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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

An integrated Maritime Policy for the Union: taking steps to turn our common project into reality

Ministerial Conference on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union
Lisbon, Portugal, 22 October 2007

Dear Ministers,

Distinguished Members of the European Institutions,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Integrated Maritime Policy adopted by the Commission last week is a significant milestone along our journey towards achieving a coherent approach to the management of Europe's oceans and seas.

The Commission's Integrated Maritime Policy is the fruit of two years of intensive work. Along the way, we have had the help of many, be it from regional associations, other European institutions, interested organisations and the public in general. We have also had the support of many of you and for this I would like to thank you. This came from our meetings with you both in Council formations and directly from your experts in the advice they have provided through the Maritime Policy Task Force.

I would not be exaggerating if I said that the support we have received and the quality of the advice we have been given have far exceeded our expectations. I would therefore like to re-iterate my thanks to all of you, and to the preceding Finnish and German Presidencies, not to mention the current Portuguese one, for the strong support received. I would in fact, like to single out the Portuguese Presidency in particular, as they have endorsed our efforts from the outset and worked closely with us to bring this file to fruition.

This High Level encounter that we are all attending today is yet more proof of their full commitment.

It not only comes at an opportune time, close on the heels of the launch of the Integrated Maritime Policy. It is also fortuitous that it takes place in Lisbon, capital of one of Europe's greatest maritime nations.

Dear Colleagues,

Despite our long-standing maritime heritage in Europe, or maybe because of it, we have now reached a point where we need to look forward. We need to turn our words into action if we want to meet the expectations of our stakeholders. Through our numerous discussions we have found unequivocal justification and convincing motives to look at the oceans and seas in an integrated, coherent and all-embracing manner. Whichever way we turn, there is a maritime dimension to every major issue facing Europe today, be it energy, climate change, innovation, international competitiveness, job creation, environmental protection, trade, transport and so on.

Therefore the first and most important element of the new policy is the part that deals with an integrated approach. Indeed, it is the integrated aspect of the EU's new maritime policy that is at the core of our efforts. This is not only where I believe the true added value of this policy lies, it is also the one thing that will make our current individual policy-making efforts come together more effectively.

This will be no mean feat.

Policy-making in Europe has by and large been terrestrial in its focus and more often than not, sector-specific. This meant that we were rather more focused on finding acceptable compromises between policies than finding the commonalities that can deliver synergies and maximise the results of our policy-making. It is only a complete re-thinking of the manner in which we decide, plan and implement our policies, both at a European and at a local level that can make the difference.

The important role played by the oceans and seas is becoming more widely acknowledged the world over. It is in fact already being addressed by others, in particular by some of our OECD partners such as the US, Canada, Australia or Norway. The fact that State Secretary Lind from Norway is here with us today is most opportune. I am sure we will be able to get new insights as to how a maritime approach is working in Norway.


I would, in fact, like to underline that our attempts to implement an Integrated Maritime Policy are not new. There are others who already have experience of this and with whom we have exchanged ideas. In much the same way as these countries have discovered, it would be unwise - indeed short-sighted - for the EU to operate in the numerous policy areas of relevance today, without taking account of the potential and the impact of maritime affairs.

I am pleased therefore that the College of Commissioners unanimously approved a policy 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 all of these, bringing the different strands together to treat them as an interrelated whole. This is a policy that will feed from, and into, other Community policies as can already be seen in, for instance, the EU's 7th Framework Research Program or in the EU's new program on Regions for Economic Change.

Dear Colleagues,

Finding joint solutions is at the heart of our Integrated Maritime Policy. As President Barroso mentioned earlier, joint solutions are particularly needed to stimulate economic growth and jobs whilst simultaneously preventing environmental degradation. We need to be able to move to the stage where one can be decoupled from the other.

Our oceans’ sustainability is today a serious concern for scientists and the public at large. We all recognise the central importance of the oceans as the world’s climate regulator. We should therefore be aware that the possible effects of climate change may turn the ocean from a source of income into a source of risk.

As the basis for all maritime activities, the oceans and seas need to be sustained. We therefore cannot ignore that, along with ever-more intense economic and leisure uses, the oceans and seas are increasingly coming under more and more pressure. I know that currently maritime activities only account for about 12% of marine pollution and that CO2 emissions are low compared to road transport. However, due to fast growth in the sector, there are forecasts which unequivocally state that nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions from shipping are likely to surpass those of land-based industries by 2020.

Despite the inherent tensions between the economy and ecology, I believe that prosperity and jobs can go hand in hand with preserving the marine environment. To achieve this, we must tap into new technologies and innovation that can make the two sit comfortably side-by-side. We can already see a number of encouraging signs as an increasing number of operators assume responsibility for the future of the oceans and seas by applying innovative technology on board their ships.

It is that combination of being both willing and able that can render the economy and ecology mutually reinforcing: cleaner engines, recycling of ballast water and biodegradable material are increasingly being employed on board ships and off-shore platforms. Taking this one step further through eco-innovation, we find that businesses can also actually reap benefits - through new market development or reduced costs - from protecting the environment.

