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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

A European Maritime Policy:
An investment in the future of the oceans and seas

Address at the World Investment Forum
La Baule, 27 June 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to this, the fifth, World Investment Forum. I am glad for this opportunity to present a European vision towards a sustainable future for our oceans and seas.

The oceans and seas play a key role for Europe. As a large peninsula, the two oceans and four seas that surround Europe, have given it its maritime identity and rich heritage. They have also been the source of much of its wealth. The oceans and seas also play a vital role in addressing one of our biggest challenges to date, that of climate change.

Europe therefore has a special interest in safeguarding the future of the oceans and seas.

Europe maritime strength is really quite impressive:

  • 40% of world shipping is owned or controlled by Europeans;
  • its shipbuilding industry leads the world in the specialised vessels market;
  • 90% of the EU's external trade and 40% of intra-European trade is seaborne;
  • offshore oil and gas reserves are critical to our energy supply;
  • Europe is the world's number one tourist destination;
  • the world's fourth largest producer of oil and gas;
  • a frontrunner in exploring renewable energy;
  • its fishery production is the 2nd largest in the world, and
  • we have a world class marine and maritime science and research community

Europe's maritime economy also generates some 3 - 5 percent of GDP and provides approximately five million jobs.

Some of our maritime sectors enjoy extraordinary growth potential. The Irish Marine Institute provides us with some indication of what these prospects look like for the period 2005-2009. Aquaculture, for example, is expected to grow by 17%, cruise shipping and blue biotechnology are each expected to grow by 24%, submarine telecommunications by 97% and offshore renewable energy by almost 1000%.

While these projections are, quite clearly, impressive, let us not forget the huge pressure that our oceans are under. If we are to draw similar, or better still greater, benefits from the oceans and seas in the future, then we must also accept that there are some serious challenges that must be addressed.

This is where a clear vision for the future of the oceans and seas - a forward-looking strategy for the sustainable development of maritime activities - becomes so crucial. And this is exactly the goal that lies behind a new maritime policy for the Union – a policy which will take shape in October this year.

Encouraging sustainable economic growth is a central tenet of this emerging vision. Europe has been lagging behind its main competitors in terms of economic performance in recent years. By putting emphasis on the creation of growth and jobs, through the strategy more widely known as the "Lisbon Agenda", we can regain that competitive edge. Indeed, the maritime cluster has much to contribute to this end.

Success relies, in my view, on three things:

  • first, exploiting our assets to enhance our competitiveness;
  • second, building partnerships between the actors involved;
  • and third, ensuring that there is a solid policy framework to support this.

One of Europe's key assets is knowledge. This applies as much to the maritime sectors as it does to others. However, looking just at the maritime sectors for the moment, it is evident that research has helped to establish various new technologies in Europe, particularly when it comes to renewable energies. Europe must capitalise on its strong position in research and innovation, and it must also engage in cross-sectoral, joint projects. Pooling of our research capabilities can certainly lead to new and exciting synergies. Our Research Framework Programme already gives us a number of the tools we need.

Science and technology are, in fact, key to our vision of developing economic growth and jobs in the maritime field without placing the marine environment under any further pressure. This is why one of the main goals of an integrated maritime policy must be to make the most of knowledge and innovation. Europe's marine scientific community is fully behind this goal - a position it made clear last week in the Aberdeen Declaration. This Declaration demands, of the European Commission and the Member States, a new and more ambitious strategy for marine and maritime research.

Clustering is another tool. Bringing maritime industries together can lead to innovation through the generation of new ideas, the exchange of best practice and the creation of new and improved training opportunities. The Waterborne Technology Platform, "clean ship technology" with its corresponding neutral environmental footprint, cleaner engines, double hulls, the recycling of ballast water and biodegradable material, are all good examples of the synergies that can be created. Europe will only be able to maintain and strengthen its competitive edge by keeping one step ahead.

Secondly, if we are to reach our targets for sustainable growth, contributions will be needed from all those who have a stake. Our wide-ranging, year-long consultation, which comes to a close at the end of this month, has been exactly about that. It has brought interested parties together in an unprecedented way, revealing that there is much common ground to be built on.

In terms of raising environmental awareness, we have a number of examples that have yielded results – some of which I have already referred to. Another example of eco-innovation that we have witnessed in recent years is the ability to generate energy from wind, waves or tides. As I have just said, possible growth in this area is in the order of a 1000% – there is undoubtedly huge potential here. Carbon capture and storage also appear likely to become another main market. These are all indicative of the kind of innovative solutions that we can call upon to strike the balance between our economic needs and the sustainability of our oceans.

The key message is very clear: Although there may well be transitional costs for industry, enhanced environmental protection also implies new business opportunities. The new modus operandi called for under the EU's new Marine Strategy and the recent commitment to raise the proportion of renewable energies to 20% of total energy consumption by 2020, are further proof of this.

This brings me to my last point: the need for a solid policy framework.

Many of the projects undertaken in the maritime field, for example, in offshore installations, require considerable investments and long lead times. Such projects need a regulatory framework that is both stable and predictable. A system for maritime spatial planning can provide users with the clarity and the consensus they need about the future use of our maritime space. Open channels of communication to those directly affected by policy-makers' decisions are also vital. This can go a long way to ensure that policies respond to the needs of the sector, are easy and cost-effective to implement, and really do deliver what they promise.

There are a number of issues which cannot be solved by the EU alone. This is why we seek close relations with the international community at large and with our more immediate neighbours in appropriate fora, such as within the Euro-Med framework and under the European Neighbourhood Policy. We will also examine how we can underpin our maritime industries through trade policy instruments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Maritime affairs are not new to EU policy-making. The Common Fisheries Policy, our Maritime Transport Policy and, more recently, the Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment have all yielded important results.

What is new is the way in which we are choosing to go about them.

The approach has so far concentrated on specific, sector-based policies – yielding single, often excellent, pieces of work. Yet, however excellent these stand-alone pieces of legislation or policies may be, they remain pieces nevertheless.

We now want to put them together to form one representative and forward-looking picture that will help us to manage, maintain and enhance our vibrant and valuable maritime sector. I expect this full picture to emerge more clearly next October when the European Commission adopts its Blue Paper for a Maritime Policy.

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