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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The EU Maritime Policy is based on solidarity and cooperation

Informal Meeting of Ministers for European Affairs
Brest, 13 July 2008

Minister Jouyet,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking the French Presidency, and Mr Jouyet in particular, for putting the Integrated Maritime Policy on the agenda today and for granting me the opportunity, in such an appropriate place - Roscoff – to address you and to discuss maritime affairs.

The presence of the ocean in Britanny's geography, economy and culture is undeniable. Especially now, during the maritime festival, the city of Brest epitomises a community proud of its rich maritime heritage.

Europe as a whole is no different: just like Brittany, it is a peninsula. It is surrounded by no less than 70 000 kilometres of coastline, over two-thirds of its borders are coastal, and the maritime spaces under the jurisdiction of its Member States are considerably larger than their land mass. Yet, unlike people in Brest, many Europeans appear unaware of the strategic – economic, environmental, scientific, social and even cultural - importance of the oceans and seas.

There is a maritime dimension to virtually every major issue facing Europe today, including energy, climate change, environmental protection and conservation, research and innovation, competitiveness and job creation, international trade, transport and logistics.

This is why the Commission has put maritime affairs centre stage since last October, when we presented our Integrated Maritime Policy.

This policy sets out our vision for the future of the oceans and proposes a whole new approach to maritime governance: one based on integrated, joined up policy-making and decision planning.

It will enable us to establish more coherence between different EU initiatives developed under sectoral policies, and impacting on maritime affairs, including the recently adopted Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which delivers the environmental pillar of the maritime policy, or the Eurosur initiative to develop a European Border Surveillance System. It will enable us to articulate better several Commission's initiatives foreseen to be adopted up to the end of this year such as the climate change adaptation strategy, the ten-year Maritime Transport Strategy, the European Marine Research Strategy, and the Offshore Energy Action Plan.

The new, emerging integrated maritime policy will strengthen our capacity to achieve a principal goal: to ensure that we can develop our ability to derive benefits from the oceans and seas, while taking the right measures to preserve biodiversity and improve the state of the marine environment.

The European Council welcomed the Integrated Maritime Policy in December of last year. Its conclusions then called upon future Presidencies to work on its establishment in the years to come. Thanks to the French Presidency, today's meeting is a further step in this direction.

I am encouraged by the support from the European Council. Taking responsibility for the future of the oceans and seas should, without a doubt, feature prominently on the European agenda. No single European ocean or sea falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of one Member State. No single State can impose its will on the ships that sail through its waters; and no single State can alone reverse the environmental degradation faced by our oceans and seas..

Indeed the Integrated Maritime Policy can help deliver results in important EU policies, for example to combat or adapt to climate change, to which the oceans are intrinsically linked, thus protecting Europe's vast and vulnerable coastal areas. It will support the creation of a European marine science partnership to promote joint programming and to develop research to predict and mitigate the effects of human impact on the marine environment, or to promote bio prospecting and blue biotechnology. It can also make a contribution to the European energy strategy: Europe needs to develop the full potential of the sea as a source of oil, gas, and renewable energies, and as an enabler of energy transportation, diversifying Europe's energy access routes and thus reinforcing security of supply.

Dear Ministers,

The European project is being built on solidarity and cooperation. As much as Member States need to work together at EU level, the EU depends on its Member States to realise its goals, and this is also true for maritime policy.

Success for the Integrated Maritime Policy will depend, therefore, on the degree to which the integrated thinking, which is at the heart of this policy, permeates into policy-making within Member States.

There is a lot to do here:

In Europe, maritime affairs have traditionally been dealt with by a number of separate sectoral policies. Such compartmentalisation of maritime governance continues to predominate the different levels of power at European, national, regional and local levels. Yet the full potential for optimised policy-making in maritime affairs will not be reaped unless the integrated approach permeates every level of government, all players involved, and stakeholders’ activities.

Let me, thus, turn to our initiative to involve Member States in the realisation of our maritime policy goals.

On 26 June, the Commission adopted Guidelines towards best practice for integrated maritime governance and stakeholder consultation.

