Sélecteur de langues
Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Speech by Commissioner Joe Borg at the 23rd Presidium Meeting of the European
River-Sea Transport Union (ERSTU)
Thank you for inviting me to address your 23rd presidium meeting here in my home country. I may be somewhat biased, but I would still say that you have made a good choice of venue!
I would like to update you briefly on our plans for the European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy, which is generating huge interest because of its novel approach to maritime issues.
In order to implement our ambitious agenda we have had to undertake structural reform. As a result, the services under my responsibility have been renamed the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, or DG MARE. This reflects the importance of maritime affairs and the integrated focus we are seeking. But the change is not just one of name. Our administrative structure is now made up of regional Directorates. This will make for tailor-made maritime policy that can address even more effectively the specific issues facing each of Europe’s main maritime basins.
Indeed, our new approach to maritime affairs is one that is multi-layered.
The first layer is a cross-cutting focus dealing with non-sectoral issues such as maritime spatial planning and governance.
A second layer is added through cooperation between my services and other Commission services, whose policies then gain a customised maritime component. Examples of this are the Commission's current work on Arctic issues and the recently adopted Marine and Maritime Research Strategy. This important layer would not have been possible without the European Union's support for an Integrated Maritime Policy.
The momentum within our partner Directorates-General to seek maritime-related initiatives is the third layer. This is already bearing fruit in a number of areas. These include the implementation of the Commission's Communication on an EU Ports Policy, the Maritime Transport Package and the revision of the Trans-European Transport Network Guidelines.
All this feeds into a Group of Commissioners which I co-ordinate and which comes together at different points in time to steer the process forward. This so called Steering Group of Commissioners on Maritime Affairs is crucial in ensuring that the political momentum of this process is further buttressed within and outside the system.
Our European Integrated Maritime Policy is just a little more than a year old. We very much appreciate the keen interest that you and other leading stakeholders have shown in a holistic vision for the oceans and seas that forms such a central part of our lives.
The wide and long consultation process to which you contributed, following the launching of the Green Paper led to the Blue Paper, and accompanying Action Plan, that stakeholders operating within the Maritime sector are today well aware of. I am glad to report that the Action Plan is well on track. The ERSTU's membership makes it well-placed to continue providing input as a key partner on the international, regional and cross-sectoral aspects of our Action Plan initiatives. Allow me to highlight just a few.
I believe that maritime policy-making is best served by an approach which enables stakeholders with different – and often conflicting – interests to gain an appreciation of "the bigger picture" beyond sectoral interests. They can then work as a team towards innovative solutions that benefit all concerned. The Commission has issued guidelines on how this process of integrated maritime governance and stakeholder consultation might best be applied.
A roadmap document on maritime spatial planning is to be released soon and will be followed by a series of workshops with stakeholders next year. The objective here is to promote a rational use of Europe's maritime spaces that balances sectoral interests in planning the development of economic activities. We believe that maritime spatial planning can strengthen the competitiveness of the EU's maritime economy and promote growth and jobs, while taking environmental impacts into account.
Maritime surveillance is another complex matter involving many issues such as border and customs controls, crime prevention, and maritime safety and security. The Commission has undertaken a first assessment of the challenges for establishing a European maritime surveillance network, and three pilot projects are planned for the beginning of 2009.
Maritime safety and security is, of course, of prime importance to us all. Under the French Presidency, the European Union is working hard to ensure that EU and IMO measures deliver safer maritime transport for Europe. To this end, the European Union is currently working on the adoption of a series of proposals forming the third Maritime Safety Package.
Maritime transport is vital for Europe’s trade. Moreover, the sector as a whole – with shipbuilding, ports, fishing and related industries and services – employs more than 3 million people in the European Union.
Under the Action Plan of the Blue Paper, the Commission will, until the end of this year, put forward a Maritime Transport Package for adoption. It consists of initiatives for a European Maritime Transport Space without barriers, together with an EU Maritime Transport Strategy to take us through the next ten years.
The European Maritime Transport Space without barriers is of vital importance for a number of reasons. It will help enhance the overall attractiveness of maritime transport within the EU and boost maritime transport between EU ports. It will facilitate the development of Motorways of the Sea and short-sea shipping, and ensure that maritime transport operates under similar conditions to road transport. In all this, the Commission will seek to eliminate red tape for maritime transport.
