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Member of the European Commission - Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Integrated Maritime Policy: moving up a g ear
S eminar of CPMR (Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions)
Faial, Azores (Portugal), 6 July 2009
Minister Mira Gomes,
Mr Le Drian,
Secretary-General Gizard and other distinguished Members of the CPMR,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your invitation to address you at this seminar designed to come up with new ideas on the future of the Integrated Maritime Policy. This beautiful corner of Europe, surrounded by the vast ocean, is both an appropriate and inspiring venue for reflecting upon the future of our oceans, seas and coasts.
However before looking at the future, allow me to step back and to recall CPMR's enthusiasm in the early days when the prospect of an integrated maritime policy for the European Union was first mooted. The CPMR was amongst the first to recognise the value of such a policy, it was then at the forefront of making excellent contributions towards shaping it and since then the CPMR has invariably supported its progress. For that you have my warm and heartfelt thanks. Your help has been crucial in getting the Integrated Maritime Policy off to a successful start.
The IMP thrives on the commitment of our stakeholders.
Its philosophy of taking an all-embracing approach and applying it to the challenges facing our oceans, seas and coasts would not bring the changes we seek if our ideas were to remain confined to our offices in Brussels. To make progress happen in a real and tangible way, it is clear that the IMP must rely heavily on the involvement of the entire maritime community. It is to your credit that you have always been at the vanguard of this process.
I am however also glad to say that, thus far, we have been successful in mobilising many stakeholders. They have turned out in great numbers and with great enthusiasm to discuss maritime issues at our events – no more so than at the European Maritime Day earlier this year in Rome.
I look forward to seeing the fruits of these efforts take shape in the form of a more organised and permanent dialogue on Integrated Maritime Policy. To give just one example, the initiative by the Venice Platform to develop an over-arching forum for dialogue between various stakeholder groups - the regions, industry, science, environmental interest groups and citizens - is to be commended. We encourage this move towards self-organised stakeholder input and I welcome the co-operative spirit that the CPMR has shown in this regard.
As we gathered last year in Bayonne for the CPMR's General Assembly, I explained that we were working on areas considered as priorities both by us and by the CPMR. These were: transport, marine research, governance, maritime spatial planning and surveillance.
I am delighted to report that, since then, Europe has made real progress in these, and other, areas. I shall look at some of them with a view to showing you what has been underway since then.
Council and Parliament have adopted the Maritime Safety Package and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Our proposal for a common European space without borders for shipping has been launched. And in addition to this, in the Commission, we have launched strategies on the future of maritime transport until 2018, on ship recycling, on Europe sea-ports, on offshore wind energy, and on marine and maritime research.
We have presented tailor-made sea-basin strategies, for the Arctic and the Baltic Sea, with a Mediterranean strategy due to follow soon.
We have taken steps to introduce a new method of maritime governance in Europe, and, much to my relief, we have not been alone in undertaking these initiatives. Practically all Member States are taking steps towards integration, as are a number of regions. By way of illustration I could point, for example, to the Coastal Charter adopted in Brittany, the development of the "Sea our Future" strategy in Schleswig-Holstein, the plan for integrated management of coastal areas in Asturias, or the "Arc Manche Assembly" to enhance co-operation between authorities from the French and English coastal areas.
Furthermore, as befits our Integrated Maritime Policy, we have taken steps to develop cross-sectoral instruments which draw on integrated solutions to problems encountered by several policies having the same, or similar, needs. We have forged ahead with plans to develop maritime spatial planning; to bring about integration in maritime surveillance across borders and across countries; and to build a marine observation and data network.
I am sure you will agree that our achievements to date are cause for optimism.
But the good progress we have made to date is just the beginning. The journey on which we have embarked together is still far from over. That is why your initiative to hold this discussion on the future orientations of the Integrated Maritime Policy is both timely and highly appropriate.
Even if we all agree that good progress has been made and all the signs seem to point us in the same direction, it is important that we keep questioning whether we are on the right track. It is only in that way that we can be certain that we are doing the right things to deliver the best possible results for our oceans, seas and coasts; for the people who earn a living from maritime activities; and for all those who live in maritime regions.
Our maritime challenges look different today than they did when the Blue Paper was issued. On the one hand, we are faced by an economic downturn that no-one could have predicted would be so severe. We need to act so as to bring about economic recovery. Yet more than that, we need to do it in a way that, at the same time as we push for economic renewal we give a positive impetus to environmentally friendly business practices. There are also other challenges looming on the horizon, foremost amongst which is climate change and the efforts that we must make to reverse the degradation of the natural environment that we have witnessed over recent years.
Clearly the Integrated Maritime Policy can serve as a useful tool to meet the challenges we face head-on.