These guidelines encourage Member States to join the Commission in adopting a new, holistic and joined up approach towards maritime affairs, maritime governance and stakeholder consultation.

Hence, the Commission has already started to reorganise itself to be better able to coordinate matters relating to coasts, seas and oceans and to deal with them in a genuine integrated way. We have created a Steering Group of Commissioners for maritime affairs, which I chair, bringing together the ten Members of College most concerned and we have launched the new MARE Directorate-General equipped to ensure internal coordination of maritime affairs.

Let me say right away that by no means do we intend to impose anything on Member States nor to call on you to adopt any single system of maritime governance. On the contrary, we want to let Member States chart their own course whilst agreeing on certain basics principles. It is true that these guidelines are designed to encourage you to draw up your own national integrated maritime policies, but each government will have its own specific priorities for its maritime policy. Your national integrated maritime policies will differ from each other, depending on your different constitutional, geophysical, economic, social, cultural and environmental contexts. At the end of the day, an integrated approach to maritime policy can only be effective if it thrives on political leadership by each government and it is organised in harmony with domestic administrative traditions.

Indeed, we are relying on the power of persuasion. I am aware that persuasion, without the hard guarantees of law, is only as powerful as the willingness of those addressed to listen. But the arguments for adopting an integrated approach to maritime policy are strong indeed, and the best evidence for this is the broad international trend to move towards integrated maritime policy in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, besides, of course, a growing number of European countries.

As a follow up of these guidelines I invite you to provide us with information on your countries' approaches by the spring of next year. On that basis, the Commission will then make the information available as part of the report on the implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy that it will deliver to the European Council in 2009, as requested by the European Council in December last year.

The EU can also benefit further from stronger coordination of the activities of EU agencies working in areas connected with the sea, such as the External Borders Agencies (Frontex), the Maritime Safety Agencies (EMSA), the Fisheries Control Agency and the European Defence Agency. The Commission is ready to do its bit in this regard. But we also need a firm commitment from Member States. To that end, I would welcome a signal today that we all share the goal of ensuring coherence in the actions of these EU Agencies.

Dear Ministers,

Maritime surveillance is today an issue of the highest importance to ensure the safe use of the sea and to secure Europe's maritime borders. We are reminded of this every day whether in the Mediterranean Sea, in its Atlantic approaches, close to the Canaries islands or even as far away as the coast of Somalia. The improvement of maritime surveillance activities, and interoperability at the European level, are thus critical for Europe to meet the challenges and threats relating to safety of navigation, marine pollution, law enforcement, and overall security.

Of course, surveillance activities are carried out by Member States, but most of the threats that they address are transnational in nature. Also, within most Member States surveillance activities concerning fisheries, the environment, policing of the seas or immigration fall under the responsibility of many different enforcement agencies, operating independently from each other and not always in full coordination with each other. This often results in sub-optimal use of scarce resources.

The Commission, therefore, advocates the need for a higher degree of coordination on maritime surveillance through deeper cooperation within and among Member States' coastguards and other appropriate agencies, in close collaboration with the specialised European agencies. The establishment of a network of national maritime surveillance representatives would be a first appropriate step in the right direction. The Commission is also willing to promote such cooperation by launching pilot-projects on maritime surveillance in our maritime basins, starting in the western Mediterranean Sea.

The initiatives I have just described, and our broader Integrated Maritime Policy, are concrete and relevant contributions to advancing sustainable growth in our coastal regions and on the sea. A positive reaction from you today will further encourage us in our efforts to fulfil our role in this European project.

Furthermore, your commitment to join us in promoting an integrated approach within Europe, covering all sectors and activities relating to the seas, oceans and coasts, will pave the way for success in our joint European vision for a sustainable future for the oceans and seas.

Indeed, I trust that under the strong leadership of the French Presidency, and with your guidance, Jean Pierre, we will promote Member States' genuine integrated maritime governance; we will start a new process of cooperation on maritime surveillance; and we will be able to develop joint marine research programming among Member States, namely with a view to address the key European societal challenges of climate change and energy sustainability.

Thank you for your attention.

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