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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

"Preparing for a European Maritime Policy"

Maritime Policies and Globalisation seminar
Terceira, Azores, Portugal, 9 July 2007

Mr. João Mira Gomes, State Secretary for Maritime Affairs of Portugal

Mr. Carlos Cesar, President of the Government of the Azores,

Mr. Claudio Martini, President of the CPMR and Tuscany,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be back here in the Azores.

The first time I came to the Azores was last year with the President of the Commission, Mr. Barroso. I said then that it was appropriate to have a discussion on maritime policy in one of the outermost regions of Europe, given that it is the outermost regions which give the EU its unique global dimension.

I would also like to congratulate the CPMR for their extensive and active contribution to the discussions that we have been having on a maritime policy for almost two years now. Their constructive and continuous input is again exemplified by today's initiative.

Bringing people together to discuss the realities of our maritime sector, be it from an economic, environmental, technological or other point of view, has been the leitmotif of the consultation process that we embarked on with the publication of the Green Paper over a year ago. By bringing together representatives from different regions of the world and at all levels of governance, this seminar complements that process nicely. I look forward to having an engaging discussion with you.

The Commission's first objective, in launching a debate on a Maritime Policy for Europe was to ascertain whether an all-embracing maritime policy to promote Europe's maritime economy in an environmentally sustainable manner, is necessary and worthwhile. For too long we have looked at the oceans and seas as a mere extension of our territorial space, failing to accord them the importance they deserve. With almost 50% of Europeans living in coastal areas, the mounting importance of transportation of goods by sea is clear that the maritime sector deserves our full attention - particularly in this increasingly globalised economy in which we live, with the reality of climate change and the attendant risk of collapse of the oceans’ sustainability.

We have been inspired in our quest to look at the oceans and seas in a holistic manner by a number of initiatives taken at the international level. The call for an integrated and all-encompassing approach can be found, for example, in the preamble of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, in Agenda 21 of the 1992 Rio Summit and again in the conclusions of the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Many maritime countries such as Canada, Australia, the USA and more recently, Japan, have heeded these calls and begun to work towards integrated oceans policies. Others have also understood that integration is central to a fully-functioning maritime sector and have started developing their own cross-cutting strategies. In Europe the clear front-runner has been Portugal – a maritime nation par excellence.

If we look at the principles, objectives and modalities of the ocean policies developed by these countries, we can see many common features. They recognise the significant contribution of sea-based activities to the economy; they come to the conclusion that the intense development of these activities is a challenge to the sustainable exploitation and development of the seas' resources; and finally, they see the need for a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to the seas. It is this that lies at the heart of any successful maritime policy.

I believe such a holistic policy for Europe must be underpinned by three things:

  • a better scientific knowledge of the state of the oceans – this should be supported by excellence in marine research and shared scientific knowledge among stakeholders;
  • partnership between the actors involved – including within international fora and with third countries, given the global nature of ocean management;
  • a new mode of governance for a policy that cuts across several sectors, in particular recognising the need for new ways to manage and involve a wide range of policy-makers both public and private.

The European Union has historically dealt with ocean and seas affairs on a sector by sector basis; thus far. It has not been guided by an overall strategy. Over the last decade, there have been some efforts to articulate and implement a more integrated vision for the governance of the ocean and seas, however these have fallen short of achieving the exacting standards required by the ever-changing maritime environment.

This is going to change.

The consultation process launched by the Green Paper has been instrumental in helping us to sow the first seeds for this change. Across the board, we have found tremendous backing for the Union to:

  • adopt an integrated approach to maritime affairs,
  • aim at becoming a model of sustainable development, and
  • keep the social and environmental components of maritime affairs at the heart of any future maritime policy.

There have also been extensive calls for the development of a number of tools that will promote links between the different sectors, such as maritime spatial planning and a comprehensive set of data on the seas and sea-based human activities. Stability in the regulatory framework and continued global competitiveness have also been emphasised.

Formal feedback on the results of the consultation will be provided in two Communications from the Commission addressed to the European Council and Parliament, both of which are scheduled for adoption on 10 October 2007. One of the Communications will summarise the results of the consultation process. The other will outline our future maritime policy and present the way we intend to take things forward in the form of an action plan consisting of proposals that cut across different areas. We hope, at the end of the year, under the strong and already manifestly supportive leadership of the Portuguese Presidency, that the European Council will react positively to the Blue Paper, accepting the proposed integrated approach and providing us with a basis to continue our work.

The proposed Maritime Policy is not going to be a panacea to all our problems. Nor is it going to re-invent the wheel insofar as oceans management is concerned. However, I do hope that it will permit Europe to enhance its oceans management for the benefit and health of the maritime sector and all those who are involved in it. It may also prove to be an interesting case-study for other regions of the world.

