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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

European Maritime Day

Signature of the Joint Tripartite Declaration establishing a "European Maritime Day"
European Parliament, Strasbourg, 20 May 2008


Honourable Members,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today's celebration of the new European Maritime Day is a celebration of success. We are celebrating our strong maritime past, and building on it to shape Europe's maritime future.

Europe would not be Europe without the seas. Ever since Europa was carried across the ocean, the seas have been central to our culture, imagination and wealth.

So the Commission's vision for the 21st century is one that brings our seas back to centre stage. Just as our maritime affairs were of strategic importance in the past, so too are they of crucial importance in today's globalising world. In fact, the oceans and seas are gaining new significance in our lives, at the very moment when they are coming under severe threat from pollution, over-fishing and climate change.

This is why the European Commission has come up in recent years with clear proposals on maritime safety and on the protection of the marine environment, which deserve to be upheld by Member States and all other decision makers.

One of my first commitments as President of the European Commission was to present this very important project for Europe. With the endorsement by the European Council last December of the Commission's Integrated Maritime Policy, we turned words into action. I thank Commissioner Borg for steering this exercise so effectively and successfully.

The new Maritime Policy represents a fully holistic approach – it considers all aspects of maritime activity and marine environment. But it also represents a fully integrated approach - as it recognises that all those parts are pieces of a single chain and need to be considered in a joined-up decision-making process. The new Maritime Policy also fits into our global citizen’s agenda for growth, jobs and competitiveness; for research and innovation; for energy, for environmental preservation and for the fight against climate change.

This ambitious policy could not be developed by the Commission alone. It needed the support of Member States, regions, stakeholders and of course all European institutions. I would like to thank the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee for their strong support.

Europe's maritime policy is for Europe's citizens. We want them to fully appreciate the importance that the oceans and seas have in their daily lives. This is precisely why we are celebrating European Maritime Day today.

The 20th of May is also symbolic of a Europe reaching out to the wider world. This is the day in our history when the Venetian Giovanni Caboto, also known as John Cabot, set sail from Bristol on the search for a new maritime route to the west (in 1497), when the Portuguese Vasco da Gama arrived in India (in 1498), and when the Flemish Abraham Ortelius presented the first modern atlas (in 1570).

I hope this day will become a focal date for citizens across the European Union, increasing their awareness of the importance of healthy oceans for a thriving maritime economy, and of the rich European maritime heritage which we have inherited.

Our maritime future deserves it.

Thank you.

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