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Joe Borg
Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Governance in a European Maritime Policy
Speech at workshop "Governance of an Integrated, Holistic Maritime Policy for Europe"
Lisbon, 19 July 2007

European Commission - SPEECH/07/494   23/07/2007

Other available languages: none

SPEECH/07/494












Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs




Governance in a European Maritime Policy





















Speech at workshop "Governance of an Integrated, Holistic Maritime Policy for Europe"
Lisbon, 19 July 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This conference on the Governance of an Integrated Maritime Policy for Europe is most opportune. It not only comes just after our extensive one-year consultation period on a future maritime policy has ended. It also comes at a time when we are entering the most intensive phase of our deliberations on the way forward for an EU maritime policy.

Governance, as you are aware, is one of the main issues that lies at the heart of a maritime policy for Europe. It is a central component of any response to the very pertinent question of whether Europe needs an all-embracing and integrated maritime policy at all. And it goes without saying that we need to determine what form of governance is best suited for such a maritime policy.

While the consultation process highlighted a number of key themes about oceans sustainability, economic development, quality jobs, energy sustainability and security, it also posed many questions about how our current governance of maritime affairs in Europe could be best reviewed and if needed, adapted. The thinking is this: if we want to improve the way we take decisions about ocean affairs and to ensure that different managers, at different levels and across different sectors, have a more holistic view of the maritime sector, then we are, of necessity, also talking of the way in which things are governed or managed.

Given that this could have implications at different levels of administration, it is necessary to already begin to channel some of our energies to dealing with these questions at this early stage of formulating what shape and form a future maritime policy for Europe will take.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we talk about governance, at least in this context of a new maritime policy for the Union, we are thinking of how decision-making related to the management of our oceans and seas at all levels of government should be pursued so as to truly reflect the joined-up and integrated approach that we, and a wide cross-section of all Europeans, believe is necessary.

This means looking at Europe's oceans, seas and coastal areas in all their different shapes and sizes – and realising that maritime activities cannot be viewed as separate from each other. Although we acknowledge that sector-specific policies are needed and will continue to exist, this should not come at the expense of a high degree of cross-sectoral co-ordination and collaboration among different departments and agencies.

It is exactly in enhanced co-ordination and better collaboration that the very essence of the new approach to maritime affairs lies.

Although this may sound simple, clear and logical, it is in reality far from easy or straightforward.

Governance as a process of policy management is a complex issue at the best of times. It becomes even more so within the current European set-up because, what we are talking about runs through very different levels of decision-making: the EU, national administrations and those who operate at a regional level.

This picture is often complicated further, particularly if we choose to follow the ecosystem approach – a principle which points towards the need for appropriate governance for Europe's maritime basins and large marine ecosystems in accordance with their different bio-geographical circumstances. Maritime basins, more often than not, do not coincide with member state borders implying that there is much to be said for cross-national action in maritime affairs.

Governance at this level could, for example, start with the development of better co-ordination between maritime activities which impact on the environment. A case in point is the fisheries sector where regional advisory councils, or RACs, have been created and are already producing good results, in order to ensure better co-ordination and co-operation between fishermen's representatives, environmental NGOs and other relevant stakeholders.

Given that such collaborative management is already showing signs of working, could it be appropriate to expand similar mechanisms of governance to other maritime activities?

Another example of a collaborative, and voluntary, approach is that of clustering. It may make sense to promote maritime clusters as cases of best practice that add value to the way we presently do things. We can therefore facilitate their formation.

As we have had occasion to note in the Green Paper and on a number of occasions during the course of the past year, an integrated approach to maritime affairs calls for an innovative way to do things. The need to discuss governance is thus a necessary corollary of the integrated approach we are advocating. In this line of thought, therefore, by accepting the latter, we also are implicitly accepting the former. Allow me to explain further.

From the five hundred or so written responses that we have received in reaction to the Green Paper, there is very clear, and very broad, support throughout the Union for developing an integrated maritime policy in Europe. Certain other principles also clearly enjoy wide support. These include: extensive stakeholder participation in the development of rules on maritime affairs and subsidiarity when it comes to decision making – whereby all decisions affecting the quality of life in coastal areas and the livelihoods of those earning their living in the maritime sectors, should be taken at the most appropriate level of government, with the EU involved only where it can provide genuine added value to existing policies and programmes.

