Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: FR


Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission

Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy: taking the plunge together

BioMarine Conference
Marseille, 24 October 2008

Mr Chairman, Hon. Ministers,

Monsieur Secrétaire de la Mer,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A word of praise, first of all, to the team behind BioMarine and to the French Presidency for organising and supporting this major maritime event. The comprehensive agenda of this conference enabled a discussion on a vast range of maritime affairs and demonstrated the great potential for generating synergies through cross-sectoral interaction and cooperation among all of us, players of Maritime Europe.

The success of Biomarine and the attention it has generated is really encouraging, especially when seen through the lens of the European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy. In fact, until just a few years ago, conferences on maritime affairs were, as a rule, sectoral events – conferences on ports, shipping or fisheries, for example. In this sense, the Integrated Maritime Policy has been a catalyst of change. It has undoubtedly generated a Europe-wide debate looking at and addressing maritime related sectors in a comprehensive manner. Biomarine is a case in point. It has been a symbiotic relationship, as the Integrated Maritime Policy has both fed into and has been influenced and shaped by these debates. In this sense, I think it is fair to say that this new European policy is the result of a genuine bottom up approach.

It is so because we give a lot of weight to what you have to say. The discussions held here throughout this week have provided us with much food for thought, in view of building upon the Blue Paper on the Integrated Maritime Policy, adopted by the European Commission in October of last year.

One year on from the adoption of the Blue Paper, (which was followed by the subsequent endorsement by the European Council and the European Parliament), I believe we are turning a new page. In the absence of an overall and comprehensive European approach to maritime affairs, we used to limit ourselves to developing ad hoc, sectoral, and sometimes contradictory maritime policies. This conference itself is a demonstration that we have come a long way in establishing a coherent overall approach to maritime affairs. Building is in progress, but we have designed a long term, strategic vision for Europe's oceans and seas, which will allow us to untap their real positive potential.

What instigated this whole process? Simple: there are currently many uses of the sea and their adjacent coastal areas in Europe, such as maritime transport, offshore energy, fisheries and new forms of aquaculture, tourism and marine protected areas. Some of these sectors have developed fast, due to new technologies and the piece-meal resolution of challenges. However, we have observed and ascertained that such proliferation of sea-uses would have unavoidably brought about with them conflicting uses, ultimately leading to the deterioration of the marine environment. Only a full picture of all the uses of the sea and of all their cumulative impacts could change this course of events.

Therefore, the Blue Paper represents not only a drastic change on the way we have started looking at maritime issues, it has also started a change at the way we look at ourselves, as a continent and as Europeans that possess and share a coastline far more vast than that of the United Sates, Russia or even the whole of the African landmass. In fact, thanks to the Blue Paper, we have managed to call upon the attention of Europe's decision-makers, at all levels of power – be they European, national or regional - to the geopolitical and economic weight of Maritime Europe.

The adoption of the Blue Paper and its accompanying Action Plan was just a decision – albeit a very important one – within the context of a dynamic process. It was not, by any means, the end of the task of establishing the new maritime policy. It was just the beginning. Since then, we have been steering maritime affairs by implementing the Action Plan, while at the same time developing partnerships and generating a real momentum in all maritime related public policies.

By way of example: we have further promoted marine research by laying a new strategy for marine and maritime sciences and technologies. As a matter of fact, so far, there has been more funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technology for marine research than ever before. On another front, the Commission will also soon be adopting an Arctic Strategy, which seeks to articulate a European policy for this region of ever-increasing challenges and opportunities. We have also launched a study on the effects of climate change in coastal areas and we aim to influence decision-makers as regards the development of Europe's climate change policy. We have looked into the challenges of maritime transport, pushed for the motorways of the sea and we support new ideas such as the Common Maritime Transport Space without barriers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Marine and maritime research strategy as well as offshore energy form part of this "blue revolution". They are also central to Biomarine, especially because of the innovation, and the scientific and technological factors involved.

The recently adopted European marine and maritime research strategy seeks to emulate our ideas on integrated maritime governance within the marine and maritime scientific research communities. Science and technology are fundamental to securing sustainable economic growth in sea-based activities that can be reconciled with environmental conservation. In the open global market, the competitiveness of advanced economies stems from their capacity to create high value-added, knowledge-based goods and services. Here lies the importance of this strategy which proposes concrete measures to improve the efficiency and excellence of marine and maritime research.

One important conclusion is that a merely sectoral and thematic approach to research does not suffice any longer. EU research can play a role in fostering joint efforts between the marine and maritime research communities, which extend beyond specific scientific sectors. A more effective integration and pooling of knowledge and resources, along with a meaningful long-term partnership among all stakeholders – scientists, policy-makers, industry and civil society – will form the basis for a concerted definition of research needs and priorities. This, in turn, will result in concrete research projects.

