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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

A Future Maritime Policy for Europe:

the Energy Dimension

Address at the "EPP Study Days", organised by the EPP-ED Group of the European Parliament
Malta, 5 July 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be in Malta today because this gathering provides us with a new opportunity to share our thoughts about a Maritime Policy for the Union.

It was only three weeks ago that I took part in the second day of discussions at the EPP-ED Bureau meeting in the Azores and addressed the fisheries and environmental dimensions of the Green Paper on Maritime Affairs. It is a pleasure for me to focus today on the energy dimension. I know my fellow Commissioner, Vice-President Barrot will delve into the transport dimension during his intervention.

Since the Azores meeting, two things have changed.

The first is that the consultation process that we have had with a wide range of stakeholders has now formally come to an end. The second was an orientation debate that was held in the College of Commissioners just last week, where a common understanding of the way forward on a maritime policy for Europe was reached.

From both processes, we have received wide backing for a horizontal, all-encompassing maritime policy. After the year of discussion and debate behind us, we have every reason to conclude that our initiative has been worthwhile. There has been an unprecedented focus on all aspects of maritime affairs; literally thousands of stakeholders - including institutions, businesses, NGOs, fishermen, trade unions, sailors, professional associations, Europe's regions and the marine scientific community - have been involved, and some 250 or more conferences and other events were organised across Europe.

I am particularly grateful for the broad support that we have received from the European institutions, including the positive opinions from both the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee. The European Parliament has also done an extraordinary job on the basis of the work of the five Parliamentary Committees involved in this initiative. They have provided a report that not only includes nearly all the proposals submitted by the co-rapporteurs, but one that demonstrates the close collaboration that has existed between the parties. The consolidated version of Parliament's report - to be adopted next week on the 10th of July - will have a significant positive impact on our work.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now time to move to the next phase: to build on all the contributions we have received and to put together a Maritime Policy package to be adopted by the Commission in October. This package will have two major components: the first a report that synthesises and analyses all the various needs and demands expressed by stakeholders during the consultation; and the second which puts forward the Commission's view of what an EU Maritime Policy should be – its ultimate objectives, the principles it should be based on, and the tools and mechanisms that will be necessary to realise its vision. This will be supplemented by an action plan, showing how the Commission will act in the course of its mandate to make the Maritime Policy a reality and to begin to work towards achieving its objectives.

While it is too early to discuss the precise details of the October package, it is already possible to draw certain preliminary conclusions from the consultation.

While, as can be imagined, the range of views and positions has been very wide, there has been unanimous support for the central idea that the Commission's initiative and the Green Paper have been built on: that all issues related to the seas and human activities connected with them are closely linked, and must be dealt with in a holistic and cross-sectoral manner.

How we manage to translate this support for an integrated approach into a living, working policy will be the major challenge in the months ahead. One concern that comes out of the consultation centres on the need to ensure respect for the principle of subsidiarity, and for the sharing of responsibilities within a future Maritime Policy. It is important for me to re-iterate that this is not an exercise aimed at gaining ground at the expense of Member States. What we want is to identify those areas where Europe can make a difference and contribute real added value in those areas. By providing a common vision and approach at European level, we believe that stakeholder objectives can better be reached, potential conflicts avoided and decision-making at all levels made more coherent.

It is clear, for example, that stakeholders are determined to enhance the economic growth and competitiveness of our maritime activities in an increasingly globalised world economy, while at the same time ensuring a high quality of life and a healthy marine environment. Stakeholders recognise that if Europe's maritime sectors are to prosper economically, the environmental and social components of sustainable development must also be secured. This can only be done by ensuring that our policy is a knowledge-based one that is built on a foundation of excellence in research, science and technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Energy, and all its different links to the oceans and seas, is an excellent example of an area where all of these elements come into play.

Energy is a top priority for Europe. The connection between maritime affairs and energy is clearly acknowledged in the EU Energy Strategy adopted by the European Council last March.

Our dependency on energy in a challenging context of climate change, means that the role that our oceans and seas can play in ensuring the competitiveness, sustainability and security of Europe's energy supplies deserves attention as never before.

The need for stable energy supplies becomes particularly acute in the context of climate change. Climate systems are intimately linked to the oceans and seas. Strong efforts must be made to improve our knowledge of these links, and to feed this knowledge into our policy-making. The Maritime Policy and the Thematic Strategy for the Protection of the Marine Environment, which is its environmental pillar, must address these challenges and threats and improve the European Union's capacity and ability to deal with them.

