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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

"The Union for the Mediterranean and the Integrated Maritime Policy: Working Together for the Mediterranean"

Valletta Forum
Valletta, Malta, 15 December 2008

Prime Minister Gonzi,

Ambassador Bayoumi,

Distinguished Guests,

First of all, I would like to extend my thanks to EuroMedITI for inviting me to address this important gathering here in the heart of the Mediterranean. The fact that it is also my home country adds to the pleasure of being here.

2008 has been a landmark year for Euro-Mediterranean relations. Under the name of the "Barcelona Process" the Euro-Mediterranean over the past 13 years evolved into one of Europe's and Malta's essential policy orientations. Many of us have contributed to this process. We all know that the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership can only develop and flourish if it is sustained by the necessary political will and resources. We can therefore be reassured that the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean at the Paris Summit in July gave the EuroMed Partnership renewed impetus.

What does this mean in practice?

It means that:

  • with the co-presidency system now in place, the North and South of the Mediterranean will take equal political responsibility for their shared future.

It means that:

  • the bi-annual summits will provide an opportunity for us to share views and experiences as equal partners.
  • and that the Union for the Mediterranean Secretariat will now serve as a joint institution, performing the vital task of promoting regional co-operation, of raising of funds and the monitoring of implementation.
  • and finally, it means that the decision to focus this initiative on key projects, will strengthen it and make it more concrete.

We will thus build on the Euro-Mediterranean co-operation achieved under the Barcelona Process and we will seek to strengthen it further through individual projects encouraging regional and sub-regional integration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now, more than ever, the ambition of both shores of the Mediterranean is to make the region a vibrant political force. To make it peaceful and secure. To encourage a prosperous environment that is built on solidarity, joint ownership, co-operation, tolerance and dialogue.

To do this we must harness, and conquer, the many challenges that the Mediterranean sea-basin faces.

I have spent much of my four years as European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries developing an Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU. This policy looks at things from an all-embracing and inclusive perspective. I very much believe that the Mediterranean would greatly benefit from a similar approach.

Given that the Integrated Maritime Policy is such an over-arching, cross-sectoral policy, it depends for its very existence on inclusion, on proper consultation and on partnership. An Integrated Maritime Policy will therefore only add value if it matches the expectations and addresses the concerns of its audience.

This applies to the Mediterranean in equal measure.

I am therefore convinced that an integrated approach would be of special relevance to the Mediterranean. I also believe that there are at least three concrete areas within the Integrated Maritime Policy which call for this new way of thinking. These are: enhancing competitiveness, building environmental sustainability and sourcing clean energy. All these areas take centre-stage in the work programme of the Union for the Mediterranean.

No-one would question the need to remain competitive in today's globalised world.

And one way to do this is to reduce the imbalance between the economic capabilities of countries around the Mediterranean.

The southern coast of the Mediterranean, for example, needs further investment in infrastructure. Here the Motorways of the Sea, one of the "Union for the Mediterranean's" key projects, can help by opening up maritime transport connections and the opportunities they bring. Four promising pilot projects have, in fact, already been selected to connect the southern shore of the Mediterranean with the northern one by means of efficient maritime transport links. They have been so successful that a follow-up project is now foreseen.

Another way is to share assets and knowledge.

Information-sharing and the fostering of partnerships for industry-driven research and technology development, as already undertaken by EuroMedITI, are crucial to ensure that the Mediterranean's scientific and research communities can pool their efforts and avoid duplication. Implementing the Integrated Maritime Policy in this way will encourage excellence whilst enabling cross-sectoral networks to flourish.

The Commission recently adopted a European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research to step up co-operation between researchers and to develop the governance necessary to make this possible. It suggests developing a partnership of stakeholders – scientists, policy-makers, industry and civil society – to agree on priorities and develop joint programming. The aim is to stop re-inventing the wheel - over and over, since existing research and technology networks will be the key players, which already have significant experience in this field. Amongst them I can mention the Waterborne Technology Platform and the European Science Foundation.

This new strategy for marine and maritime research will make it possible to further address marine pollution, loss of biodiversity and sustainable economic development, all important challenges for the Mediterranean region.

It goes without saying again, that in an area such as this, co-operation must involve partners from all countries in order to make it possible to define a common regional approach and build on existing structures. Such an approach can also allow exchanges of best practice to thrive. It paves the way for solutions which deliver economic growth in a sustainable environment, which will in turn enhance the Med's competitive edge.

