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Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Ocean University of China
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Europeans have a rich maritime heritage. Much of this stems from the discoveries of courageous explorers who, centuries ago, left European shores to bring us knowledge of countries and continents which had until then been unknown. The oceans were their pathways and the newly-discovered lands, their prize.
Our planet, the source of much of our wealth and well-being has been described in a variety of ways. Mother Earth, Gaia or the Blue Marble to name but a few. It is interesting to note that in this latter term or in the words of Arthur Clarke, the well-known science-fiction author, the focus is on the fact that our planet should not really be called earth as it "...is quite clearly ocean".
For hundreds of years, the terrestrial space of our planet has been the subject of most of our attention. However, there seems to be a gathering consensus that the oceans and seas merit stronger focus. We are becoming more and more aware of their fragility and the joint responsibility we have to look after them. The United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea is the first tangible acknowledgement we have in the modern world of the importance of the oceans and seas to all. By their designation as part of the common heritage of mankind, we have been reminded of the importance of treating them with care.
This consciousness has triggered, in a number of countries around the globe such as Canada, the US, Japan, Portugal and Australia, interest in developing integrated marine policies. In a similar vein in China, it is your central National Oceans Administration that ensures the co-ordination of maritime policies.
The European Union has developed its own framework within which it too can take a coherent approach to the management of the oceans and seas - taking the form of the new Integrated Maritime Policy adopted earlier last month by the European Commission. The motive behind this mirrors what is happening at a global level
In recent years, it has become apparent that much of Europe’s very existence is dependant on the maritime sector. Many of the challenges we face are also in some way or another linked to the oceans and seas. A comprehensive and all-embracing approach has become increasingly necessary as it is clear that this is the only way to effectively deal with the new realities faced by Europe.
Allow me to give you a brief overview of just how important the maritime sector is to the European Union.
Europe is a large land mass. It has a coastline of up to 70,000 kilometres long which is four times longer than that of the Russia Federation and seven times that of the United States. Europeans own 40% of the world's container shipping fleet and 90% of our external trade passes through our 1,200 seaports. Maritime activities, without including the value of raw materials such as oil or fisheries and without including the revenue generated from maritime and coastal tourism, contribute 3 to 5% of Europe's GDP. Maritime activities, including maritime and coastal tourism, provide some 5 million jobs.
Fish forms a substantial proportion of our diet with 23kg of fish consumed on average per capita. 40% of the oil and 60% of the gas consumed in Europe is drilled offshore. Over 50% of Europe’s population lives within a 50 kilometre radius of the coast and a substantial proportion of our GDP stems from coastal tourism, which annually turns over 72 billion euros. Combined with the fact that a sizeable 60% of European citizens choose seaside holidays annually, Europe has the largest maritime and coastal tourism industry in the world.
However, looking at the other side of the coin, most of the challenges we face come in the form of environmental threats such as global warming and the effects of climate change. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to the changes that arise from the rising temperature of the planet including the resulting coastal erosion, more frequent and fiercer storms and other such phenomena. The need for new, renewable sources of energy, the need to pursue new forms of innovation and the necessity to respond to competition from different corners of the globe provide a host of other challenges that our policy-makers must also address.
Europe is also experiencing rapid growth in a number of sectors including maritime transport, where cruise shipping is growing at 11% per annum and container movement is likely to treble by 2020; tourism, where as I have indicated the annual turnover is already very sizeable; the use of wind power, where over 90% of world investment in offshore renewable energy is European; and shipbuilding, where Europe's shipbuilding industry is the largest in the world. While such growth and development is to be welcomed, it also means that our coastlines are increasingly coming under pressure. They are becoming more and more congested with activities vying with one another for space. And, more importantly, it also means that the marine environment is increasingly experiencing severe degradation.
For all these reasons it has become ever more urgent to have the right policy tools at our disposal. These have to be well-suited to the task at hand and developed in such a way that they take into account activities that are both complementary and potentially, competing.