It is widely recognised, for example, that carbon capture and storage has economic and ecological potential as an element in the fight against climate change. The Commission supports the development of these technologies which have a potential to half the European Union's carbon emissions by 2050, with much of this storage occurring at sea. This could make it one of the major tools for the reduction of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. A European Maritime Policy will play an important role here by providing the necessary policy framework and promoting the required research on the safe and sustainable development of this technology within the seabed.

There is also potential for the development of future sea-based energy sources, such as methane hydrates from the seabed, which in energy terms could dwarf known reserves of oil and gas. More multi-disciplinary research in the framework of joint marine and energy research projects will need to be carried out to evaluate the risks, the potential and the precise effects that future exploitation of these reserves could have on global warming.

Offshore wind energy and other renewable sea-based energy sources can also offer much in the battle against climate change. They should no longer be regarded only as “tomorrow’s potential”. To achieve the target of deriving 20% of Europe's energy from renewable sources by 2020, offshore wind, and other types of energy such as tidal and wave energy, will need to see dramatic investment and growth in the short term.

The newly established Wind Technology Platform will help to bring offshore renewable energy to the market, and the forthcoming "Strategic Energy Technology Plan" planned for the end of 2007, will identify the risks and obstacles to the large-scale development of offshore wind-power in Europe. Some of these obstacles are of a technological nature and to a certain extent are already being overcome, as was witnessed last week with the announcement of the first floating large scale wind farm.

Improved energy efficiency is another front in the battle against climate change. Taking fisheries as an example, an analysis of fuel consumption recently concluded that fisheries account for about 1.2% of global oil consumption and consume an average 640 litres of fuel per ton of fish landed. We believe there is the potential to achieve energy-savings of up to 20% by improving methods of operation, and by optimising vessel and gear design. To this end, the Commission will shortly set up a website for the collection and dissemination of updated information on how energy efficiency can be improved in the fisheries sector.

There are also clear links between energy and shipping. One of the critical issues here pertains to the diversification of energy transport routes using double-hulled tankers, LNG vessels or submarine pipelines. Initiatives like the CleanShip Project need to be promoted in order to improve knowledge and to develop cutting-edge technology aimed at the reduction of air pollution from ships, improved efficiency and the use of alternative fuels.

The energy dimension is important to outermost regions and islands, since they face very specific circumstances for their energy needs, particularly for example, in terms of having to source their energy requirements from the closest mainland. A future Maritime Policy will help to promote the exploitation of indigenous and renewable sources of energy for the outermost regions and islands, in order to enhance their economic development through increased energy independence.

Of course, even if we rapidly improve efficiency and take up renewable energy technologies, it is clear that offshore oil and gas production in European waters will continue to play a major role in the energy mix for the foreseeable future. The North Sea is the largest source of oil and gas in the world after Russia, the US and Saudi Arabia. With more than 80% of European oil and gas production taking place offshore, Europe is the 4th largest oil and gas producer in the world, and a leader in the associated technologies.

A Maritime Policy can ensure that this European leadership in maritime technologies is strengthened, and that all the sea-based energy challenges discussed above are dealt with in a wide policy framework that takes into account the impacts that energy may have on other sectors and vice versa. In delivering a marine and maritime research strategy it will focus research on gaps in our knowledge that can lead to applications of great value to the energy sector in everything from new technologies, improved weather forecasting and impact mitigation. Increased interaction of stakeholders and authorities should lead to new synergies being discovered, and to the sharing of technologies and best practices. At the same time, improved frameworks for maritime spatial planning, the development of seabed mapping and Integrated Coastal Zone Management will allow for the avoidance or resolution of conflicts with other sectors.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all agree that the Union should continue in its quest to guarantee secure and stable supplies of energy for Europe. We have in Europe some of the world leaders in energy efficient and energy-intelligent technologies. We must ensure that our policies allow us to make the most of this.

While the consultation period is now formally over, I would like to stress that this is just the beginning of a process that will improve the way that Europeans interact with our seas. It is a process in which stakeholders have already played an enormously important role. I know they will continue to do so.

For this reason, allow me to highlight once again the importance of the guidance provided by the European Parliament and its respective political groups in this process, and the key role they will play in the implementation of the policy after its presentation in October.

I would like to thank you as representatives of the EPP for your support and I count on you to continue backing a Maritime Policy for the European Union.

Thank you.

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