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SPEECH/09/256

  

 

Joe Borg

 

 

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

 

 

 

 

Making headway: progress on the Integrated Maritime Policy

 

European Maritime Day: Stakeholders Conference plenary session

Rome , 20 May 2009


Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to this morning’s discussion - I am delighted to be here on this very special occasion. I am also grateful to the Italian Government - in particular, to the city of Rome - for hosting the 2009 European Maritime Day with their customary, warm hospitality.

What more appropriate location than this illustrious city and this magnificent palace could we wish for our discussions on European maritime affairs? 

In terms of adopting a more integrated outlook to the decision-making process in maritime affairs, I believe that the Integrated Maritime Policy has delivered. Impressive steps have been made at a European level, within Member States and their regions and, last but not least, at the initiative of stakeholders.

Before giving the floor to my fellow panellists, I would like to take a look at how the EU Integrated Maritime Policy came into being and how it has evolved since work first started four years ago.

Before the advent of the EU integrated maritime policy, there was a myriad of maritime activities taking place. They took place within the realm of different sectors all the while being related to one another due to their dependence on the sea. However, more often than not it appeared that the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing, and vice versa.

Clearly something needed to be done to better rationalise the way we were doing things, both to ensure a balance was maintained between development and preservation but also to avoid a duplication of effort, to avoid conflict and to avoid Europe's maritime activities being undervalued.

What we have achieved since, is nothing less than a complete overhaul of the way in which we do things and how our oceans and seas are perceived.

Europe's oceans, seas and lengthy coastline have now regained the full attention that they deserve. There has been a strong move towards integration in the way in which matters related to the oceans, seas and coasts are handled. And a better balance has been found between exploitation of the seas resources and the sustainability of our marine environment.

This sea-change can be felt everywhere.

We see a number of initiatives taking place along our shores in new regional maritime charters, new awareness at a grass roots levels and events, such as this, which bring the maritime sector firmly into the spotlight. Many of these actions reflect principles that were outlined by the Commission in a set of Guidelines presented in June of last year. These guidelines refer to the key components of integration in maritime governance based on good practice that has been observed around the world. They advocate strong political leadership, cooperation between governments, the participation of maritime regions, stakeholder involvement and cooperation at a sea-basin level. These principles are also flexible, accepting that one-size-does-not-fit-all, so that Member States can each chart their own course towards an integrated maritime approach.


After an unprecedented consultation of our stakeholders, the Commission issued the Blue Paper which defined the vision and a framework for the policy. This constituted a concrete programme of action with sustainable growth, capacity building in research and innovation, quality of life, international leadership and visibility as its main focus. To turn these words into deeds, we then followed a multi-layered approach, pursuing a concrete set of actions, promoting integrated governance structures and developing cross-sectoral instruments.

The process to arrive at this juncture was steered by a group of ten Commissioners who gave direction and impetus towards the development of this joint agenda from a variety of different perspectives. The Council, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee also played their part, by welcoming our approach, which was then endorsed by the European Council in December 2007.

The various rotating Presidencies of the EU have, since then, deployed the resources necessary to take the Integrated Maritime Policy forward, mostly through the conclusions in the General Affairs Council. This Council, with its policy coordination role, is indeed a forum par excellence to discuss integrated maritime policy.

The European Parliament too have played a role, responding vigorously to the new Policy with six committees working together under an enhanced cooperation procedure to produce a joint opinion.

While I am delighted with these results, I feel that it is now necessary to reflect on how EU policy-making in the maritime sphere can be better organised for the future. We need to ensure that our work continues and brings better and better results.

In this respect, I would welcome a change in the way in which the various interlocutors exchange ideas and design policies.

I look forward to working with the new Parliament which takes shape after the June elections. While Parliament will certainly decide how best to organise itself, I would see great merit in the establishment of a Committee for Maritime and Coastal Affairs which could look at the full range of maritime issues from all the different perspectives of its members.

