Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none


Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission

Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

An Ocean of Opportunity: A new Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union

Address to plenary session of the European Parliament
Brussels, 10 October 2007

Honourable Members,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today is a noteworthy day.

Exactly 500 years ago, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller created his striking single vision of a brave new world in which Europe was linked to Africa, Asia and the Americas by its oceans and seas. October 10 also marks the day when the King of Portugal mandated Bartolomeu Dias to seek a trade route leading to Asia. And in the USA, Columbus' discovery of the New World is celebrated today.

It is therefore a day worth recalling in the maritime world. For my part, I am proud to come here today to this Parliament to talk about a new and exciting maritime future for Europe.

This is a future that builds on the strong maritime heritage that Europe has inherited from the past, yet which also looks strategically forward to determine how Europe's well-being and prosperity, so closely dependent on the oceans and seas, can be enhanced. Inspired by our own distinct vision of the oceans and seas, the Commission has, earlier today, proposed an Integrated Maritime Policy for the Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the first time in its fifty years of existence, the EU has explicitly recognised that an integrated approach is needed for the seas and oceans. This radical departure has its origins in the compelling argument that there is a maritime dimension to virtually every major issue facing Europe today: energy, climate change, innovation, international competitiveness, job creation, environmental protection, trade, transport and so on. Whichever sector one looks at, one can see strong links that run between them and the maritime sector.

It would be unwise - indeed short-sighted - for the EU to operate in these policy areas without taking account of their overlap with maritime affairs. What we need is a single vision – like Waldseemüller's (pr. Valt-see-moo-ler's) map – where policy-making can be made in a cohesive and all-embracing manner, - in order to maximise the potential of these intense and complex interrelations. At a time when the discussion about global warming, globalisation, and EU competitiveness have acquired new urgency, one can hardly ignore the undeniable need for a maritime strategy that directly treats these issues.

Today, I am pleased to announce, the College of Commissioners backed an integrated policy document that will deliver exactly what the EU has lacked until now: a genuine, single vision of the oceans and seas. It is not just a question of fisheries or shipping, or of trade or regional development, or of research or employment or of the environment or relations with third countries. It is a policy that encompasses these, brings all these strands together and treats them as an-interrelated whole. It is a policy that will feed from, and into, other Community policies.

At the College meeting earlier today, it was in fact a package of documents that was adopted. This package is made up of three key components. The first is a Communication which details the afore-mentioned integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union. This is accompanied by an Action Plan which outlines the first steps that will be taken towards implementing the Policy; and then there is a Communication which sets out the conclusions reached following the broad and immensely successful public consultation that was held over a period of one year.

You will quickly recognise the key elements of the package, I believe, because they reflect in large measure the priorities you, yourselves have expressed:

  • Deploying Europe's strengths to combat climate change, through research and innovation, through more sophisticated planning for vulnerable coastlines and by taking the lead in international discussions.
  • A European Strategy for Marine Research and a commitment to excellence in marine research, technology and innovation, to help meet the Lisbon goals for growth and jobs and to fully exploit the opportunities that lie in new technologies.
  • Better regulation of maritime transport, to help create a true barrier-free European Maritime Transport Space in the internal market and to support Europe's external trade in this era of globalisation.
  • Respect for the crucial role of ports in driving economic growth and an examination of how EU funding can best reinforce sustainable growth and boost prosperity in remote and disadvantaged regions.
  • Ensuring that all forms of development take account of the environmental impact, by fostering environmentally friendly shipping, reducing pollution risks and promoting ecosystem-based fisheries.
  • Better use of planning tools, data networks and horizontal coordination to support decision-making for marine spaces and coastal areas and to ensure international compliance with rules.
  • Backing maritime clusters and regional centres of maritime excellence to raise Europe's competitiveness. This will particularly help smaller firms that are such an important part of Europe's high-tech maritime industries. It will help realise the huge growth-potential of coastal and maritime tourism. And it will be an additional element helping to improve the attractiveness of maritime careers.

The Commission today also adopted a Communication aimed at boosting the attractiveness of maritime careers by initiating a review of the exclusions faced by seafarers and fishermen from various pieces of the EU's labour legislation. This is a sensitive area, of great concern to many of our stakeholders. A background document on the important links between the EU Energy Policy and Maritime Policy has also been published today.

Honourable Members,

We well know that there are enormous challenges ahead. To address these, we need concrete proposals, proposals that are ambitious enough to meet the challenges we face head on. In past centuries, the seas and oceans have opened up new and exciting opportunities for Europe. Now, at the start of the 21st century, we hope to discover our own modern-day 'new world' of opportunities.

I believe that we really are at the start of something new. I also believe that by setting in motion the actions detailed in the package adopted today we will be firmly setting Europe on the path to explore these opportunities in a novel way.

As the saying goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained".

And while that is true and most certainly is part of the inspiration that propels us forward, it is prudent to note that, like the voyages of discovery of the past, today's venture will, too, have a cost.

There will be a first stage, in 2008, characterised by a series of preparatory actions. For these we will need the involvement of other partners and we will need to secure, together with your support, the necessary funding. These actions are a direct follow-up to the thinking behind your report of July 12 where I was delighted to see that you had clearly indicated your backing for these actions.

There are a number of other supporting actions, which are already well-advanced and which include a Communication on 17 October on port policy, another on illegal, unreported und unregulated fishing, and a third on sustainable tourism. These will later be followed by actions on maritime clusters and on maritime transport.

Complementing all of this, will be a discussion on 22nd October in Lisbon with the 27 member state Ministers responsible for Maritime Affairs, which will include Ministers of Transport, Fisheries, the Environment and Defence. This will feed into a later discussion which will take place at the December European Council with a view to endorsing this policy.

Today is therefore not the end of the voyage; nor is it the beginning. What it is however, is a significant milestone marking a decisive shift away from a period of reflection to what you in the Parliament requested of us and what we in the Commission are looking forward to: a period of action.

The European Parliament has been a key player in this process and has given us invaluable feedback. I would therefore like to renew my thanks to the Parliament in general, and to the Rapporteurs and Members who have shown particular interest in this project, more specifically. I have been particularly glad to take part in many of the hearings and meetings held in the Parliament. I sincerely look forward to continuing this dialogue.

The Parliament will remain a central figure in the evolution of this policy. Making a success of the maritime policy is not something that the Commission can - or wishes to - undertake alone. Its success depends on maintaining a common approach. I hope that I can count on your continued collaboration.

As I said at the start of my intervention: today is indeed noteworthy.

We have set sail on a new and exciting adventure. This is an adventure that we trust, and believe, will bring increased and sustainable prosperity to Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have ahead of us an Ocean of Opportunity.

Thank you.

Side Bar