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Dr. Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission

Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

An integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union

Pacem in Maribus Conference XXXII: "Waves of change, women, youth and sea"
Malta, 5 November 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and an honour for me to participate in your conference today exactly forty years after the oceans were recognised as forming part of the common heritage of mankind.

This is also an auspicious occasion as we, in the European Union, are also setting out along the course charted by those, such as Arvid Pardo and Elizabeth Mann Borghese who accorded the oceans and seas their due recognition.

It is in fact less than a month ago that the European Commission launched an Integrated Maritime Policy for Europe in which, for the first time, the EU explicitly recognises that an integrated approach is needed for the seas and oceans. The origins of this argument lie in the fact that there is a maritime dimension to virtually every major issue facing Europe today be it: climate change, job creation, international competitiveness, trade, transport, energy, environmental protection and so on. This means that whichever way one turns, one can see evidence of the strong links that exist between these sectors. It also means that the solutions to many of these issues are likely to be found within, or in conjunction with, one or many of the others.

Given this reality and the fact that we believe that looking at our oceans and seas in a coherent manner is the start of something new and exciting for Europe's maritime future, we have captioned our new approach "an ocean of opportunity."

I do not mean to suggest by this, that the EU has not taken note of maritime issues so far. Clearly this is not the case. EU policies already exist in a number of maritime sectors such as fisheries or shipping, and the maritime dimension is already partially covered by separate policies on trade, the environment, regional development and employment. However, what is new about this initiative is that it represents the first attempt by Europe to truly deal with all aspects of maritime affairs in a strategic, comprehensive and integrated manner.

Some, and, in particular, many of you who have dedicated so much of your lives to pacem in maribus, may wonder why the EU has only arrived at this conclusion now. The International Ocean Institute has, for one, proclaimed the need to look at the ocean as a whole for decades. Other organisations and meetings have also called for an integrated approach to ocean affairs.

The EU however is not a single entity or a single decision-making body. As you are aware it is made up of a number of institutions that share decision-making in the three primary bodies of the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. It is also fair to say that the EU itself, is constantly in a process of change. There are times when the pace at which the EU operates must, of necessity, be slow and other times where renewed vigour and impetus allows it to forge ahead with new initiatives.

I believe that we are now on the edge of an upswing. As a result of the agreement reached on the Reform Treaty a couple of weeks ago, the EU is able to move forward on a number of substantive policies with renewed vigour and focus. Given this, the timing and approach of our new maritime strategy, is ideal.

Our strategy also represents, for the first time in the Community's history, an opportunity to bring a wide-range of competences together in a collective and collaborative approach. This means, that not only will natural relationships be emphasised in hitherto unlinked sectors, it also means that previously unconnected areas will obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of each other.

For this to succeed, policy-makers will depend on the ever-wider involvement of stakeholders. Now that Member States and the EU institutions are free from the emotive discussions of internal reform, I have every confidence that they, together with our other partners, will be able to embrace this opportunity with open arms. Most of those who were consulted during the year-long discussions that we had on the Green Paper which served as a precursor to this Integrated Maritime Policy, were vocal in their support for this coherent approach to maritime affairs.

This is a new European policy. However, insofar as the oceans and seas know no borders, the policy that we are bringing to fruition will also serve the global community. In fact, the design of policies in the service of mankind at large is becoming increasingly necessary in the face of new threats such as global warming and climate change. Add to these the challenges of depleted ecosystems and damaged marine environments, rising sea-levels, flooding in coastal areas, coastal erosion, hurricanes and other severe storms, and one is faced with a series of very difficult, longer-term questions about the health of the entire planet.

Rather than shying away from finding the solutions necessary, the European Commission is building the necessary capacity to meet these myriad challenges. With the launch of the new Integrated Maritime Policy we are saying that not only do we believe the challenges can be met, but also that these can be turned into opportunities if only we can take the right steps forward.

In this, there are many parallels between your own approach and ours.

We share your deep concern for the oceans' sustainability. We share a determination to tackle the problems and, as I have just indicated, we also share confidence in our ability to find the right solutions.

In addition to the principle of sustainability which you strongly advocate and which we unreservedly support, I notice that a number of the themes you are dealing with during this conference are common to key elements of the Integrated Maritime Policy. Your focus here on the central role to be played by women and youth, matches the prominence we have given to the social dimension of maritime policy, to the emphasis we have placed on the quality of life in coastal regions and to the importance of education, training and personal engagement in maritime affairs.

Our maritime strategy is centred on finding the right balance between policies aimed at the goals of prosperity, preserving the environment and enhancing the social dimension of maritime industries. No one goal should be achieved at the expense of the others, given that within the single vision that the maritime strategy offers, they are mutually dependent and can be fully complementary. In our view, any maritime development will only be sustainable, if it allows people whose work or lives depend on the oceans and seas, to share in the benefits of the European social model.

This is why we have focused on improving the quality of life in coastal regions through the strengthening of careers and the improvement of employment in the maritime sectors. This applies to areas as diverse as sustainable maritime tourism through to high-tech marine engineering and research, and includes traditional sectors such as fisheries and shipping.

In order to enhance life in coastal regions, part of what we are aiming to do is to promote local and regional maritime clusters, bringing together not only different enterprises, but also different sectors and different stakeholders in the European maritime community, to develop synergies between their activities. Regional authorities have repeatedly told us of their desire to concentrate on attracting new, vertically- or horizontally-integrated businesses to their areas in order to build such clusters.