The Commission fully shares these views. It also believes that much value can be added to the development of an integrated maritime approach.

To start with, we believe that a maritime policy for Europe will have to have a clear set of aims that will make it possible to aspire to something more than we have today. A maritime policy will also need a framework within which the necessary convergence of policies and actions of government will be housed and made to work as a dynamic and constructive process. These will also serve as useful tools by which to judge the progress of achieving the desired integrated approach. Having said this, it goes without saying that in formulating it, we should not seek to draw up a one-size-fits-all solution, but to identify solutions that respond appropriately to the specific attributes of the various European maritime regions and sectors.

We are currently working hard to deliver such a policy in October. In fact, as part of an overall package, I will present two Communications to my fellow Commissioners, for onward transmission to the European Council and Parliament. The first Communication will summarise the results of the consultation process, not solely in general terms but also by presenting the detail received on the more salient facets.

The second Communication will outline the aims and framework of a future maritime policy. In order to translate these into something more tangible, there will also be an action plan attached. This will consist of proposals for action that cut across different areas demonstrating quite fundamentally the benefits to be gained from joined-up policy-making. These Communications will be the result of the efforts of those working on this exciting project, both from within DG Fisheries and Maritime Affairs but also from a cross-section of a number of other Directorates-General in the Commission.

It is imperative that the October package is brought to the attention of the December European Council in order to have a political agreement on the new maritime policy agreed to. We are counting on the Portuguese Presidency to help us achieve that. Let me here add a word of praise and my thanks for the work I know Portugal and in particular the State Secretary for Maritime Affairs, Mr. Mira Gomes, has been doing in preparation for this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ultimate aim of any maritime policy for the European Union must be to bring about an optimal contribution to the welfare of European citizens through their relationship with the oceans and seas.

To achieve this, we need, as I said before, an innovative way to do things. I also already said that responsibility for policies and actions related to the seas are divided between EU authorities, national governments, and regional and local authorities. Many rules of behaviour are then, furthermore, derived from international organisations. Therefore, if the aims of an integrated Maritime Policy are to be achieved, all levels of government must move towards a more integrated approach and in turn, be collectively responsible for ensuring its success.

Put more simply: an EU maritime policy will only work if member states adopt their own arrangements, albeit in line with the subsidiarity principle, to provide for enhanced coordination of all maritime related affairs and for better collaboration at a national level.

For our part, at an EU level, we can best add value to the process, not only by helping it to come about but also by developing a set of common tools which can serve to create synergies between different sectoral policies, between different government agencies and activities, and between different economic actors, which did not exist before. These are tools that can help policy makers optimise the use of marine and coastal space and the development of maritime activities in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The justification for their development at EU level is quite simply that the development of one single system is vastly more cost effective than that of multiple, often contradictory, national systems.

Three such tools were suggested in the Green Paper and have since received broad support during the course of the public consultation.

The first is a European Marine Observation and Data Network which can bring together, from multiple sources, all the available data on the oceans and seas. This data, both scientific and socio-economic, can be made available to all those who can use it as the basis for better governance and sustainable maritime development. Gathering and making such data available will be a considerable undertaking which will need to be developed over a period of years along a clear and coherent plan. Interdisciplinary scientific data and scientific advice will not only prove indispensable for more integrated decision-making that is capable of addressing cross-sectoral maritime challenges, it will also serve as a genuine driver for the integrated governance of maritime affairs. In this regard, facilitating the development of networks between the different competent marine and maritime research institutions and bodies is another dimension that could be addressed.

A second such tool, concerns the emerging recognition that exists of the need to set up spatial planning systems for European coastal waters. Such systems will regulate the spatial deployment of economic activities, many of which have proved, at times, to be conflicting. Spatial planning could also be instrumental in ensuring the delivery of commitments that derive from the Thematic Strategy on the Protection of the Marine Environment. It could also provide economic operators with the much-needed and oft-requested predictability they need for the planning of future investments. In this regard, sea mapping programmes, along with the Marine Observation and Data Network, can deliver an important contribution to make maritime spatial planning a reality. Finally, and in accordance with the subsidiarity principle, decision-making competences in this area will remain firmly with Member States.