Offshore energy is another example of an emerging innovation-led maritime related industry. Renewable energy is exactly the kind of forward-looking, environmentally sound area that the Integrated Maritime Policy is seeking to promote. Offshore renewable energy, in particular, can help provide answers to Europe's energy challenge. Within this context, the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) adopted by the Commission last year declared large wind offshore parks as a necessity for Europe in order to achieve the 20% target of renewable energy by 2020. And a recent report by the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) found that offshore renewable energy could contribute to almost 40% of that target for renewable energy by 2020.

The European Union is at the forefront of the use of renewable energies and continues to support their technological development. Later on this year, Commissioner Piebalgs is planning to present a Communication on offshore wind energy, wherein the development of adequate maritime spatial planning and the building of an under-water grid will be identified as primary challenges for this young and innovative industry. Furthermore, Europe is home to the world's first commercial project to generate energy from the oceans – the Pelamis wave park in Portugal – and has witnessed developments in tidal power off the coasts of Brittany, England and Scotland.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Potential is all well and good. But it needs to be converted into practical action. This is what the Commission is seeking to accomplish. I would like to highlight a few recent examples to illustrate how our integrated approach is being put into practice.

First, there is our work to establish an integrated maritime governance system. Here, we need structure, not stricture. Structure provides us with a good springboard from where to reach our goals. This is why we have opted for an integrated governance system.

The seas know no borders and we all share the responsibility for their future. Be it climate change, pollution, safety of navigation or security – none of these issues can possibly be handled by a region, a country or an EU institution alone. This is why we would like to see the same kind of commitment take shape across the European Union. In seeking the right answers for a sustainable future for the oceans and seas, all layers of government, from the smallest coastal community to the EU institutions, need to work together, and bring scientists, business partners and civil organisations on board.

My message is simple: the success of the Integrated Maritime Policy will depend on the degree to which the integrated thinking at the heart of this policy permeates into policy-making within and among Member States.

This is why last June the Commission adopted a Communication containing "Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy". The idea behind these guidelines is to encourage Member States to join us in working towards a new culture of overarching maritime governance.

This does not mean we should all adopt the same model of maritime governance. We are of the view that Member States should chart their own course. However, we believe that a holistic approach to maritime policy can only be effective if it thrives on national drivers and is organised in accordance with domestic traditions. Some Member States have already taken a strong lead in this direction. On its part, France has already established its own approach by coordinating maritime policy through its Secretariat de la Mer.

The Commission's guidelines on integrated maritime governance also advocate strong involvement on the part of our islands, coastal regions and stakeholders. The people who can make the difference are those who put out to sea every day, who spend their days and nights working at sea, or who invest all their efforts in developing cleaner and better maritime technologies, structures and infrastructures. We will continue encouraging Member States to do their part in what is, essentially, a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Maritime surveillance is another area in which we are striving for more added value through better integration. The current European scenario is one of fragmentation. Maritime surveillance activities are many and varied: they include the fight against the illegal trafficking of people, drugs and arms, the fight against illegal fisheries, pollution, piracy and terrorism. Although increasingly sophisticated, vessel monitoring systems (VMS) tend to monitor just one port or one stretch of coastline, or focus on just one maritime activity. At the moment, each of these sectors – fisheries, maritime safety, law enforcement, border control – is subject to its own control system. We need to strive for the full interoperability of these systems. There are strong indications that policing our waters could be done more effectively if maritime surveillance systems were made interoperable across sectors and borders. Cooperation can actually improve surveillance by implementing more actions with fewer means.

The Commission has recently presented a non-paper on Maritime surveillance to the high Level Focal Points for Maritime Policy with the aim of assisting the French EU Presidency carry out its mandate in relation to this critical area of Europe's safety and security. Next year, we will be adopting a Communication on maritime surveillance with the aim of identifying added value possibilities for Member States, in what is a strategically important area for Europe's overall safety and security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The initiatives I have referred to are aimed at ensuring that we keep apace with the high interest generated around maritime affairs throughout Europe and the world at large. Your commitment in Biomarine to join us in promoting an integrated approach within Europe, covering all sectors and activities relating to the seas, oceans and coasts, certainly reinforces our joint European vision for the sustainable use of the oceans and seas.

This event has provided us with a perfect opportunity to interact further. The challenge for us now is to further the momentum. I look forward to seeing the measures and approaches I have referred to today act as vehicles for effective change under the French EU Presidency. I also hope that the progress we have made with Biomarine will win us support for consolidating the maritime agenda at the European Council at the end of this year.

The academic Joel A. Barker said that "Vision with action can change the world". I believe we are consistently moving ahead one step at a time. It takes courage to take the plunge. I strongly believe that moving ahead in implementing a truly effective integrated maritime policy is a plunge worth taking.

Thank you.

Side Bar