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Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
36th General Assembly of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions
Mr Martini, Mr Le Drian, Mr. Xizard,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking you for your invitation to address your Conference today in this historic French city of Bayonne. Being a participant in CPMR events has started to feel like being at home, this is particularly the case today where this event is held in France, a Member State that has been a close ally of the Commission in the establishment of an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union. As current Presidency of the Union, France remains instrumental in supporting the implementation of the policy. I am especially grateful to the French maritime regions for their efforts in assisting Paris in its strong leadership and its steering of the European Integrated Maritime Policy.
It is almost a year since we launched the Communication setting out our vision for an Integrated Maritime Policy for Europe.
For many years CPMR has tirelessly advocated the need for a European approach to maritime issues. Your calls have been heard and your efforts have been greatly appreciated. You have been a vital partner in helping us reach the point we are at today.
The CPMR has repeatedly called for a policy that sets out an ambitious agenda with an integrated focus. You have advocated the need for a policy that gives regions a role in the shaping and the implementation of a policy that affects them, first and foremost.
I think it fair to say that our Integrated Maritime Policy answers to all these calls.
One year since the adoption of the so called Blue Paper, I can confidently state that the implementation of the first set of key-actions foreseen in our Integrated Maritime Policy is well on track.
I need to stress that the issues CPMR had indicated as priorities for the regions in the first meeting of the Aquamarina Group, that is, transport, maritime spatial planning, marine research, governance and maritime surveillance, have not only been considered priorities for the European Commission but we are already focussing on them and dealing with them.
Let me begin with the key issue of governance. In the Blue Paper we invited Member states to draw up national integrated maritime policies and announced that we would propose in 2008 a set of guidelines to help them design their national policies. As a result, last June we adopted the Communication on best practices in integrated maritime governance and stakeholder consultation. In this document, primarily addressed to the Member States, we stressed the special responsibilities and competences of coastal regions when designing and implementing national policies.
By promoting the view that Member States will benefit greatly from working as closely as possible with their own regions and that maritime governance needs to be applied at the appropriate levels, not necessarily from the top down, we are expressing the long held position of CPMR, that places regions at the core of maritime policy-making.
In this vein I welcome and encourage the fact that some regions are already coming forward with their own strategies. With their unique know-how and insight, coastal regions are key players in integrated policy-making. The Government of Schleswig-Holstein, for instance, has come up recently with an innovative Maritime Action Plan for this German Baltic region which captures the essence of an integrated maritime policy.
This being said, I should add that in some cases regional strands within national policies may prove more advantageous than separate regional policies. In any event, the hands-on involvement of coastal regions can only enhance policy-making.
Interregional cooperation can also be very beneficial. I believe that pooling knowledge, experience and ideas and exchanging best practice among you as regions is an important step towards developing sound regional maritime policies in Europe.
In the transport domain, the Commission is working on a Communication on a EU Maritime Transport Strategy, that will include guidelines on ports, and a Communication on a European Maritime Transport Space without Barriers, as announced in our Blue Paper. The latter Communication is aimed at cutting down bureaucracy and facilitating maritime transport between EU ports. In the context of Trans-European Networks, the Motorways of the Sea are gaining importance. I am well aware of the good work by CPMR on this issue. Indeed to have a better understanding of the trends in maritime transport we need to bear in mind the bigger picture. We need to see what is being decided in relation to other modes of transport. Thus, the Commission's recently adopted a package on Greening Transport, with the aim of internalising the external costs of transport, which will create more favourable conditions for the development of maritime transport.
We have also recently adopted a Communication on the first ever European Marine and Maritime Research Strategy, in which the science community, DG RTD and DG MARE were closely involved. This strategy proposes concrete measures and mechanisms to improve the efficiency and excellence of marine and maritime research in order to address the challenges and opportunities presented by our seas. A key element of this strategy lies in the recognition that even in the field of research, an approach that is merely sectoral and thematic is no longer sufficient.
Thus, the EU research strategy will foster joint efforts between the marine and maritime research communities which extend beyond specific sectors. By promoting cross-sectoral integration and improving knowledge transfer, emerging markets in areas such as blue technology, energy, offshore aquaculture and maritime security will be in a position to benefit from knowledge-based innovation and to develop more sustainable activities capable of creating jobs and enhancing innovation, products and processes.
Let me move to another subject of crucial interest to coastal areas and therefore to your regions as well: maritime spatial planning.
The Commission will this year adopt a roadmap on maritime spatial planning which aims at establishing an exchange of best practice and the promotion of a wide ranging European debate during 2009. Whilst Member States will, of course, remain responsible for developing and implementing maritime spatial planning, there are clear benefits to be derived from a European approach. The roadmap will seek to identify a set of principles for maritime spatial planning, such as the ecosystem approach, the one stop shop concept and the principle of stakeholder consultation. I therefore take this opportunity to invite CPMR to join the debate on maritime spatial planning next year and to contribute to it by, if possible, the organization of workshops on the subject.
One of the priorities of the French Presidency for maritime policy has been the issue of maritime surveillance. The Commission has been working hard on this issue to assist the Presidency and we are preparing future action in this field. Our objectives are twofold: (1) the improvement of cross-border and cross-sectoral cooperation between all actors involved in such offshore activities, including improved cooperation of Member States' coastguards; and (2) the progressive integration of sectoral maritime surveillance systems, thus enhancing both the effectiveness and the cost-efficiency of surveillance actions carried out at sea by the agencies of Member States.