A third tool that may be considered is one that is connected with surveillance. It is increasingly accepted that one of the main challenges faced by a maritime policy is the need to obtain optimum levels of monitoring and of controlling the behaviour of users of the sea in order to ensure respect of the rules put in place to achieve sustainable development.

The consultation process has confirmed how fragmented national government activities are in this area of maritime surveillance. I believe that the gradual achievement of a comprehensive and integrated network of vessel tracking and e-navigation systems for all the coastal waters under the jurisdiction of the Member States would provide a powerful tool for public agencies and at the same time provide an incentive for them to work ever more closely together. This could extend across all kinds of things and could go a long way to achieving integration in the way these public agencies work. Improved navigation aids could also have additional knock-on effects, such as the increased efficiency and safety of navigation - an investment worth making in its own right.

These tools will be a priority for the European Commission and are indicative of the kind of action that can be taken at a European level for the benefit of the sustainable use of our oceans and seas. I am certain that there will be other tools that may be identified, offering similar opportunities for improved co-ordination and co-operation. In October we will have the tool box and some tools inside it. Our objective is that over time we will manage to fill it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to make one more point clear about the discussion we envisage unfolding on maritime governance. This is important in order to clear up any misgivings that may be held.

While the Commission strongly advocates an integrated approach to maritime governance, we do not want this to be interpreted to mean the centralisation or concentration of power. On the contrary. What we hope to achieve is a change in mindset whereby, in our increasingly complex world, it is understood that the design of any one policy will require more and better collaboration and coordination with other related policies. We do not seek to change who decides what. What we would like to do is to develop new ways whereby those decisions are taken in a better way – more efficiently and more effectively.

Given the growing impact of human activities on marine ecosystems, together with that of climate change, the fast growing competition between maritime activities for Europe's marine spaces and the growing interest in coastal areas, be it for leisure or other activities, the need to take a look at the BIG picture is essential.

As you may know, the European Commission has already set up a maritime policy function, with the task of providing a comprehensive analysis of maritime affairs and the policies affecting them, ensuring that interactions are fully taken into account in each sectoral policy, ensuring co-ordination between them and piloting the development of common policy tools as described above. It has also started bringing together all the EU agencies engaged in maritime activities, with a view to ensuring that their various programmes collectively contribute to the development of a maritime policy.

Other EU institutions, including the Parliament, have also taken steps to do the same, at least in order to be able to better respond to the Green Paper. It is my fervent wish that next year, as the EU enters the phase of implementing a maritime policy, each EU institution will examine further how best to apply the integrated approach to maritime policy affairs within its own sphere.

Some Member States have also started developing national co-ordination mechanisms in their maritime policy-making. Portugal is one of them. These mechanisms should be further enhanced in order to ensure that member states move towards integrated decision-making. The Commission not only welcomes this but encourages Member States to develop their own holistic, national maritime policies in conjunction with stakeholders.

In order to make its own contribution to stakeholder consultation, it is planned for the Commission to organise appropriate regular stakeholder meetings and to promote transparency by publishing an annual report on maritime affairs. Effective stakeholder consultation and involvement is a must if we want to succeed in our endeavours to develop an integrated and holistic maritime policy for Europe. This is the other aspect of governance which is necessary to complete the picture.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will conclude by expressing the confidence and faith that I have in this process.

Firstly, the broad support received from all quarters for the concept of an integrated maritime strategy for Europe has been overwhelming. It places us in the position of a flotilla of vessels setting out together for a far-off location. Secondly, the enthusiasm I have found around me, to take this project to the next level, has been extremely encouraging. What we have to do in the coming months, therefore, is to design a strategy that allows us to maintain formation whilst forging steadily ahead with a view to reaching our port of destination.

I am confident that the Maritime Policy Package that we will put forward next October will be exactly this. I look forward to moving along this path with you.

Thank you.


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