Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Towards a future maritime policy for the Union: a European vision for the oceans and seas
European Parliament Plenary session
Strasbourg, 10 July 2007
Mr President, Honourable members, Ladies and gentlemen,
When we began this process, the words ‘Towards a Maritime Policy for the European Union’ made up a phrase full of potential and promise. Today – two years after our work started and one year since the launch of the Green Paper – we are no longer only talking of what is possible. We are talking of what can become a reality.
On 30 June, we ended the consultation process. Thousands of stakeholders throughout Europe have taken active part in the process expressing overwhelming support towards our project.
The Parliament has been itself very active in the run up to this debate. Let me express my thanks and appreciation at the outset to Rapporteur Willi Piecyk for having co-ordinated the keen interest of the various committees and having produced this impressive report.
I would also like to thank the Rapporteurs of the various active committees for their invaluable input, as well as the other MEP's which were particularly supportive of the maritime policy project. We are especially happy with the holistic, cross-sectoral nature of the opinion of the European Parliament. The common understanding reflected in the report is a good basis for the future functioning of a holistic and integrated Maritime Policy for Europe.
The contents of the report are indeed impressively vast and we are grateful for such a substantial number of suggestions. We welcome the fact that the Parliament points out that, in the area of maritime affairs, speedy progress must be made on the legislative proposals which are now before the Council and which relate both to the safety of maritime transport and to the protection and preservation of the marine environment. The goals of our future maritime policy will indeed need to see a proper implementation of this legislation by Member States.
In the 2008 preliminary Draft Budget, the Commission has also asked for credits to undertake Preparatory Actions, which aim at initiating the implementation of some actions foreseen under the new maritime policy and we hope that the Parliament will support these requests. We are prepared in particular to work in areas such as the integration of surveillance systems for activities on the sea, the setting up of a network on data relating to the seas and oceans and on the exchange of best practices in maritime industries and services through the promotion of maritime clusters in 2008. We are convinced that such projects will yield substantial benefits in the long run.
Turning to some specific elements raised in the report let me make some general comments:
The Commission welcomes the call by the European Parliament to ensure that the environmental dimension is clearly reflected in the proposals we will be making in October and is committed to paying particular attention to climate change. In this regard, the Commission is analysing the contributions of all stakeholders which deal with emissions trading in shipping, renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar power for ships, land-based power supply for ships in ports, offshore wind energy, ship-dismantling and others. All these will have a positive contribution to make with respect to climate change and broader environmental considerations. As has been stated on many occasions, the Marine Environmental Protection Strategy remains at the core of the Maritime Policy and constitutes its environmental pillar. They will mutually reinforce each other.
The Commission also welcomes the recognition underlined in the report, of the importance of maritime transport to the European economy. Efforts at simplification and better regulation remain a top priority for the Commission. Maritime transport presents one of the least environmentally damaging modes of transport. Bearing this in mind, efforts should be stepped up to improve this track record even further. Maritime transport is also important beyond reasons of sustainability as it contributes to further the integration of our common internal market and is crucial for Europe's external trade in this era of globalisation.
The economic importance of the maritime sectors for the EU, and the success of a number of national and regional clusters are well known. The consultation on EU Maritime Policy has demonstrated a keen interest of all actors to strengthen and encourage the development of maritime clusters across the EU. The Commission has committed itself to promoting best Practices and interlinkages for Maritime Clusters in both national and regional contexts through mapping Europe's Maritime Clusters, and analysing their potential cooperation.
With respect to the points raised in the report on research and innovation, the Commission believes that excellence in maritime research and technology is essential to develop the vast potential of sea resources in a sustainable manner. It will constitute a fundamental basis to achieve integration and to enhance synergies in the different maritime sectors. This is why marine research and technology was recognised as a cross-cutting priority in the seventh research framework programme that will be addressed with particular attention.
We recognize the importance of tourism as a driver for sustainable growth in coastal and maritime areas. At the same time, coastal and maritime tourism can be used as a tool to foster the preservation of cultural, historical and environmental features of our maritime space. A Communication is planned for 2007 and it will set out an "Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism". It will be based on the report that collected the reactions of all European tourism stakeholders and will point to possible new initiatives at EU level, including on coastal and maritime tourism, which could usefully complement Member States’ initiatives.
The Commission welcomes the positive attitude of the report towards the need to ensure sustainability in the field of fisheries. We have taken a number of initiatives in order to increase the number of marine protected areas and to develop policies in favour of longer-term approaches to fisheries management. In addition the Commission has already made proposals for the progressive elimination of discards. Within the context of the October package the Commission will also adopt proposals aimed at combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries (IUU) and measures on Destructive Fishing Practices.
Turning now to social aspects, let me say that we fully share the concern of the European Parliament regarding the scarcity of experts and well-trained professionals facing the maritime industry and will look with great interest at the suggestions made in the report for special training courses aimed at providing a broad understanding of the ecosystem-based approach to sea and oceans management.
We also share the opinion of the European Parliament that the exclusion of seafarers from social directives should be reviewed. With regard to social rules for seafarers let me underline the importance of the ongoing work between the social partners on integrating the consolidated ILO Convention on working conditions for seafarers into Community Law.
One final point concerning governance. It is clear from our consultations with Member States and stakeholders that closer co-ordination between all sectoral policies and on all levels of governance is required if we are to make a success out of maritime policy. I therefore find the position of the Parliament on this issue, both timely and relevant. In addition we recognize that the exchange and stimulation of best practices in integrated maritime policy-making needs to be backed by platforms that support the exchange of experience and information on best practice. To this end, we intend to organise annual conferences which will bring together relevant actors from regions, Member States, and at EU level, including stakeholders in all relevant areas. This exercise will also contribute to raising the visibility of the maritime sectors in general.
In order to build on the momentum gained during the consultation process, we aim to put forward an ambitious maritime policy package on 10 October and present it for further consultation with the European Parliament and the Council. The package will translate the vision of a new EU maritime policy into reality and will consist of the following elements:
A communication on the Consultation Process that will show how broad and extensive it has been and that will highlight the close and constructive engagement we have had with our interlocutors.
The second communication will propose a European Maritime Policy and Action Plan. The policy will focus on Europe's maritime reality, on the importance of an integrated approach to maritime affairs, on our vision for the policy and its principles. It will aim at:
The Action Plan will indicate our intention of how to implement a maritime policy through the identification of the actions and the subjects for proposal.
In conclusion may I once again congratulate the European Parliament and the concerned Rapporteurs for their excellent work. We look forward to continue our close dialogue with you in the months ahead in the interest of laying the foundations for a more integrated European maritime policy for Europe.