I should now like to delve a little more deeply into the objectives of this policy in order to afford you a better insight as to what it is we are talking about.
Our first task was to ensure that this policy adds value to what already exists. We believe that it is the integrated approach to all the different sectors that in one way or another have a maritime dimension that is the real novelty in this policy. It is, if you like, a policy to link all others. Whether it is the environment, maritime transport, industry, energy, research, tourism, fisheries or job creation, there is a maritime dimension that must be dealt with coherently.
In order to maximise the possibilities of this happening, it was important that we set up an internal structure that could do this, already at the level of the Commission. I therefore chaired a Task Force of Commissioners, each of whom is responsible for a particular area of activity, such as Industry or Employment or Research or External Relations, to stimulate the development of ideas, to bring together the relevant services in charge of the various sectors and to ensure that coherence is already achieved at this early stage. This Task Force, and the Inter-services working group to which it gave rise, have been instrumental in ensuring that our work is both cross-cutting and far-reaching.
I think the proof of the effectiveness of this approach can be seen in the action plan that was adopted on the 10th October, on the same day as the Integrated Maritime Policy. A list of thirty actions was put forward, of which four have already seen the first steps taken. This is truly remarkable and is indicative of the level of commitment to this project. In fact, in the days that followed the adoption of the Maritime Policy, 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, a ports policy package which includes a discussion on the motorways of the sea and on a European maritime transport space without barriers, a Communication on Sustainable Tourism and another on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing, were also adopted.
By bringing various facets of Europe's maritime dimension together, the Integrated Maritime Policy also strives to contribute to one of Europe’s primary goals: that of securing growth and jobs in a way that is both effective and yet also sustainable. This is in keeping with the stated aims of the 2002 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development and the Commission’s own Strategy on Sustainable Development.
I believe that, although the challenges are great, we do have the necessary tools and implements at our disposal to reverse the degradation that has been experienced by the marine environment, to date. We must ensure that the economy and ecology do not work against each other but move in the same direction. This is not a zero-sum game – there are many opportunities just waiting to be discovered and which could be rewarding to entrepreneurs who think ‘green’ or outside the traditional box of doing business. I firmly believe that research, data-collection and -sharing and better co-ordination between parties can, and will also, make the difference.
As an institution that widely respects the principle of subsidiarity, which calls for decisions to be taken at the level closest to those it will impact, it is important to note that although what we are proposing is a Europe-wide Integrated Maritime Policy, the Commission will not always necessarily be in the driving-seat. Member states, regional governments and a wide variety of interested parties will have to play an active role in devising their own national maritime policies in order to make sure these are tailor-made to their specific needs. It is in our interest to encourage both this, and the active participation of all our partners as there is clearly no one-size-fits-all solution.
The Commission will only act where it can add value, in encouraging best practice and in steering things along a particular course. I believe some examples of what we have in mind will be of help here.
Spatial Planning is an important tool that the Commission will encourage in order to ensure that the development of economic activities on our coasts and seas can take place whilst respecting the topography, activities and the realities of the local environment. I have been told that a lot of work is being done on this here in China, and this is also true in the European Union. We would like to ensure that spatial planning is applied along converging lines, all across the EU, where for the moment it is only applied in some places and not in others, and where it is applied this is done completely independently of others. This will mean that compatible alternative models need to be identified and be made available to all to use as they see fit.
Marine research and knowledge are also crucial to the development of our maritime activities. Without data, crucial research cannot be carried out. Currently, the systems that collect and process data in the European Union are limited either in capacity or in time and are often not mutually reinforcing. We are proposing the development of a network - a Marine Observation and Data Network - to support the development of knowledge and research. Far from being an end in itself, this will also serve as a useful basis for decision-making.
