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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Bremen shows that we are on the right track

Closing speech at High-level Conference on "Towards a Future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European Vision for Oceans and Seas"
Bremen, 4 May 2007

State Secretaries, Senator, Honourable Member



Ladies and Gentlemen,

President Barroso in his opening speech spoke of the 4 city musicians “Stadt musikanten” of Bremen, to signify the extent to which the journey on which we have embarked needs to bring together different actors with a common interest, a common goal.

The discussions over the past two days have demonstrated that we have done so: This conference has been the culmination of a process of real dialogue that was one of our main objectives when we adopted the Green Paper in June last year.

And like those four musicians we have provided for all the different subject areas that are brought together under this Maritime umbrella, a home for their maritime concerns.

Undoubtedly, as in every household, not all members always agree with each other: but just as our differences define us, it is our common maritime purpose that binds us. This also is one of the objectives that we wanted to achieve: bringing all of you here together.

We are on the right track.

This is what the discussions over the past two days tell us. They have confirmed what we could only have hoped for a year ago: that the questions raised in the Green Paper on a Maritime Policy were the right ones to ask. The answers to those questions which you have given us during the course of this conference, together with the answers given by stakeholders during the consultation period, help us to navigate the right course towards a future EU Maritime Policy.

We have had very intensive discussions on what I consider to be core areas of a future EU Maritime Policy and broad consensus has been visible on many of them.

We all agree that we now have to approach Maritime Affairs in Europe in an integrated manner, providing joined-up policies which are better suited to deal with the challenges ahead of us.

And when I speak of challenges, I am particularly happy to note that not only do we agree on what these challenges are, but also on how we should tackle them.

One of the first challenges is to make sure that we understand what we mean by an integrated approach. I am glad to report that I have heard confirmation of what we have always believed in, namely that integration does not mean centralisation.

Integration means adding value, bringing actions and activities together to help these actions and activities to flourish. Subsidiarity and co-ordination are thus fundamental elements of this approach. It also means that all levels of government need to sign up to this new approach.

In reply to any concerns that have been expressed in this regard, let me reaffirm that there is no intention to change any systems in place in Member States that do a good job in managing the challenges presented by our relations with the seas. Our aim is to develop a toolbox – a set of instruments and guidelines – to help them in their work.

We all agree that employment and competitiveness are priorities. They must be underpinned by action in the maritime arena. Strengthening the way in which training, certification and career development are organised in various maritime sectors is one key element. However, we also believe that we should not shy away from implementing international agreements in the field. Furthermore, the image of maritime sectors can only be enhanced if we reconsider, together with our social partners, the current practice of excluding maritime professions from EU labour legislation. Of course, we can do this only where it does not have any impact on global competitiveness.

It will be crucial here to ensure that all sectors are linked together in these efforts, so that we can develop career paths that are of real interest both to first job seekers and to those already having maritime experience. In this way we can seek to ensure that the maritime industries can find Europeans that are knowledgeable and employable. I very much liked the idea of a “skills passport” which was raised yesterday.

The strong maritime training institutions in our Member States will have an important role to play here.

But as we have heard yesterday, training is only one aspect – removing obstacles for careers and career development is another, crucial precondition for strengthening employment.

Another major issue concerns the measures needed to support the competitiveness of the maritime sector, both in ensuring that the best possible operating conditions prevail, and in seeing to it, that technology is sufficiently well geared to the industries that require it for their development.

Effective and well designed global rules that contribute to an international level playing field are another essential supportive element for the competitiveness of the EU maritime economy.

We all agree that we must be more responsible for the stewardship of the seas and oceans that surround us. As I have said previously, the challenge of achieving sustainability in our oceans and seas is a global challenge that is second only to the fight against climate change. The sustainable management of the oceans and seas is therefore key. We must make sure that both the legal framework and its enforcement, provides for this.

This means, first and foremost, working within international institutions. Yet, it may also mean taking the lead at EU level where this is necessary – either through the adoption of appropriate EU legislation, or by ensuring the speedier ratification or implementation by Member States of relevant international rules.

Furthermore, creating links between existing environmental legislation and new measures will undoubtedly contribute towards a well-coordinated approach to our coasts and waters.

We all agree that research and innovation are the basis for any sound interaction with the oceans and seas. Without knowledge and without technology development, we will not be able to attain the ambitious targets we have set ourselves.

It has been particularly helpful to hear from the science community about their hopes for a genuine marine research strategy for Europe and their plans to link up EU Research efforts. We, all of us, also value the discussion which took place on the need to strengthen the collection and retention of data. I have been particularly impressed by ideas developed by the Science Community. A case in point is the sharing of expensive assets, such as research vessels, or even the acquisition of new state-of-the-art vessels to be used in common.