The EU Maritime Transport Strategy for 2008-2018 addresses several issues. Its main aims are:
In addition to this, the Commission is seeking to equip ports with the means to cope with the future challenges posed by unprecedented growth in international trade. It will also be reviewing how the Trans-European Transport Networks can do more to promote integrated solutions and networks for freight and passengers, improve ports-hinterland connections and further develop Motorways of the Sea.
Motorways of the Sea are a key component of the EU's maritime transport policy and can play a leading role in making shipping a viable alternative to land transport.
We stand to gain a great deal from a fully operational network of Motorways of the Sea. They are more sustainable. They provide a more cost-effective and climate-friendly alternative to road-only transport. They can improve access to markets throughout Europe, and bring relief to our overstretched road system.
They can improve the accessibility of peripheral and island regions and states. And they can deliver even more added value if they are able to harness the potential of our railways and inland waterways to form a truly integrated transport chain.
So far we have designated four corridors on which, by 2010, we hope to have a fully fledged network of Motorways of the Sea stretching from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.
The many challenges facing the Mediterranean Sea make it the perfect arena for testing policy initiatives. We are now examining how the Integrated Maritime Policy approach can be developed in the Mediterranean in a realistic and sustainable way.
International cooperation here is vital. No maritime-basin-wide policy can be successful unless it is implemented – or at least endorsed – by a majority of countries, many of which in the case of the Mediterranean basin are not EU Member States. That is why we are already talking to this region's coastal states to find out which issues concern them most.
We are also funding transport projects to promote Motorways of the Sea. On this and on other key issues such as pollution, the Union for the Mediterranean – a new, project-focused, initiative, which the French Presidency has been instrumental in establishing – will hopefully help drive forward cooperation with our partners in the region.
The Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions also provide opportunities to build on our international partnerships through, for example, the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Black Sea Synergy and the Baltic Sea Strategy.
The Northern Dimension provides the framework for cooperation with our partners in the Baltic Sea. In response to a call from the European Council, the Commission will present an EU strategy for the Baltic Sea region next year.
Maritime actions in the Baltic will focus on making it a model region with a sustainably managed environment. There will be work on issues such as air pollution, short-sea shipping, maritime spatial planning and the development of coastal regions. The high level of stakeholder involvement in this region will help us make great strides towards integrated and sustainable solutions.
In addition to the many partnerships I have outlined already, the European Union is active in all international maritime organisations, especially UN agencies. It works closely with its partners to advocate an integrated approach to ocean-related affairs in the world. Shipping is a global industry and as such needs global solutions and regulations, and this is where organisations such as the IMO can play such a crucial role. The European Union has supported international efforts to bring down air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from ships. In this regard, it welcomes the revised Annex VI to the Maritime Pollution Convention (MARPOL), which will soon be reflected in the EU sulphur directive.
Nonetheless, the role and the status of the European Union vary from one international organisation to another. In the coming months the Commission will look into how the European Union can optimise its presence within those organisations and be a driving force for good, on the international stage.
The European Union aims to set the standard in areas such as climate change and environmental norms. We may at times, therefore, need to press for swift and bold action. However, our seas and oceans have no borders. Thus the European Union cannot work in isolation – nor does it wish to. International cooperation remains a must for us in championing maritime issues.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
One flagship event that we think champions these issues very well – and about which you have been very supportive – is the European Maritime Day.
We are delighted that the EU institutions have backed the European Maritime Day. It was born out of stakeholder consultation, and so it is fitting that it should be stakeholders like you who use that event to showcase their work. Next year is also European Parliament election year. This will present us all with a golden opportunity to engage further the public and demonstrate how maritime policies can benefit them and the European economy as a whole.
We are also keen for Member States to participate in other key events such as the IMO's World Maritime Day and World Ocean Day, which do much to highlight and celebrate our maritime heritage.
I have tried to highlight the various tools and policy objectives we are developing within the European Commission to allow the new integrated Maritime Policy to take root. Within a short time we have made, I believe, considerable progress but more needs to be done. For an integrated Maritime Policy to be a real success we need the support not only of the Member States, but also of organizations such as yourself since the key to building an integrated policy will remain a genuine bottom-up approach. I am confident that our partnership with you on these and other important aspects of our Integrated Maritime Policy will go from strength to strength, and I wish you every success in your activities.