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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Building a common vision of the oceans and seas

Address to the Portuguese Parliament's National Defence Committee on Portugal and the Sea
Lisbon, 15th May 2008

Honourable President of the Portuguese National Parliament

Honourable President of the National Parliament's Defence Committee

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank you for your invitation to address this gathering organised by the Parliament's National Defence Committee. It is a pleasure and an honour to be here.

The sea has played a determining role in the history of Portugal. It is an integral part of your national identity - underlined over the centuries by the achievements of great mariners such as Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Bartholomew Dias and Henry the Navigator. It is also a critical part of your future.

Portugal enjoys a long-standing relation with the sea that serves it well as a member of the European Union. The past few years have been ones of rapid change at the European level which Portugal has witnessed at close quarters. It is fitting therefore that the latest European Treaty was signed here in Lisbon last December.

The new treaty provides the EU with new and modern methods of work that are essential to face the challenges of today's world. The Lisbon Strategy has made boosting jobs and growth a priority. For my part, I believe that a new and Integrated Maritime Policy, the focus of my contribution today, can contribute to these goals. As a dynamic and ever-growing sector of the European economy, where in many cases Europe is a world leader, the maritime sector is a natural venue wherein to channel our energies to boost Europe’s prosperity.

Portugal has produced similar thinking for a while now.

Indeed it is one of the few EU member states that has, not only, developed an integrated maritime strategy at a national level but that has inspired and supported the Commission to do the same at an EU level. This has given rise to a mutual understanding and a close working relationship between Portugal and the EU.

We all agree that the oceans and seas are a fundamental part of our past. We also know that they are crucial to our well-being both now and in the future. They serve as the world's climate regulator, as a source of well-being and as a place where we live, work and enjoy ourselves.

Europeans own 40% of the world's container shipping fleet and 90% of our external trade passes through 1,200-odd European 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 between 3 and 5% of Europe's GDP. Maritime activities, including maritime and coastal tourism, also provide some 5 million jobs.

This is the thriving sector we are talking about.

However, in much the same way that other sectors face threats so too does the maritime sector.

These come mainly 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. We are also constantly on the look out for new, renewable sources of energy. And we tend to seek out new and different ways of doing things in order to respond to the ever-present competition coming from different corners of the globe.

Taken together, this has often meant that we have exploited the oceans and seas in an unsustainable manner leaving adverse effects on marine biodiversity in our wake.

It is clear that the oceans and seas need to be sustained. They are the basis of so many maritime activities that we cannot possibly ignore the increasing pressure being placed on them.

I am pleased to say that it is not just a few thinkers, or the European Commission alone, or a member state here and there, who feel this way. Stakeholders, from across a wide variety of interests and all walks of life, agree that something must be done.

There has been a call for a new form of co-ordinated action – a call to find answers to the many complex challenges we are facing through an integrated maritime policy that emphasises joined-up policy-making across all levels of governance. The vision behind this embraces the many and diverse maritime interests that exist. It is a vision that seeks to achieve a balance between them and to ensure that new synergies are created across the board. The idea is to allow Europe to maximise the benefits to be derived from our marine resources, while protecting them for the future – to make the whole greater than the sum of each individual part.

I will briefly recall the steps that led to the adoption of that policy.

In 2005, at the beginning of this Commission’s mandate, President Barroso asked me to set-up a new Maritime Affairs Task Force with the aim of launching a wide consultation process. This led to the publication of the Commission's Green Paper on a future maritime policy in June 2006, which provided an overview of the principal aspects that an integrated maritime policy should take into account. The Green Paper also triggered a wide-ranging, year-long consultation exercise.

Throughout this period there was an unprecedented focus on all aspects of maritime affairs. Literally thousands of stakeholders - including businesses, NGOs, fishermen, trade unions, sailors, professional associations, Europe's regions and the marine scientific community - were involved in providing their views on what a maritime policy could and should achieve.

Portugal actively participated in this process from the start.

As a result of the widespread support that was forthcoming, the Commission proceeded to approve a policy that would deliver exactly what the EU had lacked thus far: a single vision of the oceans and the seas.

We did this through the publication of what we like to call a Blue Paper which proposed an Integrated Maritime Policy for the Union and which was accompanied by a plan listing actions that would allow this policy to become a reality. This was adopted by the Commission in October.

I am indebted to the Portuguese Presidency, who in the second half of last year, helped in many ways. Its crucial work which included the organisation of a Ministerial Conference in Lisbon in October, led to the smooth adoption of this new policy in December by the European Council.

What will this new Integrated Maritime Policy seek to achieve in practical terms, however?

First of all, the very creation of an Integrated Maritime Policy is already a significant milestone along our journey towards achieving a coherent approach to the management of Europe's oceans and seas.