An integrated policy needs therefore to be underpinned by an eco-system approach. The impact on our environment from increasing economic activities along our shores cannot, and should not, be pinned down to individual causes and effects. It is the eco-system as a whole - and our interaction with it - that needs to be the basis for the environmental and sustainability aspects of our new policy.

Again, it is an integrated approach to maritime policy that provides the obvious answer. It is not a strategy for economic growth. Nor is it a strategy for the protection of the marine environment. It is a strategy for both.


Before I conclude, there are two further points that I should like to make. These concern stakeholder participation and the principle of subsidiarity.

First: stakeholder participation. As you are aware, the consultation process has been a success. I attribute much of this success to the fact that those with a stake in the maritime sector answered our call for ideas, innovative solutions and new methods with vigour and enthusiasm. That short time of dialogue has shown us the extent to which stakeholders feel called to action by this initiative. Europe's regions and regional stakeholders have given us example after example of best practices in their areas and they have rightly claimed their ownership of this new Integrated Maritime Policy.

Given this immense response, I have grown more convinced of the fact that the very principle of an integrated approach by definition also means: the integration of all those with an interest in the maritime sector. I believe that the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union will become a reality because every single concerned European citizen has a stake in it. By extension, so too therefore, has each and every level of government.

And now to the subsidiarity principle, which is the logical next step. The European Commission sees itself as a facilitator and catalyst of the maritime policy. We are here to develop ideas, to make proposals, to set guidelines and to encourage the use of best practice. Yet, our primary goal in all of this, is to make sure that all concerned come together to develop among, and for, themselves the tools to take their maritime interests forward. We will be on hand to make sure that these approaches and tools dovetail into an integrated EU policy; to make sure that the best of these make it to the light of day.

Dear Colleagues,

This new emerging European policy is not only about applying an integrated approach to the way we work. With this strategy the Commission has also put forward an extensive plan of action detailing the work we have ahead. Some of these actions are:

  • to work towards better regulation of maritime transport, to help create a true barrier-free European Maritime Transport Space, truly enlarging our internal market to Europe's seas and oceans.
  • to understand the critical role of ports in domestic and international trade driving economic growth in Europe and to propose an overall strategy for EU ports, including guidelines for the application of environmental legislation to their development.
  • to launch a European Strategy for Marine Research and a commitment to excellence in scientific research, technology and innovation, to help exploit business opportunities and new uses of the sea such as exploration and exploitation of non living resources, renewable energies, offshore aquaculture, blue biotech and emerging sub-sea technologies.
  • to examine how EU funding can best reinforce sustainable growth - and boost prosperity both in Europe's coastal regions and in remote and disadvantaged regions such as the outermost regions.
  • to deploy strengths in combating climate change, through research and innovation and through sophisticated planning for our vulnerable coastlines.
  • to foster more environmentally friendly shipping by reducing pollution and CO2 emissions from ships, to promote ecosystem-based fisheries and eliminate destructive and pirate fishing practices.
  • to develop new maritime planning tools, data networks and horizontal co-ordination to support better decision-making for marine spaces and coastal areas, and,
  • to pool our multiple surveillance systems to ensure international compliance and law enforcement of the rules in Europe's waters.

Allow me now to express what we envisage as the right way forward. Let me do so by taking one example. I am not here to tell you that you must have a maritime spatial planning system, or to dictate to you how to do it in your own waters. My main message to you – and this is one that is supported by many stakeholders - is that maritime spatial planning is an important tool if we want the integrated approach to maritime policy to succeed. We will reflect and study, in full transparency and cooperation with all of you, the possibilities and options that exist in order to arrive at our ultimate objective: that of seeing spatial planning in the waters under the jurisdiction of our Member States. It will be up to each Member State to do this, but we will be available to help facilitate this by bringing people together and disseminating experiences.

We have also promised that we will be providing guidance on the development of Member States' national approaches to maritime policy next year. I think that this important undertaking can be built on the exchange of best practices and the identification of those elements that are central to the development of coherent approaches. Many actions and measures have already been taken at national level. We can learn from these different experiences.

Finally, we will be backing maritime clusters and regional centres of maritime excellence to raise Europe's competitiveness, particularly among the smaller and medium enterprises that are such an important part of Europe's high-tech maritime industries. We will also work to improve the attractiveness of maritime careers.

Our success will depend on the work that can be done by all of us together.

Here lies the challenge and the opportunity of our EU Integrated Maritime Policy. We want to turn this into a common project, a partnership, in which all of us are equally involved and equally able to face up to the challenges ahead.

I would like to here echo President Barroso in calling for your support for the discussion of our policy at the European Council at the end of this year. This support will be a crucial step in turning our common project into reality.

I look forward to our discussions today and to our work that lies in these exciting, new times ahead of us.

Thank you.

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