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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission

Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The South West of England's contribution to the EU Integrated Maritime Policy

Breakfast Meeting with Devon County Council VIPs
Exmouth, 28 April 2008.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The South West of England has been exemplary in the support and advice it provided us with as we prepared the EU’s new Integrated Maritime Policy. You not only hosted a conference to gather opinions as to what an integrated European Maritime Policy should look like but you also provided a carefully thought-out response to our consultation paper on the matter. It is good to be here amongst such a well-informed and committed audience.

The October 2007 Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the Union and the accompanying Action Plan, outline how an integrated maritime policy will be implemented over the coming years. I would like to expand on this today by explaining how we intend to do so and how this is likely to affect the South West. It is important for me to underline that we do not intend to slow down our consultation with important players in this field particularly now the policy is in place. It remains imperative that we listen to your views on the future.

Allow me, first, to say a few words about the policy itself.

The Action Plan that we adopted last year summarises all the steps that the Commission will take on an Integrated Maritime Policy until the end of 2009. In addition to the recently adopted marine environment directive which provides the environmental pillar of the policy, initiatives will be adopted to cover a broad spectrum of maritime activities including transport initiatives to improve ports, environmental measures to reduce the impact of emissions from ships, fisheries regulations to reduce illegal catches, research integration to stimulate innovation as well as measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Although they will be introduced in the framework of individual sectoral policies – transport, fisheries, environment, etc. – these varied measures will benefit from improved coordination between the different services of the Commission. This improved coordination comes as a direct result of a better understanding of how closely related different component parts of the maritime sector really are.

Within my own ambit of responsibility, the Commission's Directorate-General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs has now been renamed the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to place more emphasis on the broader maritime dimension of our work. It is organised in regional directorates – each focusing on particular geographical or maritime areas, in order to look more closely at the relevant issues in an integrated manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The six key messages that you provided in your contribution to the consultation provided much food for thought. I will take these one by one.

Firstly, you suggested in your contribution that maritime development should take place within environmental limits. You pointed to the success of the Bathing Water and Water Framework Directives in improving water quality.

I trust therefore that you favoured the adoption in December 2007 by the European Parliament and Council of a common text for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which aims to achieve environmentally healthy marine waters by 2020. Just as the Water Framework Directive provides for integrated management in a particular catchment area, the new Directive will aim to implement action plans on a regional or sub-regional scale. The South West of England borders two such regions - the Greater North Sea (which includes the English Channel) to the south and the Celtic Sea to the north. This will entail co-operation with France to the south and Ireland to the north.

I am aware that there is already a fair amount of regional collaboration in place - for instance the Espace Manche Development Initiative in the English Channel - to promote an integrated approach to the management of maritime activities in maritime basins. Such initiatives are commendable. This concept of collective responsibility and regional trans-boundary identity lies at the heart of the maritime policy and is something I will come back to.

Environmental risks caused by shipping are a particular concern in seas around South West England. Although the English Channel is already the busiest seaway in the world, we expect that this will simply increase further as global trade continues to grow. The setting up of a European Maritime Safety Agency in 2002 was a milestone that demonstrated the Commission's commitment to reducing loss of life and pollution of the marine environment. Similar efforts will continue.

The second point you raised concerns the need for an effective planning process in order to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable exploitation, to underpin development and to allow for stakeholder consultation.

Nearly all the stakeholders considered that maritime spatial planning was needed. This was the issue raised most often in our consultations – both by elected representatives of coastal communities and by those running businesses using the maritime space: port authorities, aquaculture producers and the like, whose expansion or diversification is often blocked because of long delays in licensing procedures. We have discussed the UK Marine Bill with your Government and believe that its proposals go a long way towards meeting the needs of those who are disadvantaged by the present system.

The establishment of a cross-sectoral Marine Management Organisation and a "one project-one licence" approach will certainly allow for a more predictable system whereby businesses will have clearer and more effective channels for the resolution of potential conflicts between competing interests.

I believe that the EU can add value to any national measures implemented along these lines in four ways.

Firstly, under our Framework Research Programme, we have issued calls for proposals to provide knowledge that will underpin the planning process. The future EU marine research strategy will address the need to better understand the cumulated impact of maritime activities on marine ecosystems with a view to: guide policy makers on maritime zoning, the optimal coexistence of different maritime activities and the set-up of networks of marine protected areas.

Secondly we aim to encourage the development of processes to promote collective decision making in those sea regions defined by the Marine Strategy Directive. One way will be to build upon initiatives like the Espace Manche Development Initiative.

Thirdly, in 2009, the Commission will set up a system for the exchange of best practice among authorities on maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management. This will include special events and internet-based communication tools to allow authorities to see what others are doing and learn from their experience.

Lastly we intend to set up a common infrastructure to improve the collection of marine data at an EU level. National laboratories currently spend much time and effort collecting data, the compilation of which is hampered by restrictive access policies as well as a lack of agreed standards and formats. There are also often data collection gaps which hinder the coherent study of climate change and its consequences. A high-level group of experts is being set up to look into ways to improve the situation and a road map to this end will be issued in the second half of this year.

