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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

European Maritime Day: Integration amid diversity is central to the Maritime Policy

Maritime Day Stakeholder Conference
Brussels, 19 May 2008.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Opening this stakeholder conference which coincides with the first ever European Maritime Day, I am sharply conscious of the long voyage we have made to get to this point. Many of you have been amongst those who have brought us here. It is therefore fitting that we are gathered together, to celebrate all that makes Europe one of the world's leading maritime powers.

I am full of optimism about the new vistas that are opening up ahead of us.

For the first time in 50-years, we are looking at our oceans and seas with a fresh outlook.

This view has been motivated by what all of us here today now take for granted: the need to change the way we think of our relationship with the sea. We know how closely the oceans and seas are linked to some of the greatest challenges we face today, be it: climate change, globalisation, maximising Europe’s competitiveness, reversing the decline of biodiversity or stimulating the creation of jobs. It is such a consciousness of their importance that brings us here for this celebration. And it is our common wish to celebrate our maritime past, present and future that will help spread the widest possible understanding of the oceans and seas.

I say "we" advisedly, as we would not be celebrating the first European maritime day if it had not been for the manifold contributions of so many stakeholders, the crew members, if I may say so, of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy.

These are the people - you - who were involved in this project from the very start. I hardly need to remind any of you of the way this new comprehensive policy emerged - not just in terms of the initiative taken by this Commission, but with the strong engagement of stakeholders all the way through the long consultation process.

If we look back, from our vantage point of tomorrow's maritime day, we can see the numerous calls from stakeholders for a broader view of maritime policy.

We see the Commission's comprehensive Green Paper that started the formal consultation process. We see the hundreds of contributions and the thousands of positions put forward by stakeholders at events and meetings throughout the following year.

We see the Blue Paper that was created as a result of those contributions, and that was so positively welcomed by the EU institutions and by the EU Heads of State and Government.

And we see the progress made since the Blue Paper was issued. There have been the adoption of numerous proposals amongst them that to combat illegal fishing, a Communication on a European Ports Policy and a Communication on re-assessing the social regulatory framework for seafaring jobs in the EU.

In the coming months we have an upcoming marine and maritime research strategy in the maritime sector and a Communication on offshore renewable energy to look forward to. We are also finishing a set of guidelines to encourage Member States and other decision-makers, namely the maritime regions of Europe, to insert the principles and the approaches of the new integrated maritime Policy into their own set-ups and frameworks.

Such a unique consultation and strong regional approach are at the heart of this conference, just as they are at the heart of the integrated maritime policy itself.

From the outset, Europe's maritime regions have been strong allies in this process. This is no surprise. The regions represent a powerful force within Europe, and a crucial component of any sensible reflection on the seas that surround our continent. The regional authorities and leaders of coastal communities are central to the unfolding of coastal and maritime activities and the Committee of the Regions and the coastal regions and their networks, including the CPMR, have been key partners in the development of the Integrated Maritime Policy. Through you, it has been confirmed how much coastal regions, outermost regions and islands really are our vanguard when it comes to the oceans and seas.

It is most welcome that the EU has formally recognised the need for a maritime policy that takes account of this reality. I can assure you that we firmly intend to continue building up this policy - in close cooperation with stakeholders, and particularly with the regions.

As you know, we have recently reorganised our administration to reflect this commitment. The Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, or DG MARE, to use its new abbreviation, has been restructured into regional Directorates in order to equip it to play its role, hopefully ever more effectively, in the context of our new policy. It will afford us better insight into the particular challenges that individual regions face and will allow us to design more tailor-made responses to these.

Integration amid diversity is central to the maritime policy - and our meeting here is a perfect demonstration of it.

It is not just for the sake of ceremony that this integration is to be illustrated by a tripartite declaration establishing the European Maritime Day. This joint declaration to be signed by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council underlines just how widely shared is the sense of importance of maritime affairs in Europe, among the EU's institutions as well as among Europe's maritime stakeholders. I hope you will be able to witness this historical event through the videoconference we will be having with Strasbourg tomorrow afternoon.

This integration amid diversity is also illustrated by the role that successive EU Presidencies have played in the evolution of the new policy.

Looking back we can see the influence of individual member states which were, at one time or another, at the helm as our policy developed.

The German Presidency organised a conference in Bremen, where Chancellor Angela Merkel and President José Manuel Barroso echoed one another in highlighting the importance of the emerging maritime policy for Europe.

The Portuguese Presidency organised a crucial ministerial meeting in Lisbon, which brought together Ministers from around Europe with a wide range of responsibilities for affairs linked to maritime issues and which consolidated the political support for our adventurous new approach to maritime policy. I am particularly glad that some of these key figures are here today represented in the ministerial panel at this meeting.

Moving ahead, and in line with the Council Conclusions of December 2007, Presidencies continue to bring their own particular special qualities to the development of the policy.

The current Slovenian Presidency organised a focal points meeting on 22 April and I look forward to attending the Euromed conference in June which will make an important contribution to the impact of the integrated maritime policy on the whole Mediterranean basin.

The upcoming French Presidency has also already indicated its strong interest in developing some of the many themes that overlap with its own rich traditions and widespread engagement in maritime affairs. In particular, we are looking forward to a ministerial conference in Brest, and the Bio Marine conference in Marseille and Toulon, and to progress on maritime surveillance and governance, to name a few.

I am also glad to welcome our Norwegian colleague to this conference. Her presence shows how wide our policy stretches, in working closely with our partners and in dialoguing with them and learning from them and being inspired by what they do.

I would also like to point out the crucial role of the Parliament in this process, and to particularly highlight the contribution of Willi Piecyk who has been the rapporteur on both the Green and the Blue Papers and who has coordinated the inputs from the different parliamentary committees. I look forward to the Parliament's Report on an integrated maritime policy for the EU being adopted tomorrow, which underlines, inter alia, the involvement of regional and local partners as essential to making a success of the maritime policy, advocating closer cooperation between European coastal regions.

I would also like to thank Mrs. Elspeth Attwooll from the Parliament Fisheries Committee for her presence here today. I look forward to furthering discussions with her during the course of the conference.

Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge and thank Mrs. Rodi Kratsa Tsagarapoulu (pr. Zagaroplu), the distinguished Member of the European Parliament who, in her capacity as a member of the Transport and Tourism Committee, was the first to present to the European Commission, the idea of the celebration of the European Maritime Day.

We hope that the signing of this joint tripartite declaration and the establishment of a European Maritime Day will result in increased awareness and dialogue among stakeholders.

In this way, the three institutions can continue to benefit from the invaluable stakeholder involvement which has helped us develop our maritime policy. We will also be well-equipped to pave the road ahead – a road which looks set to be full of promise for this new policy.

I look forward to continuing our work together.

Thank you.

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