Having mentioned these priority issues, let me also address other ongoing Commission initiatives related to the Integrated Maritime Policy, starting with climate change.
Coastal zones are particularly vulnerable to a changing climate and its effects. Many of Europe's most prosperous cities and harbours are located either at the coast or on large river estuaries. Rising sea levels, changes in storm frequency and strength, and increased coastal erosion and flooding threaten the economic development of coastal regions and their cities.
Hence the need for a cross-policy reflection as to how climate change can be reduced and its effects mitigated.
The Commission will soon launch a White Paper on an EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which will focus strongly on coastal and maritime issues, including fisheries.
In addition, the Commission is assessing the economic impact of climate change adaptation in coastal areas. This study will lay the groundwork for a more systematic approach to exchanging best practice on adaptation planning and costing in coastal regions. It will also serve as a basis for further work on the financial aspects of adaptation to climate change in coastal regions.
One issue that has become central to climate change in Europe is energy. The Communication on the European Energy Policy declares that it will be necessary to develop further the use of our oceans and seas to promote the EU's energy goals, given their potential to support the generation of energy and to diversify energy transport and methods.
Thus, in the wake of the Blue Paper, Commissioner PIEBALGS published a Services Working Document looking at the connections and synergies between Europe's energy policy and maritime policy.
The main point made in this document was that the scope for synergy between these two policies is wide and is likely to increase in the near future, as Europe enhances its reliance on oceans, seas and ports.
Thus the Commission will soon adopt a Communication on offshore wind energy which will be an opportunity to interlink energy policy with the new maritime policy. I am sure that in the years to come offshore energy will become an increasingly interesting opportunity for Europe's maritime regions.
Maritime clusters are also a topic of considerable interest to you. They are an important component of the economics of your regions and they represent maritime integration at the level of the private sector and of companies involved in the development of sea related activities.
They are crucial for Europe to maintain its global competitiveness. We are keen to see maritime clusters take shape throughout the EU. DG MARE has therefore launched a study to gain an overview of existing clusters and the keys to their successful development. I invite you to follow this process closely and to provide your contribution.
As I said in the beginning, the implementation of an integrated maritime policy for Europe will require a regional focus if it is to succeed. This issue is one that has been promoted from the beginning by CPMR and one that the Commission is keen to deliver upon.
Thus, with regard to the Baltic, the work on the Baltic Sea Regional Strategy and the implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy will go hand in hand. This seamless link will ensure that the Strategy has a very strong maritime component. The main actions will centre on the major concerns and interests of stakeholders in the region: the environment, maritime transport safety, the development of renewable energies, and economic development. Other measures covering aspects such as pollution, maritime spatial planning, and funding initiatives for the development of coastal regions, will be pursued as well.
Although stakeholders in this region have been extremely active and, together with their governments, are determined to turn the Baltic Sea into a model region, stakeholder support will remain crucial as we seek to coordinate discussions on the Baltic Sea Regional Strategy to ensure that it delivers added value.
Further to the South, the Commission has begun working on a policy paper to reflect on how we should implement the Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean. This project is in line with the call by the CPMR's Inter-Mediterranean Commission. Any policy for this basin will need, of course, to be coherent with other regional initiatives such as the Barcelona Process and the Union for the Mediterranean. At this very early stage we are still in the process of embarking on a series of consultations with national and regional authorities and other stakeholders of the region to discuss the issues of greatest relevance to them. We are particularly grateful to the CPMR for contributing to this process.
Later this month the Commission will also adopt a Communication on the future strategy for the outermost regions. It lays emphasis on the assets that outermost regions can bring to bear. Their unique geostrategic position makes them ideally placed to contribute enormously in areas such as renewable energies, climate change observation and biodiversity. The maritime policy component of this Communication will be strong, aiming at fully harnessing the outermost regions' maritime potential.
The Commission will also develop a database on EU-funded projects in maritime regions, as announced in our Action Plan. The purpose of this database is to provide a good source of inspiration for coastal regions in their future regional development strategies. The database should be available in the second half of 2009. Your cooperation in collecting the relevant information will be much appreciated.
As you can see, the list of achievements and the amount of work underway is significant. I have tried to demonstrate how such actions are specific to regional needs. But we can sharpen our regional focus even more if you, as regions, develop even further your interregional cooperation on maritime issues and priorities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To conclude, I would like briefly to mention the European Maritime Day.
This event represents a unique opportunity to showcase our coastal communities. It got off to a promising start last year. We would now like stakeholders to take ownership of the European Maritime Day. After all, no-one is better equipped than you to bring maritime issues to the public's attention. We need to press home the message that maritime policy can make a real difference to the quality of life of all European citizens.
Indeed, maritime affairs are now becoming more central to EU policy thinking and action. The European Council has committed future EU presidencies to making the Integrated Maritime Policy work. However, if we are to succeed, we will need to take our message to every corner of Europe.
You have already displayed to us what great team players you are. Let us build on that teamwork and let us together make sure that Europe's maritime regions can look forward to the bright future they so richly deserve.