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Member of the European Commission Responsible for fisheries and maritime affairs
Closing session of the European Maritime Day Stakeholders Conference
Rome , 20 May 2009
Minister Matteoli, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Three days of successful discussions on different aspects of maritime policy lie behind us. They have allowed us to go further in strengthening an integrated approach to the development of seas and coastal regions and in reinforcing dialogue among maritime stakeholders.
First of all I would like to thank Italy, Prime Minister Berlusconi and Minister Matteoli for having invited us to this beautiful venue, for their hospitality and their commitment to maritime policy. The Italian Maritime Cluster has also been instrumental in securing the success of this event, for it first came up with the idea of celebrating European Maritime Day in Italy, in the Mediterranean Sea basin. Although it is located some twenty kilometres from the Mediterranean coastline, Palazzo Colonna has been the perfect vantage point from which to look at our oceans and seas through fresh eyes.
I would like to emphasise that the European Maritime Day celebrations go far beyond this central conference, because they also include around 40 events staged by stakeholders throughout Europe. I would like to thank the organisers of those events and all stakeholder organisations who have decided to hold special events here in Rome in response to our call to come and discuss maritime issues with us.
I am especially glad that we managed to have forward-looking discussions, not only taking stock of what has been achieved over the last years, but also, perhaps more importantly, reflecting on how we can consolidate the Integrated Maritime Policy and steer in on a steady course for the years to come. Our discussions here in Rome have shown that there is space for another quantum leap of our policy for the greater benefit of our seas, our coastal regions, and the whole of Europe.
In his speech yesterday, President Barroso highlighted five strategic directions for the future.
He mentioned governance, which is and will remain key in our efforts to integrate and improve policy-making towards the oceans, not only in Brussels but also in national capitals and in coastal regions.
He mentioned our promising sea-basin approaches, as the best manner to embed the maritime policy and respond to the diversity of challenges faced by Europe’s seas and coasts.
He mentioned our cross-sector instruments, starting with spatial planning, integrated surveillance, and marine data and knowledge.
He mentioned the international dimension of the policy and the need to promote it in the international arena, together with like-minded partners and all those interested in sharing their experience and learning from ours.
Last but not least, he mentioned the need to use further this policy in order to implement Europe's other sectoral policies, such as energy, climate change and maritime transport, thereby fostering the Union's sustainable development.
We said from the start that the Integrated Maritime Policy constituted a winning formula for the economy and the environment and that it could unleash a considerable economic potential. For years we have not been able to tap this potential. Now that we are facing the worst economic crisis in our lifetime, it would be even more absurd to deprive ourselves of these opportunities.
In these concluding remarks, I would like to pay particular tribute to stakeholder involvement. The huge interest on the part of stakeholders in participating in the events and discussing – in a cross-sectoral manner – a range of issues from governance, maritime transport, maritime heritage, climate change and maritime spatial planning to maritime clusters and the maritime response to the economic crisis, has confirmed once again that the way paved in the Blue Paper was the right one: an integrated maritime policy must develop hand in hand with our stakeholders. This European Maritime Day has been a strong illustration of our shared commitment.
All of you have an important role to play:
- The industry: here we have the Maritime Industries Forum and the European Network of Maritime Clusters. As we have seen yesterday and this afternoon, they all have a networking function and a common goal – namely, to foster regional development and competitiveness.
- Environmental non-governmental organisations have provided important intellectual input for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. They will remain vigilant and continue demanding further efforts in order to safeguard the marine environment.
- Then there are the maritime and marine science communities, who had started to cooperate and integrate even before the idea of the Green Paper arose, with the Galway Declaration, leading later to the Aberdeen declaration, which inspired the Commission's Marine and Maritime Research Strategy.
- And the regions, of course: coastal regions and stakeholders have a unique insight and know-how and are ideally placed to contribute to integrated policy-making at regional and national level alike. The work of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions was very much part of the original driving force behind an integrated approach.
I think it is fair to say that, without each and every of you, this policy would not exist. You are all an integral part of this integrated policy.
What I would like to see taking shape as soon as possible is a more systemic involvement of stakeholders in the Integrated Maritime Policy. You could, indeed, you should become part of the very design of the policy.
Those of you who are familiar with fisheries know it: I have been a consistent advocate of this approach towards fisheries stakeholders during my term in the Commission. I think this is an even greater necessity in the case of the Maritime Policy, where you have demonstrated your ability and your willingness to be formidable driving forces. In this respect, I welcome Professor Johan Vande Lanotte’s initiative to bring together representative organisations from industry, regional authorities, environmental NGOs, science communities and users of the sea. I trust that this “network of networks” or “platform of platforms” will prove itself to be an inspiring forum for exchange. We also look forward to the platform working with us and future hosts in discussing the agenda for future maritime days from the very outset.
Today I wish to call on all stakeholders present to reflect on how this involvement in policy design could become possible. At EU level, one way forward could be the setting up of a consultative committee on maritime affairs where you would come together regularly and feed us with your experience, your enthusiasm and also your criticisms. But there may be other ideas on how best to put this in place, both in Brussels and in Member States. We would welcome your suggestions before the summer break, so we can take them on board in preparing our October progress report.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Five months from now, the Commission will report to the European Council on progress in the EU Integrated Maritime Policy. As you could hear from President Barroso’s speech yesterday on the way ahead, this document will be forward-looking. It will not be a mere stock-taking exercise and it will come up with new proposals for the Integrated Maritime Policy. We will try our best to nourish this report with the spirit of these three days and the many suggestions you have made.
And as our three days come to a close, I can only repeat what I have said many times over the last five years. The Commission owes it to you and to all European citizens to set a very high standard of ambition for Maritime Policy. Your resilience will be critical in consolidating the Integrated Maritime Policy and with it the momentum it has generated throughout Europe.
But this policy can only succeed with the continued engagement of the other European institutions and our Member States as well. In this respect, I am happy to see that the incoming Swedish Presidency shares our enthusiasm and ambition for the future. And I am also very glad that the Spanish authorities are willing to host the 2010 edition of the Maritime Day, with the proactive support of their Maritime Cluster.
In a context of economic crisis, I would like, nevertheless, to finish with a note of confidence and optimism, as the future I see for our Maritime Europe is a future full of great hopes and success. We have the natural resources – a long coast line, dynamic coastal regions, two oceans and four seas – we have the know-how and the human resources, we have the knowledge and the technology, we have the inspiration of our rich European maritime heritage and, allow me to say, we have now the right policy in place.
This is what we should be proud of and why we are celebrating today!
Thank you for your attention.