Thus far we have witnessed immense public endorsement for the integration of our policies. Many have pointed to integration as the only way forward. We have also seen a most welcome change in US policy towards the fight against climate change. This combination of events should prompt us to step up our efforts and to achieve a higher level of ambition for the Integrated Maritime Policy.
Bearing this in mind, it would be useful if I was to remind you of the elements for an Integrated Maritime Policy that we consider to be strategic. These echo what President Barroso said at the European Maritime Day:
The regions must continue to play a central role in these issues and so today my message to you would be, to reflect on how these strategic policy directions can be translated into concrete action. To this end, I would invite you to be creative. Think outside the box. For creativity can mean being critical about what we do; advancing apparently unrealistic ideas; or making ambitious demands on those able to make a difference.
Let me give you some examples of what this might entail.
On transport, we will need to make good our words about promoting co-modality in transnational European transport and to do it we will need better intra-European maritime transport. As President Barroso said in Rome we should act to make the Motorways of the Sea a reality and improve our programme for short sea shipping. Your ideas in this regard would be most welcome. In connection with the promotion of transport by sea in Europe, we could also contemplate action to instigate a rapid change towards green shipping. Current efforts follow a gradual approach which has to move step by step in keeping with changes in international regulations. Maybe we should be looking at ways in which this could be accelerated.
On ship-building, our present focus could extend beyond research with the aim of broadening our state aid guidelines to allow support for building ships which implement higher environmental standards. We could also have scrapping measures centred on short-sea shipping vessels which are often relatively old, high-emission ships. The combination of eco-innovation and smart logistical concepts could provide an answer to the combined challenge of climate change and the economic crisis which has started to hit European shipyards and marine equipment producers badly.
If done properly, these steps could ensure that our maritime transport sector is in much better shape when the inevitable economic upturn kicks-in.
On alternative energy sources, we need to invest more in the development of new technologies for offshore exploration. This is not only for offshore renewable energy – as was recently the case for offshore wind energy. We need to promote the prospection, exploration and eventual sustainable exploitation of the seabed, be it for minerals or rich biological resources. We could also look at the potential of marine methane hydrates, a potential energy source in plentiful supply – a supply that exceeds the cumulative reserves of oil, coal and gas. Thus far, the potential of methane hydrates has been poorly researched.
On marine and maritime research, we should build upon the recent European marine and maritime research strategy and utilise more of the Framework Programme's funds in marine science and research. I continue to work closely with Commissioner Potočnik towards the implementation of that strategy.
We should also envisage giving extra value to specific sea-basin strategies.
Regional co-operation is important for a number of reasons. Not only can it serve a purpose in jointly assessing the environmental impact of activities around an entire sea basin in a single impact assessment process, it also brings together a number of the players that are involved in ensuring that the Marine Strategy Framework Directive is implemented. There is a downside however that needs to be taken into account and this is that better co-ordination of maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management across sea basins while underpinning environmentally-friendly economic development, may create unlevel competition among regions. A more binding framework at EU level could however present solutions in this regard.
The planning of future activities should be done in full awareness of the effects of climate change on coastal areas and islands. A dedicated strategy for climate change adaptation in coastal areas and islands could ensure that this issue receives appropriate attention.
We should also look at the maritime dimension of other EU initiatives.
Take territorial cohesion, for example. How should the specific context of the seas and coasts best be reflected in the EU's territorial cohesion strategy? And what should be the future approach to regional development support for maritime regions?
We could pursue the idea of a coastal fund, raised by some in the consultations following the Maritime Green Paper. If we do so, we will need to assemble ideas about its focus, its functioning and its financial scope. This could well prove to be a long process with an uncertain outcome. So we might reflect also on alternatives, such as a virtual coastal fund: keeping the existing funding programmes, but providing full transparency on funding for coastal and maritime purposes.
Lastly, let us consider the proposals from the European Parliament. For example, the outgoing European Parliament, under the leadership of MEP Jamila Madeira, adopted a resolution on the impact of tourism on coastal regions that advocates an integrated approach to coastal tourism. In this context, an observatory on coastal tourism could create transparency and present best practices focusing on innovative tourism projects, and linking tourism with nature conservation, maritime heritage and regional cohesion. This is an excellent initiative on the part of the outgoing European Parliament and I am confident that the new Parliament will be as dedicated to maritime affairs as its predecessor.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has truly been a pleasure addressing you today, however I would now like to hand the reigns over to you.
Give us your ideas: be creative, innovative – daring, even – for the sake of securing the best possible future for our oceans, seas and coasts. I look forward to hearing from you on how best we can together move forward the Integrated Maritime Policy.
I am also grateful for all the support you have shown this project thus far.
All that is left for me to say now is that I wish you all an excellent and fruitful discussion.