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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Towards a European Maritime Policy: Presentation of the European Commission Proposals

Address at General Assembly of CPMR (Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe)
Florence, Italy, 19 October 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am particularly pleased to be here just a week after the publication of the new Integrated Maritime Policy. This is a unique opportunity to address an audience, composed of representatives from your 150 member regions, that has been a staunch supporter of such an integrated policy. This occasion also comes at an important turning-point when a decisive shift has taken place away from a period of reflection to one of action.

The Integrated Maritime Policy does not exist in a vacuum. Apart from being the product of two and a half years of work, it is also underpinned by a number of key political priorities closely related to the work of the European Commission as a whole. These are the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs and the Gothenburg Strategy for Sustainable Development. The Integrated Maritime Policy will aim to develop, and deliver, a coherent and wide-ranging work programme which will ensure that co-ordination and consistency is achieved in the regulation of closely inter-related sectors.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As with anything new, there is a certain amount of infrastructure that must be built in order to enable our overall goals to be reached.

In that sense, one finds first the question of governance. Governance is key in terms of the overall policy framework and the tools needed to implement it.

As part of the efforts underway to manage maritime affairs in a more coherent way, the Commission has set up a maritime policy function which amongst other things provides an analysis of policies affecting maritime affairs, co-ordinates between sectoral policies and pilots the development of cross-cutting policy tools. This function, which will be broadened in the future, will stimulate the creation of synergies between different areas, resulting in better policy-making.

At a broader level, the question of governance will be related to how we can bring about a change in the way our societies think about their relationship with the seas. It will also look at the way our political systems take decisions affecting them. Canada and Australia's experience of this suggest that a radical change in thinking and policy-making is likely to be a long process. It will also require all levels of government to be engaged in this collective learning exercise.

It is certain that better regulation will also guide Commission policy-making on maritime issues from an early stage. While we aspire to have all legislation being as targeted and 'intelligent' as possible, it is important to note that we do not see maritime policy as being a major generator of legislation. It will not substitute other Community policies. For example, Regional Policy will continue to be a key policy, together with its financial instrument, for the regions.

The principle of subsidiarity will also be respected, not just in its formal, legal sense, but more importantly in its essence, namely to ensure that decisions are taken, policies developed and programmes carried out at the appropriate level of government. There will not be a one-size-fits-all approach. We want coastal communities to take ownership of what happens along their shores and for this they need to be given a stronger role to play in the design of appropriate measures.

Naturally, much remains to be done at an overall EU level. Wherever we can be economically stronger by acting together, we must do so. This would undoubtedly be preferable to the development of a multitude of national systems. At an EU level, developing a set of common tools which can serve to create synergies between different policies, different government agencies, different activities and different economic actors can help policy-makers optimise the use of the maritime and coastal space. It can also allow maritime activities to develop in an environmentally sustainable manner.

In the context of better governance, regulation and subsidiarity, I would like to turn to three tools that can contribute towards an integrated maritime policy. These are: maritime surveillance, maritime spatial planning and a comprehensive source of data and information.

The consultation process illustrated just how fragmented national government activities are in the area of surveillance. The Commission advocates the gradual achievement of a comprehensive and integrated network of vessel-tracking and e-navigation systems for all coastal waters under the jurisdiction of Member States. This would provide a powerful tool for public agencies, including the coast guards, and would also provide an incentive for them to work ever more closely together. It could also extend to increased efficiency and safety, objectives that are never far from the minds of planners.

Maritime spatial planning systems for European coastal waters could regulate the deployment of economic activities, many of which have proved to be conflicting. It could provide economic operators with the much needed and often requested predictability for the planning of future investments. It will also be instrumental in delivering the commitments that derive from the Thematic Strategy on the Protection of the Marine Environment. In this regard, sea mapping programmes, along with the proposed Marine Observation and Data Network, can contribute to make maritime spatial planning a reality. The Commission will develop a roadmap in 2008 to facilitate the development of maritime spatial planning by Member States - a matter that will nevertheless remain firmly within their competence.

As for data and information, establishing an appropriate marine data and information infrastructure is of the utmost importance. The proposed Marine Observation and Data Network can bring together, from multiple sources, all the available data on the oceans and seas. This will allow for better use of existing data - both scientific and socio-economic, it will prevent duplication of effort and will allow such data to be made more widely available for better governance and decision-making. Gathering and making this data available will be a considerable undertaking, which will need to be developed over a period of years. Interdisciplinary scientific data and advice will not only prove indispensable for 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The sustainable development of sea-related activities is the central objective of the EU Maritime Policy. A healthy marine environment is a sine qua non to realizing the full potential of our oceans and seas. Tourism, shipping, fisheries, aquaculture and human exploitation all leave profound marks on the marine environment. Clearly, if these are developed carelessly this will threaten the very foundations upon which a substantial part of the wealth of Europe - and of its coastal regions - depends. We have a duty to protect the marine ecosystems and biodiversity which fall under our jurisdiction. However, this should not be seen solely as a necessary evil. It is a duty that we must fulfil and for which I am convinced we will be well-rewarded. To this end, it is very important that the EU Directive for the Protection of the Marine Environment is adopted very soon by the Council and the Parliament.