And I look forward to seeing many of you again in Aberdeen in June, where further cooperation among EU scientists will be focal to the discussions.

Management of the oceans and seas will also require planning for the organisation of spaces that are being used and those that are protected. And finally, management of the oceans and seas also means monitoring and supervision – keeping track of activities for the purposes of protecting against risks, enforcing the law and planning how activities can co-exist side by side.

If there is one thing which has become clear throughout the consultation process, it is the importance of the coastal regions. The regions have been conspicuous by the active role they have played during the past few months. This includes Northern Germany, and Bremen, in particular. You have been fully involved, from the moment work on an EU Maritime Policy started.

For me this means two things.

First, and rather obviously, coastal regions are the first to be affected by, and the first to be involved with, any maritime activity. Think of coastal erosion or storms. Regions may be located along the edge of our continent but they provide services that are essential to all Europe, especially in the domain of maritime transport. They are therefore at the heart of a maritime policy and, the EU can greatly benefit from their expertise, the wealth of information they have available, and their commitment.

One thing which emerged here from the session on “life on the coast” has been the great variety of experience and the number of examples of dynamic innovation which exist around our coasts. Many proud port cities and coastal regions need no help from Brussels to ensure their success.

But, as CPMR has suggested, the promotion of networks for the exchange of best practice between knowledge-based centres and clusters, such as Bremen, on the most successful projects implementing integrated coastal zone management, or on sustainable tourism, can help to transform many more coastal regions into drivers of sustainable development. Europe can facilitate – it needs not always regulate.

The examples presented to us from places like Bilbao, Riga, or Malta, illustrate that the need for the responsible management of coastal areas is enormous. It is something that will require all the tools and means that we can make available, ranging from spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management to the facilitation of exchanges of best practices, and from financial support to the organisation of structured stakeholder participation.

Finally, we have all understood that a maritime policy is not just about policy. It is about involvement and active participation. The discussions, during the past couple of days and during the consultation process, have demonstrated to us that the sea is a common heritage for all of us.

It has demonstrated that we all have a stake in it. Citizens and stakeholders are keen to be involved in the responsible management of this heritage. In fact, the notion of stewardship will be part and parcel of the proposals we will be developing in for example, events and awards that will highlight the shared responsibility we have for our common heritage.

So, what then are the next steps?

Our consultation on an EU Maritime Policy is drawing to a close. We still have some weeks to go during which contributions will continue to come in.

We will then evaluate all these contributions, identifying, as we have done in this conference, those areas with the potential for consensus, and cataloguing the sum total of the ideas that have been provided.

In October, we will present a report on what we have learned from the consultations and a separate proposal for the way forward. This will set out a vision for European maritime affairs, and, based on the consultation process will identify actions, some of which will be based on the elements I have just outlined.

There will certainly be other elements, including those which will be revealed over the next few weeks. In this regard, a very important contribution that we are awaiting - and I am sure Mr. Piecyk will be able to give us a preview – is the opinion of the European Parliament which we expect for the beginning of July.

Our Blue Paper to be adopted in October will also be the starting point for a longer process. The story will not end here, or in October.

We have now embarked on a voyage which I see very much to be a collective learning process allowing us to build upon a set of initial proposals that will be presented in October.

And building together necessarily implies our continued involvement with stakeholders. The spirit that has been manifest in our consultation process is too valuable to lose as we go forward.

The hard work which has been done by all those involved in the consultations will be the keel upon which we will build the ship to be launched in October and that will sail on a steady course for years and decades – along the European Maritime Policy course.

In the follow-up to the adoption of the Blue Paper, we look forward to discuss its contents with the various institutions. We also look forward to their reactions.

The incoming Portuguese Presidency has planned a series of events for this purpose. We hope that the European Council will react positively to the Blue Paper in its conclusions at the end of the year by accepting the integrated approach we have been pursuing and by giving us the basis upon which to continue our work.

But we still have a long way ahead of us before we get there.

This Conference, which has been so well organised by the German Presidency, has been an important milestone in this respect, and it has filled us with expectations for the last lap of the consultation process.

I would here like to thank all those who have been involved in its preparation. First and foremost the Presidency: Chancellor Merkel, Minister Tiefensee, State Secretary Hennerkes. My warmest thanks also go out to the Land of Bremen, whose mayors have been staunch supporters throughout, and who have made it possible for this event to take place here. It is most fitting for a conference of this importance and scope to take place in a city with a Hanseatic history such as that of Bremen.

Thank you very much.

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