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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy

2nd Stakeholder Conference on Baltic Sea Region
Rostock, 6 February 2009

Mr Beazley,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to conclude this second stakeholder conference which brings the official consultation process on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region to a close. It is both a great honour, and indeed also a responsibility, to address you here today, given the high expectations you have for this Strategy. Allow me to already assure you that we will be doing all we can to ensure that it delivers on its promises.

The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region has one simple aim: that of making the Baltic a more attractive, prosperous and safe place to live, work and visit. I do not think there is anyone who would disagree with this. It is however useful to discuss the ways in which this can best be achieved, involving the broadest number of interested parties.

Widespread consultation has therefore been a crucial element in our work. This has not only been the case with the outside world, but also in-house, within the European Commission itself. Under the able leadership of Commissioner Hübner, we have seen extremely close collaboration and consultation between the different departments with an interest in the region - co-operation which I am confident will result in a more comprehensive Strategy than would otherwise have been possible.

It is my firm belief that such a constructive approach can be easily replicated in the Baltic itself, between the Member States, representatives of different sectors and of course, the numerous organisations that are already so active in the region. This is clearly a case where more brains are better than one.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It seems clear to me, also, that one of the fundamental pivots for this Baltic Sea Strategy must be the Integrated Maritime Policy endorsed just over a year ago by the European Council. It is interesting to note that on the same occasion, and in symphony with this policy, the Council also invited the European Commission to present an EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The fact that the two are, in the minds of policy-makers, so closely linked is certainly most fortunate, and their progress in tandem is not just coincidental.

There is a very real connection between any strategy for the Baltic and a maritime policy for the Union given that the Baltic is, by its very definition, a grouping of maritime nations. Therefore, it was clear, from the very outset, that maritime-related components would form a significant part of the Baltic Sea Strategy. There is a maritime dimension to every major issue facing the Baltic Sea Region, including environmental protection and conservation, energy, climate change, research and innovation, competitiveness and job creation, trade and transport.

The Integrated Maritime Policy of the EU addresses these issues through its cross-cutting approach, focusing on the sustainable development of maritime activities and the competitiveness of the maritime economy. These are all areas of interest to the Baltic.

Given that many of you have already been active in developing the Integrated Maritime Policy with us, you will also already be aware that the Commission has now moved to the delivery of this policy through its Action Plan. This plan constitutes a series of grass-roots actions that can help translate the Integrated Maritime Policy into a reality.

To see the effects of these actions in a truly tangible way is only possible if the policy is brought to a regional level – a level where it can be more directly applied. Thus, by having a maritime dimension firmly embedded in the Baltic Strategy, the effects of an integrated maritime policy suddenly become more real.

We therefore believe that the Baltic Sea Strategy is thus not only the most appropriate vehicle for the implementation of the EU maritime policy in the Baltic. It also constitutes an innovative approach to having integrated development strategies at a regional level. It would, in fact, constitute a first example of an integrated maritime strategy at a sea-basin level, providing valuable experience and serving as a model for other maritime regions.

In the consultation processes on both the Baltic Sea Strategy and on the EU maritime policy, many Baltic stakeholders also expressed their belief that the region has a potential to be a model maritime region. I therefore think that we need to press ahead on the basis of this support and translate this into concrete action.

Let me start with the key issue of governance.

My message is simple: the success of both the Baltic Sea Strategy and the Integrated Maritime Policy will depend on the degree to which the integrated thinking at the heart of the policy permeates into policy-making within and among the Member States. The comprehensive agenda of this conference has facilitated a discussion on a vast range of issues of concern for the region and has demonstrated great potential for generating synergies through cross-sectoral interaction among all players of the Baltic Sea region.

Allow me to elaborate a little further on two cross-cutting governance tools in which we are striving for more added value through better integration, both of which, I believe, could be of great value to the Baltic Sea Strategy. They are maritime spatial planning and maritime surveillance.

I shall address maritime spatial planning first.

Our point of departure is that the Baltic Sea is confronted with a rising number of users competing for the same space: maritime transport, fisheries, marine protected areas and off-shore energy, to name but a few. To give just one concrete example, the recent energy crisis may well spark parallel growth in energy transportation and renewable energies in the Baltic. However, the lack of maritime spatial planning in the region could undermine both the growth potential of these activities and their ability to deal with related environmental problems. It also means that there could be a lack of a coherent approach to activities along the Baltic coastline with any number of consequent repercussions.

