely populated pockets along the Mediterranean or Baltic coasts.
It is along these coasts that Europeans have initiated the countless activities that have generated much of the continent's prosperity - fishing, shipbuilding and commerce to name but a few.
It is from these coasts that generations of Europeans have journeyed across the world's seas and oceans, establishing overseas territories, and building trade routes and international alliances.
A vast wealth of activity - and a huge range of diversity. It has been a recipe for conspicuous success. And the challenge today is to ensure that this success can continue into the 21st century and beyond. It is to ensure that divergences do not create obstacles that will limit the opportunities for everyone. This is the background to our future maritime policy.
This isn't, of course, the first time the EU has taken action in the maritime sector. The Common Fisheries Policy, our Maritime Transport policy, and – more recently – the Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment, bear witness to 30 years of activity.
But each activity has been viewed through the prism of a separate and compartmentalised policy. What we are aiming to build now is a policy that takes simultaneous account of the huge variety of interests with a maritime dimension.
It sounds obvious. But it is no easy feat. The potential for distinct policies to overlap, even to conflict, is strong. Just think of the strains that new port installations - or the related land transport they frequently imply - can impose on relations with local residents and the environment; or the clash between proponents of coastal wind-turbines and coastal tourism operators. And replicate those potential divergences across Europe's huge and diverse range of maritime interests.
Recent developments have made a new vision for our oceans and seas all the more important.
And then there is climate change - a threat that could change life in much of Europe as well as around the world. The way we treat our seas and oceans has acquired a new significance in this context, since they are central both to the risks of rising sea levels and to the solutions, as the planet's most important regulator of climate.
It is a major challenge for Europe, but a challenge that can be met. This will require a new degree of co-operation, of pooling of interests in the common good, of sharing responsibility. A new joined-up approach is needed, ensuring that maximum benefit is derived from the potential for mutual reinforcement between distinct policies.
And this is why your conference is not only well-located here in the Free City. It is also well-timed. It takes place just weeks after the EU reached a new milestone in its own progress towards just such a joined-up approach.
Under the leadership of Chancellor Merkel, European leaders celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the EU's foundation with a Declaration on our shared values and intentions.
The emerging EU maritime policy is a perfect example of how the European project is moving forward, in line with the values celebrated in the Berlin Declaration. The oceans and seas bound Europe, but they also bind it together. They can become important factors in a deeper form of European integration. Maritime policy could come to represent a sea change for Europe by bringing a truly integrated perspective to European policy formation.
There are no overarching references to the oceans in the EU Treaty, as it was only later that the importance of such an approach became clear. But although the EU Treaty has only fragmentary references to the oceans and seas, it does allow for holistic policy making. Making the most of the Treaties as they stand has always been a challenge for European politics, and now we are doing this in a new way.
The oceans and seas are directly relevant to so many key European policies that an integrated approach will help European integration across the board.
Just think for a moment of how much an integrated approach can boost the prosperity of coastal regions, while assuring environmental protection of the seas, and thus allowing for the continued development of tourism.
Just think how an integrated approach could help ease the consequences of climate change, like rising sea levels and increased virulence and frequency of storms, by supporting continued investment and economic activity in coastal regions. A co-ordinated approach, including increased use of structural funds, will have to ensure that global warming does not become an impediment to growth and job creation in coastal regions. The Commission will also provide funds from the 7th Framework Research Programme to cross-cutting research into the impact of global warming and rising sea levels on shipping and ports.
Just think how an integrated approach could support our energy policy. Developing sea-based energies is key to our future energy security, and for oil and gas the challenge today is to go deeper and to produce sub-sea. Europeans are world leaders in these technologies, and we must ensure that our policies allow us to make the most of this.
For off-shore wind and other types of sea energy, the challenges include connection to the grid and insurance costs. Maritime policy can help provide a favourable framework, which in turn will promote huge employment opportunities in the coastal regions and beyond. Maritime policy can also help promote development of future energy sources, such as methane hydrates from the seabed - opening up possibilities that could dwarf all reserves of oil and gas known today, and even offer scope for storing carbon.
The EU's response to the challenges of illegal migration, terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime also depends on a new approach to maritime policy, with integrated surveillance of the seas - on which key projects are already being developed. So too does the fight against illegal fishing which is now becoming a most serious offence in the eyes of Europe's citizens.
The way we have moved towards developing this policy is itself a reflection of the Commission's commitment to new approaches. We announced in March 2005 that we would prepare a Green Paper, and we announced a one-year consultation period after its publication in June 2006. Such an unprecedented long period has made maritime policy the subject of a broad debate across Europe.
There have been more than 200 events, and these have been organized not only by EU institutions, but - in a true demonstration of grass roots consultation - they have been organized regionally and locally. The consultation has also triggered more than 100 written contributions.
People in Europe, in particular in coastal regions, are engaging with this emerging European project. The sea unites us, and those who participate in this great debate understand the value that Europe can add to their lives.
This is the type of project we need in the debate on the future of Europe. It is specific enough to engage people in a real debate. It is political. It gives new perspectives for sustainable growth and employment. And it is evident that European co-operation is necessary to take it forward.
2007 opened with the EU embracing new policies on energy and climate change. It is our intention that the year will end with the embrace of another broad-ranging policy, on maritime affairs. It will be the right response to challenges which are best tackled on a European-wide level – which is, after all, the added value of the EU.
It is in this spirit that I am looking forward to the Maritime Policy Package that Commissioner Borg is co-ordinating and that the Commission will adopt in October.
We are envisaging a policy that integrates several EU policies with each other, bridged by the maritime element. It should be a policy with a strong focus on enhancing the competitiveness of Europe's maritime economy, while addressing critical issues for social development and for better jobs and careers in shipping and in maritime activities in general.
It should be a policy to pursue economic development without aggravating the degradation of the marine environment. In fact, it should be anchored in the value of the marine environment as the base resource of all maritime activities, and therefore promote the preservation of the marine environment. This is also why it should be a policy based on the excellence of marine research and technology.
It should, finally, be a policy that will contribute to enhance the quality of life in Europe's populated coastal areas, thus reflecting our regional development policy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With this exercise we are witnessing the development of a new form of working together in Europe. The Commission, the Member States, the regions and stakeholders are coming together to debate what sort of maritime policy Europe needs. Delightful though the Grimm brothers' tale is of "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten", it is possible to find plenty of even more compelling examples of how collaboration and shared responsibility can benefit all participants.
With this in mind, I wish all of you fruitful discussions.