The other side of the sustainable development coin is economic growth and development. The sustainable development of traditional maritime activities, the undertaking of new activities based on biotechnologies, the seeking of alternative renewable sources of energy and the development of eco-environmental activities are all opportunities which should be explored.

A tool that could be useful for coastal regions is the creation of marine or maritime clusters. By developing integrated networks of enterprises, together with training and research institutes that specialise in marine or maritime activities, a particular region can attract business that might otherwise have gone elsewhere. While this of necessity requires careful planning, time and effort, experience has shown that clusters can produce remarkable results. The CPMR final contribution to the Green Paper cited several good examples of regional clusters already established in some of your member regions.

This brings me to another critical area of action of our maritime policy: the quality of life in coastal regions. Over the last decade population growth in coastal regions and islands has been double that of the EU average. Coastal regions are not only popular as a place of residence but are also the destination of the majority of tourists in Europe. They have a strategic importance for Europe as whole, due to their ports and to their maritime and tourism industries. However coastal regions are also particularly affected by climate change. Coastal risk management can therefore have dramatic impacts on their budgets and economies which makes the need to reconcile economic development, environmental sustainability and the quality of life particularly acute. Authorities of coastal regions have an important role to play with regard to the regulation of activities off their shores given their relevance to the quality of life of coastal communities. The Commission will work to optimise support for maritime projects in coastal regions and islands, under the range of community financing instruments available.

A third area of importance is the international dimension of the maritime policy. Strengthening maritime co-operation with EU neighbours is indispensable to the success of the Maritime Policy. Acting alone would be of little benefit when it comes to the use of shared marine areas and resources. This is particularly relevant with regard to the strategic role of the islands and outermost regions that give to the EU a presence in the vast maritime areas of the world. We need better integration of EU regional and development policies to foster maritime co-operation between the outermost regions and their African or Caribbean neighbours. This co-operation could touch upon a wide range of issues such as marine and maritime research and data collection, marine environmental surveys and protection, fishing, the monitoring of natural hazards, maritime surveillance, the management of migration flows and the fight against drug trafficking.

Last but not least, the maritime policy seeks to raise the visibility of maritime Europe. The consultation period has already been very useful in raising public awareness of the value of the maritime economy and heritage; and the process of developing an EU Maritime Policy is creating a sense of common purpose and identity between stakeholders. The celebration of an annual European Maritime Day will provide the occasion for appropriate events throughout the EU, including annual conferences on Europe’s maritime networks and a series of awards for innovative projects promoting cross-sectoral integration, raising the visibility of maritime affairs and promoting links between maritime heritage organisations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The new integrated maritime policy of the EU is an important policy development for the coastal regions of Europe. The adoption of the policy package last week is just the beginning of a whole new approach to Europe's Maritime dimension. We are just at the beginning. Let me just say that we are fully aware of your key role in the development of this integrated Maritime Policy. You have been strongly advocating the concept of maritime basins' governance. In this light, we have explicitly declared in our communication that regional authorities have an important role to play as coastal communities in the regulation of coastal and maritime activities. In our discussions with Member States, we will make sure this role is wholly taken into account, and in particular when we will propose a set of guidelines in 2008 for Member States' guidance in developing their own national integrated maritime policies.

I would also like to underline the fact that this integrated maritime policy process is itself providing a new focus on maritime affairs which is of benefit to us all. The ports policy adopted by the Commission this week, along with documents on the motorways of the sea and on the European maritime transport space without barriers, will bring with it the actions which you have been demanding, and which are needed to foster economic development in Europe's peripheral coastal regions.

A number of other initiatives, which implement the integrated maritime policy, have also been taken. A Communication on reviewing the regulatory social framework for more and better seafaring jobs in the EU was adopted on the same day as the maritime policy. Just two days ago, other related initiatives have been adopted, including a Communication on Sustainable Tourism, and another on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing. These are encouraging signs.

Allow me to conclude by repeating how important your work has been in order for the maritime dimension of Europe to form the subject, for the first time, of a real and long-term strategic approach. We would not have come this far without you. I know you will continue to play an active role as it is only in conjunction with each other that we can make the EU Maritime Policy come alive.

I look forward to continuing our work together.

Thank you.

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