Its aim is to bring together different maritime strands and to treat them as an inter-related whole.

This in turn will be complemented by a set of common tools which can serve to create synergies between different sectoral policies and different economic actors. This is designed to ensure that the inherent tensions that exist between the economy and ecology, between competing activities for space along the seashore, between meeting the competition from abroad whilst simultaneously maintaining standards, can be eliminated. We need to be able to move away from the notion that one thing can only be achieved at the expense of another.

In practical terms, this translates into an extensive plan of action detailing the work we have ahead. Some of these actions include:

  • working towards the better regulation of maritime transport, to help create a barrier-free European Maritime Transport Space, truly enlarging our internal market to Europe's seas and oceans.
  • Understanding the critical role of ports in domestic and international trade and proposing an overall strategy for EU ports. This may, for example, include guidelines for the application of environmental legislation to their development.
  • Amongst these actions we also find the launch of a European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research and a commitment to excellence in scientific research, technology and innovation. In this way, we hope to help businesses to exploit 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.
  • We also want to examine how EU funding can best reinforce sustainable growth and boost prosperity in Europe's coastal regions and in remote and possibly disadvantaged regions such as the outermost regions.
  • We hope to deploy strengths in combating climate change, through research and innovation and through sophisticated planning for our vulnerable coastlines.
  • We hope 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.
  • We also wish to develop new maritime planning tools, data networks and horizontal co-ordination to support better decision-making for marine spaces and coastal areas, and,
  • Finally, we want to pool our multiple surveillance systems to ensure international compliance and law enforcement of the rules in Europe's waters.

To foster the implementation of our vision for maritime policy at the Community level, the action plan proposes tools like the co-ordination of maritime surveillance, the facilitation of maritime spatial planning and a comprehensive and accessible set of data and information at the EU level. Furthermore, in the spirit of subsidiarity, the European Maritime Policy complements national integrated strategies, like yours, by helping policy-makers to implement integrated maritime approaches whilst providing member states with a level playing field.

I have two examples on how this may be brought about, using the Portuguese strategy as a model.

Firstly, a pilot project will be launched to develop and test mechanisms for improving maritime surveillance by sharing operational information between national authorities in the Western Mediterranean and its Atlantic approaches. Portugal already has experience in this field. The Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre for Narcotics based in Lisbon is a perfect example of the co-ordination taking place between seven EU Member States.

The maritime policy pilot project on surveillance will be a first step towards better cross-border and cross-sectoral cooperation of all parties involved in offshore government activities both from the civil and military domains. The participation of Portugal in this exercise is of great importance.

Secondly, an integrated approach to maritime affairs needs innovative collaboration at all levels of governance – from national to regional to municipal. It must also include all relevant stakeholders.

Portugal has significant experience in stakeholder participation. Just a week ago, the Permanent Forum on Maritime Affairs was launched in Lisbon. With the participation of all type of stakeholders, the Forum will work as a think-tank and consultation tool for maritime affairs in Portugal. It will bring together experts and will be run by stakeholders themselves.

We will be looking at this example very closely - encouraging similar initiatives and promoting measures to spread similar good practice at an EU level.

As to our internal workings, we are keeping the steering group of Commissioners that has piloted this project thus far. I have also re-organised my directorate general into regional directorates in order to boost the rapid implementation of the new EU integrated maritime policy. These newly created regional directorates will bring together the experience of different policy areas. As a result of this change we are in a better position to look more closely at the specific problems and challenges in a particular region and to design tailor-made solutions based on the input of all relevant stakeholders.

There are already a number of EU policies addressing various aspects that will be useful to our integrated approach. In the case of maritime security, for example, we have SafeSeaNet which consists of joint patrols in the Mediterranean coordinated by FRONTEX. We also have EU rules on the implementation of the ISPS code for security on ships and in our ports. In this sense, last February the European Commission adopted a Communication for the development – starting with the Mediterranean basin - of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) which will provide an integrated solution in the field of maritime surveillance for fighting illegal immigration.

The creation of a common operational picture for all maritime activities will be a major challenge for the EU in the next few years. Our efforts will build on the ongoing technical work by EU Agencies such as the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European Frontiers Agency (FRONTEX), and the Community Fisheries Control Agency on existing maritime surveillance systems. In this sense, the development of the European Border Surveillance System - EUROSUR - which I have just mentioned, can clearly be seen as the predecessor of the envisaged network. It not only provides for the integration of other maritime surveillance systems but has also been designed to be incorporated within a broader network.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All this is the start of a journey towards an integrated strategy for our seas and oceans. The support and input of Member States like Portugal, a nation that holds a long-standing experience in the field of maritime affairs, will be crucial if this is to work.

I am confident that we have all we need to succeed.

Thank you.

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