As well as underpinning maritime spatial planning, the Commission believes that easier access to marine data will open up new economic opportunities for high technology commercial enterprises in the maritime sector, improve the efficiency of public institutions and significantly reduce the current uncertainty about global environmental change.

Your third message was the need to provide a focus for innovative collaboration. You gave some good examples of where this approach is working in the south west such as the Dorset Coast Forum, the Devon Maritime Forum and the South West Climate Change Impacts Partnership. The Commission position is that an integrated approach to maritime affairs is to be encouraged at all levels of governance – from national to regional to local. We aim to encourage such ventures through measures like these examples, that promote the spread of good practice.

Specific thought is being given to maritime clusters, which are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions such as: end producers, suppliers, service providers, research laboratories and educational institutions. Maritime Plymouth, in its response to our stakeholder consultation, indicated the need to raise the skills level of local businesses. Clusters have a particular role in identifying needs and providing small and medium enterprises with access to research and technology. The Commission's statistical service, Eurostat, is currently engaged in developing indicators that will provide these clusters with better knowledge of the local maritime economy.

Your fourth message was to identify the environment as an economic driver. Indeed this has been a common concern of many coastal communities. Those dependent on tourism, or fishing, have expressed anxiety about the over-exploitation of resources and the need to replace quantity with quality. The Commission wholly approves of such an approach. The Commission issued a Communication on the ecosystem approach to fisheries a few weeks ago and will launch a study on maritime tourism later on this year.

Particular attention will be placed on the seas' potential to help Europe meet its targets for renewable energy. Offshore wind farms can offer two main advantages over their land based versions – stronger winds and less disturbance to the landscape. We have seen the ambitious plans of your government for a third round of offshore wind farm developments, which are well suited to the particular topography of this part of England and believe that this will not only be beneficial to the environment in terms of a low carbon economy but can also provide a strong stimulus to an industry with good export prospects.

The South West of England demonstrates favourable conditions for other forms of renewable energy as well. It is also notable for the commitments you have made to promote the full-scale testing of innovative new ideas. We believe your Wave Hub is an excellent example of an investment that will drive innovation, promote jobs and contribute towards meeting Europe's targets on renewable energy and carbon emissions.

Currently a cross-departmental working group in the Commission is seeing what can be done at a European level to promote these renewable energy developments. We are looking at research funding, distribution networks, cross-border cooperation and the implications for maritime spatial planning.

Your fifth message concerned integrating all Community measures in order to deliver a strong integrated EU policy on marine protection. Aside from what I have already mentioned, the Commission fully supports your enthusiasm for small ports and short-sea shipping as an alternative to road transport. Shipping results in fewer carbon emissions and less energy consumption per tonne-km than any form of land transport. It is clear that distributing goods through ports that are close to their final destination will result in less road transport with all its attendant problems of noise, pollution and congestion.

Specific measures are being planned to reduce paperwork for vessels carrying goods between EU ports. Currently these journeys are treated as international voyages and vessels must clear customs although a truck travelling between the same two countries does not. The Commission is currently investigating the cost of this in terms of lost time and administrative costs and aims to come up with a proposal by the end of 2008 for a European Space for Maritime Transport without barriers.

This is an example of the Commission's determination to simplify legislation and reduce the administrative burden.

Furthermore, in view of the commonly held perception that the EU itself is responsible for many of these burdens, our consultation Paper asked stakeholders how the regulatory framework for the maritime economy could be improved to avoid unintended and contradictory impacts on maritime goals. Somewhat to our surprise, although there were several general complaints and much encouragement for simplification, few specific examples were provided.

This appears to suggest that either stakeholders were not in a position to carry out the work required to provide us with such examples, or that the EU is, after all, not quite the generator of useless bureaucracy that it is sometimes perceived to be. In any case, rest assured that we shall continue to seek your views and opinions on this point.

Finally, the sixth message received from you was about identifying how regions can best use existing Commission instruments to deliver a European maritime vision. It also relates to opening the debate on new instruments post-2013.

You pointed out that the regions which make up Europe's 70,000 kilometres of coast have very little say in the way the sea space between them is managed and that interregional programmes such as the Espace Manche Development Initiative have demonstrated how cooperation funding can help to deliver a strategic vision.

Collective responsibility for maritime regions is a concept that is increasingly being felt in all EU policies. I can just mention three here: the Marine Strategy Framework Directive for the environment, the Regional Advisory Councils for fisheries and the Motorways of the Sea for transport. For the first time the objective of territorial cohesion has been introduced into regional policy alongside the existing objective of economic and social cohesion. The Commission is working to translate such a concept into reality. This will include firstly a greater commitment to ensure the coherence of individual policies at a regional level and secondly the development of shared responsibility for managing a common space.

A Green Paper will be issued this autumn on the territorial cohesion concept. It will provide indications as to how regional funding can support these objectives and it will open the debate for input from stakeholders.

I would like to conclude by thanking you again for the constructive and useful input that you have provided to the EU's new Integrated Maritime Policy.

And I very much look forward to continuing to work with you.

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