Ports, for example, are essential to the smooth functioning of maritime transport. The development of an efficient network of ports is the backbone of a logistics system that supports our growing economies. However, air pollution from ships using these ports is taking on increasingly worrisome proportions. I know that maritime activities only account for about 12% of marine pollution and that CO2 emissions are low compared to road transport, but we must also recognise that nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions from shipping look likely to surpass those of land-based industries by 2020. This is an issue that needs to be addressed in the context of an integrated approach to maritime policy and port development. This is why we propose the elaboration of measures to encourage the use of shore-side electricity for ships berthing in EU ports, cleaner engines, the recycling of ballast water and the use of biodegradable material aboard ships and off-shore platforms.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This presentation of the new maritime policy would not be complete if I did not also shed some light on an important element that is an integral part of our approach. Although we are developing very specific actions to ensure that our policy has an immediate impact on the ground, it is important to realise that much of the benefit to be reaped from the Integrated Maritime Policy lies in the long term.
The consultation on a Maritime Policy for the Union raised a high level of awareness amongst European citizens of the need to take better care of our oceans. This has led our stakeholders to call for their direct involvement in the development, running and implementation of this policy. They have demonstrated that there are already many activities taking place and that they stand ready to bring all these activities together under a common umbrella, which will make Europe's Integrated Maritime Policy a living and evolving mechanism.
The title of my speech speaks of opportunities. If we can muster the will and ability to address the issues affecting our relations with seas and oceans, then we have already built for ourselves a number of new and exciting opportunities
With these opportunities of course, come responsibilities. Both the European Union and China have an interest in ensuring that the wealth of resources available in the oceans is managed sustainably. The international institutions that have been created to allow us to manage the oceans, in particular the United Nations and its organisations - the FAO, the IMO, the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Seabed Authority, have an important role to play and demand full commitment from the international community at large. The system of international rules that govern oceans and seas is the backbone for our activities. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the rules adopted by international bodies are implemented and respected. This requires work with our partners to convince and, where necessary, assist others to working with, and within, the international system.
Looking at specific examples that need international work, it is obvious that it makes little sense to spend time and effort on policy to enhance sustainable management of seas and oceans, including fisheries, if there is no compliance with the rules. Take the example of fisheries: control and enforcement is a priority in our work. If we want to achieve long-term sustainability, responsible fishing must be rewarded, while illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, so-called IUU fishing, must be firmly combatted, both in EU waters and beyond.
We believe that any policy against illegal fishing can only be efficient if it is based on a comprehensive approach that encompasses all activities linked to such practices: including harvesting, transhipment, processing, landing and trading. To this end, as I have already indicated, the Commission has issued a package of new measures aimed at eliminating illegal fishing activities by attacking the main incentive behind them: short-term profit. Our idea is to allow access to the EU market only to fisheries products that have been certified as legal by the concerned flag state or exporting state. A European blacklist of IUU vessels as well as trade measures against flag or exporting states which turn a blind eye to IUU activities should be set up, as well as deterrent sanctions against IUU activities in EU waters and against EU operators engaged in IUU activities anywhere in the world
The Commission also proposes to strengthen EU efforts in the international arena. Co-operation with our international partners, such as China, is of course a key element in these efforts to eliminate this threat to sustainability.
Another important issue with regard to international fisheries is the implementation of the Resolution on Destructive Fishing Practices adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at the end of last year. The EU played a leading role in promoting this Resolution and is fully committed to translate it into concrete and effective action. The European Commission, therefore, recently presented a strategy for protecting vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems from damaging fishing practices, while also proposing a ban on the use of harmful bottom gear by EU vessels in the high sea areas concerned.
I am pleased to see that regional fisheries organisations have been made responsible for implementing the UN Resolution in their respective areas of competence. The EU will continue its co-operation with our international counterparts, like China, to make sure that appropriate measures are taken by the regional organisations, and to implement interim arrangements to the same effect in those areas where such organisations have not yet been established.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has been a pleasure to give you this short overview of my work as the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.
Together with my colleagues, we are working to prepare the tools and policy instruments that will allow the European Union to face the challenges we will meet in the 21st century - challenges that we need to face in full co-operation with our partners, such as China.
We have an ocean of opportunity ahead of us and a new Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union to make the best possible use of it.