The Commission recently adopted a Roadmap on Maritime Spatial Planning, launching a debate on its use and encouraging a common approach to planning along Member States' coastlines. The Baltic Sea has the potential to become a forerunner in this area. Things are already moving forward and the work done in this sphere by HELCOM, VASAB and the WWF confirms the interest there is in this action. The Commission is ready to support these efforts with a pilot project, thereby assisting Member States and organisations to improve maritime spatial planning.

The second tool for consideration deals with maritime surveillance.

The Baltic Sea is one of the busiest seas in the world, accounting for more than 15% of the world’s cargo transportation. Forecasts indicate that cargo shipped on the Baltic will double by 2015. This includes the transportation of oil and other potentially hazardous cargoes which are growing steeply. Maritime safety and security issues should therefore be high on the agenda.

Substantial surveillance co-operation is already taking place at EU, regional and national levels. Nevertheless, the situation remains highly fragmented, with each of these sectors – fisheries, maritime safety, law enforcement, and border control – subject to its own control system. Policing of our waters could be more effective if surveillance systems were made interoperable across both sectors and borders. The Commission is ready to launch a pilot project on how to do just this. The aim is to improve the cross-sectoral exchange of data and to carry out joint activities.

There are also a few crucial examples of actions in specific areas where the Baltic Sea Strategy could make a real difference.

Firstly, the Baltic Sea region could aim to become a model for clean shipping and clean ports. While maritime transport is considered a clean mode of transport, we need to act on issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, oil spills, introduction of alien species and wastewater treatment which dent its reputation. Increasing environmental awareness and the need to respond to the high proportion of cruise and ferry shipping in the Baltic Sea, provide good pre-conditions for enhanced actions on these issues. For example, ports such as Stockholm and Lübeck are recognised as pioneers in shore-side electricity.

Secondly, while some Baltic fish stocks are now recovering, the situation of fisheries in the Baltic Sea remains a matter of serious concern. We should strive to implement an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries through the introduction of long-term management plans, action against discards, enhanced compliance with the rules, an improved fisheries control system and ongoing reductions in fishing fleet capacity.

We have already issued a proposal on an overhaul of the control system. In April we will publish a Green Paper launching a debate on the 2012 CFP reform in which you are all invited to air your views. We are launching the reform process at this early stage and reaching out to the broadest possible constituency so as to give ourselves the chance to seek bold solutions with the potential to transform the way we manage our fisheries over the longer term. Once again, the contained nature of the Baltic Sea renders it a perfect candidate for building a completely eco-system-based fisheries management system.

Thirdly, I come to maritime clusters.

Maritime clusters are crucial for the region to maintain its competitiveness. This is of importance for coastal areas and also for the wider region, given that several maritime industries are located at some distance from the sea. National clusters do not suffice to ensure competitiveness in today's globalised economy. Actions to strengthen cross-border co-operation among clusters through dialogue and exchange of best practices would therefore enhance the economic potential of the Baltic region and have indirect effects for the whole of the EU.

Beyond these individual actions, I would like to underline the view that the Baltic Sea should be perceived as a force for unity. EU enlargement has given this region a renewed sense of common purpose. That is why this Strategy is so timely. It will help build a shared identity which will enable the Baltic and the EU as a whole to benefit from the region's enormous potential.

The Baltic Sea Strategy also provides an opportunity to build on our international partnerships, notably with the Russian Federation. In this context, we should make the most out of a well-functioning Northern Dimension.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You may well ask yourselves how we are to make sure that all these objectives will actually take place in practice.

I believe that the implementation of the Baltic Sea Strategy will only be successful with the strong ownership and involvement of all the actors concerned. The Commission therefore believes that the Strategy would benefit from identifying lead partners for each of its flagship actions. As Commissioner Hübner said in her opening address yesterday, we will start bilateral meetings with Member States very shortly to explore these issues further.

In conclusion, let me emphasise that the Baltic Sea Strategy is a key instrument in promoting territorial cohesion, with the terrestrial and the maritime dimensions as equal partners. Sea basin strategies such as this are promoted within the Integrated Maritime Policy and must also be an integral part of territorial cohesion policy across the EU.

This conference has been the perfect climax to an extensive consultation process in which all of you have more than played your part.

As I said earlier, I am aware of the high expectations for the Strategy. I am convinced that the people who can make a difference are those who live in the region and who want their region to be environmentally stable, prosperous and a safe place to live.

The challenge is now for the Commission, Member States and stakeholders - in co-operation - to bring this to fruition.

Thank you.

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