This ranges from increased economic activity in Europe's regions to better connections between related businesses, increased scope for research and technology, to the strengthening of employment through targeted training and better mobility. Clusters have already proved to yield beneficial results that contribute enormously to better quality and higher standards for European maritime products and services. They also help to integrate the maritime economy better into such regions.

Clusters can also boost employment and the sustainability of the maritime economy overall and can help areas that have long depended on declining traditional activities to move into new sectors that have a potential for growth. Success will depend largely on innovative action by stakeholders - and by this I do not mean that the onus is on large-scale or high-tech industries to provide new jobs and opportunities. It is also up to the individuals and the communities who have a stake in life at sea and in coastal regions, to play their part.

We recognise that women are currently under-represented in maritime related sectors. We see opportunities, however, in promoting the increased participation of women hand in hand with the evolution in the nature and the diversity of maritime professions. Coastal and maritime tourism, spatial planning, marine research and data management are just some of the many examples of fields in which women can easily become more involved.

A recently-commissioned study by the EU into the role of women in the fisheries sector throws interesting light on the challenges and opportunities facing women. It found that women are paid less than men for the same work; are often made to feel unwelcome in seafaring activities such as fishing; and also feel somewhat discriminated against in aquaculture. As a result, women constitute only 3% of the workforce in these areas. Women are, however, over-represented in the seafood processing sector, yet this work unfortunately holds few career prospects for them.

However all is not doom and gloom. In the better-compensated fields of fisheries management and administration, women have made significant inroads, particularly in the public sector - and there are a number of women-managed aquaculture activities. The role of women as a support to seagoing spouses is largely undervalued although the study does consider that there is potential for women's positions, in the fisheries sector, to improve as co-managers of family businesses and community-based inshore fisheries. The study recommends action to assist women to take a more prominent role, bettering their skills-set through courses on management, the use of IT and the setting-up of networks for shore-based women

In the European Commission we will reflect further upon the ideas contained in this report, even if our strategy targets the strengthening of careers and employment right across the maritime sector, beyond the specific, albeit extremely important, aspects of gender and of age. The Integrated Maritime Policy also aims to exploit the links between policy areas as diverse as transport, fisheries and education.

Insofar as youth are concerned, you have highlighted the role of today's young people as the leaders of tomorrow. The sustainable development of the maritime sector will depend on its ability to attract these leaders of tomorrow - both women and men – to form part of a highly-qualified and high quality workforce. We see a major role for education and training, at many levels. Like Pacem in Maribus and the International Ocean Institute, we are turning our attention increasingly towards curriculum development, teacher training, capacity-building and training partnerships, in a bid to create quality jobs in the maritime sector.

Improving the working conditions at sea takes on particular importance in this respect. We are proposing actions to make seafaring a more attractive profession and, because the human element is a key factor in maritime safety and the protection of the environment, we are also proposing that this should be reflected in the training and certification of seafarers and in the provision of suitable labour conditions for those working on board ships.

One specific project we have put forward and which has received wide support, including from Member States, is the development of a Certificate of Maritime Excellence to enhance the skills and competences of seafarers. More broadly, it is hoped that this initiative will maintain a flow of highly competent personnel to the shipping industry and related maritime clusters. In this regard, fishing deserves special attention, given that it is one of the most dangerous professions. Regulations affecting fishermen’s work at sea, need, therefore, to be reviewed, if this situation is to be improved. A Communication designed to review the regulatory social framework for more and better seafaring jobs in the EU was adopted on the same day as the maritime policy package and so work is already proceeding apace on this.

Closer links with EU Member States, social partners, maritime clusters and maritime academic institutions will also make it possible to boost the status of seafaring careers. It will also provide young Europeans with more attractive prospects for a life-long career in such maritime clusters. Crucially, this approach can facilitate mobility between sea- and land-based jobs, including in navigation, engineering and electronics.

We are also aiming to upgrade our information about education, training, employment and other vital elements of socio-economic data on the maritime economy and in coastal regions. This will be supported by a Maritime Research Strategy which will need to be developed to support specialised infrastructure, research vessels, databases, information management, education and capacity-building as well as advanced technologies that can usefully be applied.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the important work started by Arvid Pardo and Elisabeth Mann Borghese, and continued by all of you, the importance of the oceans is not yet widely or fully understood. In order to address this, another of the objectives of the Integrated Maritime Policy is to raise the visibility of Maritime Europe. We have decided to plan an annual European Maritime Day which will bring together high-profile events, award ceremonies, and awareness campaigns on maritime careers and on Europe's maritime heritage. This will allow us to maintain contact with our stakeholders, promote networking among groups and re-affirm stakeholder commitment.

We are also planning to produce a European Atlas of the Seas. We have found that although much information is available about Europe's oceans and seas and about maritime activities, this tends to be located in different repositories. By bringing it all together in a form that would allow the general public easy access, those interested in the sea, and in particular, young people can get to know more about the maritime world.

Making our maritime past and present more visible will help raise a generation of citizens for whom an integrated approach to maritime policy is self-evident. In so doing, it will also increase the awareness of the importance of sustainability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The vision of Pacem in Maribus has served to pioneer and advance the cause of the sustainable governance of the oceans for years. It has inspired and mobilised many into action for the creation of effective solutions. It has also brought the realities faced by the oceans and seas to our attention in a way that we can no longer sit back and watch.

We expect the Integrated Maritime Policy to allow us to fully play our part towards achieving the objective of well-managed oceans and seas that can offer to mankind a sustainable source of prosperity.

I wish you every success with your conference and augur that more and more will join us on this quest.

Thank you.

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