Europe, as you are aware, has a rather particular maritime geography with a coastline that is longer than that of the US or Russia. It is surrounded by numerous islands supporting some of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. It also has particularly strong maritime industries, a powerful and global shipping fleet and strong coastal tourism.

Europe, and especially its coastal regions, also face a number of very real and very immediate challenges. There is the threat of climate change and the need to mitigate its growing effects. The decline of marine biodiversity and the collapse of ocean sustainability are also very real risks which we face. There are risks posed by maritime transport, particularly for coastal regions, and in the context of energy transhipment. In the global context there is also a growing demand for maritime transport, but with the increasing expectation that it should be greener and cleaner. Europe's maritime industries are constantly under pressure to innovate and re-invent themselves due to the competitive pressures from overseas and the impact on coastal regions from demographic pressures, the development of large urban areas and the threats posed by illegal seabourne activity cannot be underestimated.

This is a tall order for any policy to meet. However, it is clear that failing to address these multiple and multi-faceted challenges could be very costly.

We are also aware of the need to respond to these individual challenges with individual remedies. As I have had occasion to say previously, in Europe one size does not fit all. A functioning Maritime Policy for the Union is not one that can be achieved with a top-down or centralised, approach. On the contrary, we are going to need people, local and regional authorities, NGOs, interest groups and administrators to be involved. We have already seen that the interest among these different players is high, we must now capitalise on it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Of the many challenges I have highlighted, I know that globalisation is an issue that is of particular interest to you at this gathering.

Globalisation is a difficult phenomenon to define. Clearly it represents different things to different people. For some it is considered a positive force, an engine which brings increased prosperity to all, including in developing countries. For others, it is seen as the exploitation of developing countries' resources, destroying their local customs and giving rise to the relocation of industries.

Whichever definition one subscribes to there is one thing that is crystal clear: globalisation is very much a part of our world today and it is not going to go away.

The European Union has realised this and is trying, in a manner that does not result in too few winners and too many losers, to embrace it and harness it for the benefit of Europeans. Under this scenario, it appears that the only viable way forward is to look for balance in the choices we make. We are therefore working to shape globalisation, to make it inclusive rather than exclusive, to promote values and not self-serving interests.

In a maritime context, this means that we are working to contribute towards globalisation by supporting capacity-building for coastal states, by engaging in a common search for best practice, and by actively contributing to global governance of the seas based on the rule of international law.

The EU does not live in a vacuum. Its health and prosperity is very much dependent on its neighbours in the regions that surround it and in the world at large. There are many issues which cannot be solved by the EU alone, for example, illegal immigration, or ensuring that the system of international rule-making works, or that there is a level playing-field for operators within which to operate. We must ensure that all partners not only speedily ratify, but also faithfully implement, internationally-applicable and agreed rules. It is clear that if we do not get results at a global level, the international system of governance is undermined and individual parties may be tempted to take unilateral action.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Our Green Paper was captioned "Towards a future Maritime Policy for the European Union: A European vision of our oceans and seas". This implies a project with lofty aspirations. Today, thanks to the discussions and contributions of our partners, we are closer to establishing just what that clear vision will be.

I think I can confidently say we have had the maximum stakeholder participation and input we could have hoped for. There have been around 250 events organised and more than four hundred contributions received.

Throughout, CPMR has been an extremely active partner. By engaging so closely with the process, it has afforded us the rich experience and expertise of Europe's regions and has helped us to be able to develop some new, fresh thinking. It has also been one of the prime movers for an integrated approach. In this it has not been alone: in fact it is fair to say that from the many different responses we have received, one thing appears to unite almost all stakeholders, and that is their belief that we should replace our fragmented vision of maritime affairs with one that gives a full picture, that allows for synergies to develop and for negative impacts between sectors to be reduced.

While this call for integration will not in any way mean centralisation, Europe will seek to add value by building an overall commitment to a set of common objectives at a European level. Decision-making competences need not be altered, yet there is scope, I believe, for more coordination and improved coherence than exists at present.

This seminar, as well as the Workshop on Maritime Governance to be held by the Portuguese presidency in Lisbon on 19 and 20 of July, are good opportunities to discuss the important governance issues that this new way of decision-making in maritime affairs implies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by saying that Europe is at the threshold of a new beginning. This is the start of a process in which we fully intend to involve all interested parties. The continued involvement of our stakeholders will be one of the criteria by which we shall measure our progress.

I look forward to your constant and active presence along this exciting journey.

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