We have also invited our stakeholders to take a broader view of maritime issues which is important to change our very sectoral focus to a broader view. This will afford all of us a better understanding of each other’s positions and can only help with finding new solutions, new forms of cooperation and new, innovative products that have been perhaps hitherto, unimagined. Maritime regions, science, industry and NGOs have responded to our call and steps are being taken towards establishing an overarching stakeholder platform. I commend such initiatives wholeheartedly as it is the practitioners in the field that can best advise us. Looking forward, I would like to see stakeholders become a truly, established part of integrated maritime governance.

This integrated approach does not focus solely on a new governance framework or on establishing momentum with stakeholders. It is also a powerful catalyst to champion or foster maritime affairs within a wide range of sectoral polices which in one way or another impact on the oceans and seas.


In this context, I can list achievements which include the Maritime Safety Package, the Maritime Transport Strategy for 2018, the Ports Communication and our bold proposal for a European Maritime Transport Space without Barriers. In parallel, there have also been the Marine Strategy Framework Directive – the environmental pillar of our policy, a strategy on Ship Recycling, the Green Paper on Adaptation to Climate Change, a Communication on Offshore Wind Energy, the Marine and Maritime Research Strategy, the Eurosur initiative for border patrols in the Mediterranean, and a proposal to reassess the Exclusions that apply to Seafarers regarding certain Social Rights. We have also just recently also launched a debate on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Another important development in our approach is a focus on specific sea-basin strategies. Europe’s sea basins are very different in nature and, while the overall logic of integrating maritime matters remains valid, it can and must be approached differently in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Baltic or the North Sea. A first step in that direction was our Communication on the Arctic which looked at the Arctic by taking into consideration its own peculiarities. This year, the Commission will also adopt policy documents on the Baltic and on the Mediterranean.

I firmly believe that the sea basins are where the EU Integrated Maritime Policy can demonstrate its full potential: creating significant growth and jobs whilst simultaneously triggering profound improvements in environmental sustainability. It is in this context that the maritime dimension of any territorial cohesion policy that we may develop for the future becomes clear. Europe is not solely a territorial entity but a maritime one too.

We are also developing new cross-sectoral policy tools or instruments, namely: maritime spatial planning, integrated maritime surveillance and marine data collection and knowledge.

The aim of maritime spatial planning, for example, is to promote a rational use of Europe's maritime spaces while balancing different sectoral interests that comes into play when planning future economic activities. It also adopts an ecosystem-based approach. Through maritime spatial planning we hope to encourage investments that were previously hampered by uncertainty and a short-term view. Bringing new investments to light should contribute, in no small way, to Europe's economic recovery - a fact which is particularly relevant in today's climate.

Maritime surveillance is paramount to sectors such as border and customs control, crime prevention, and maritime safety and security. Cooperation and information exchange in this area will provide all concerned with a deeper and broader range of information. The Commission has undertaken a first assessment of the idea for a European maritime surveillance network that cuts across sectors. A pilot project has been launched in the Mediterranean Sea and its Atlantic approaches to conduct field tests showing what benefits enhanced surveillance can offer.

The third cross-sectoral instrument is marine knowledge. About 85% of the sea bed remains uncharted and new species are being discovered regularly. In fact, our knowledge of the depths of the oceans is still very limited. Yet understanding ocean phenomena is indispensable for a variety of reasons, not least for halting climate change. Many government bodies, research organisations and private companies hold data, but this is often not widely shared. Greater access to marine data and observation, in a network setting, would give them all a stronger basis for research, policy and innovation. This is a longer-term project on which we will produce a first Communication by the end of the year.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

With this overview I have sought to provide you with snapshot of our progress at an EU level. We will prepare a full progress report, as requested by the European Council, by October 2009. Apart from telling us where we have come from, this report will also lay out the work ahead for the years to come.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support so far.

We should all be proud of what we have created – a momentum through which a truly Europe-wide maritime community is starting to emerge. Our presence here today, together with the other celebrations elsewhere in Europe on European Maritime Day, are a strong illustration of our commitment and the signal of our firm will to prolong this momentum for many years to come.

Thank you.


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