Maritime clusters are a very good example of how partnerships across different sectors of industry can come together to nurture best practice and trigger innovation.

Co-operation between businesses within clusters can assist them with finding the extra assets needed to achieve world-class excellence. This co-operation however need not be restricted to the up- or down-stream industries within the same sector, it can involve other clusters altogether as also partners in neighbouring countries.

To support this kind of networking, my services have conducted a study to gain an overview of existing clusters and what it is that makes them successful. I am hopeful that we will soon see the establishment of a Mediterranean Cluster bringing together businesses active in shipping, and shipbuilding with research institutes from several countries in the region. Such an initiative would contribute to match marine and maritime research to the needs of the region.

To emulate this ongoing trend towards the integration of activities, regions within the Med could further invest in networks, of the kind I described a few minutes ago, to exchange information; and also in others that promote regional development strategies.

In the same vein, it makes perfect sense for various maritime interests to work with each other together instead of against each other.

This is where maritime spatial planning comes in.

Once again, the idea is to ensure that rational use is made of coastal areas. Maritime Spatial Planning seeks to reconcile the varying, and at times competing, uses of the coastline for the purposes of tourism, fisheries, shipping, offshore energy farms and aquaculture, amongst others. By using maritime spatial planning, one can ensure that a balance is maintained in planning maritime activities.

Maritime spatial planning can also strengthen the competitiveness of the maritime economy and promote growth and jobs. By placing emphasis on a stable planning framework, on simpler and less costly procedures and on sectoral co-ordination, an investment-friendly environment can be created.

Maritime spatial planning must be all-inclusive in its thrust, taking care to factor in the impact of climate change and other environmental considerations so that environmental and economic concerns can go hand in hand.

As you are aware, the Mediterranean is especially vulnerable to climate change. Coastal erosion and rising sea levels could wreak havoc on the economy, the environment and the people of the Mediterranean. I firmly believe that co-operation and consultation across the Mediterranean can act as a bulwark in our efforts to combat climate change on a number of fronts.

The Euro-Mediterranean energy co-operation developed with our Southern Mediterranean partners is designed to promote renewable energy sources and to improve energy efficiency and savings. The Mediterranean Solar Plan, endorsed as a priority initiative at the Union for the Mediterranean Summit, will also contribute greatly to our moves to promote alternative energy. The words Mediterranean and sun are almost synonymous after all!

The European Union is also pursuing means of harnessing the oceans and seas to generate power. Offshore wind installations offer many key advantages. Wind turbines at sea have great potential to help ensure security of supply and may indeed go a long way to protecting surrounding marine ecosystems.

Promoting a cleaner sea is also achieved by more efficient pollution prevention and response. There is already much that is being done but we need to reflect more on how these actions can be stepped up and how improved co-ordination may be achieved.

Integrating maritime surveillance systems across different sectors of activity is another of the key objectives of the integrated maritime policy. The idea is to increase the effectiveness and the cost efficiency of actions carried out at sea, particularly as these tend to overlap between one country and another. The Commission is, in fact, in the process of launching a call for applications for a surveillance pilot project in the Mediterranean and its Atlantic approaches.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Union for the Mediterranean and the Integrated Maritime Policy are all about partnership.

Which means forging ties not only at international level, but also within and across sectors around the Mediterranean.

This Valletta Forum goes a long way to achieving just that and it is, as such, an example to be emulated.

Our European Maritime Day, held annually on the 20th May, is another such opportunity. We invite all interested stakeholders to mark this day with an event, so that the public everywhere, and particularly in coastal regions, is made aware of the many important issues that relate to the seas.

In parallel, we also seek to organise European Stakeholder conferences, and next year the Conference will take place in Rome on the 19th and 20th May. At this event, we will be devoting special attention to developing the Integrated Maritime Policy for the Mediterranean. Your participation in the Maritime Day, both with events in your own regions and, of course, in the Rome event, would add much value to it.

The Mediterranean is a unique sea basin which has been home to some of the world's most ancient civilisations. The Romans often referred to the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum, or "our sea".

It is time that we – the EU and its Mediterranean partners – take full ownership of the Mediterranean, our sea.

Thank you.

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