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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission - Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Brittany's Coastal Charter: setting the standard in Integrated Maritime Policy

Presentation of the Coastal Charter of Brittany
Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 3 March 2009

President Le Drian, Distinguished Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is always a pleasure to be at the Committee of the Regions, which has consistently contributed towards the shaping of the European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy.

Today we are here to discuss Brittany's coastal charter. I am delighted to have the opportunity to applaud this very important initiative by our Breton friends which sets a benchmark for many other coastal regions throughout the European Union. President Le Drian and Brittany's institutions and stakeholders deserve much credit not only specifically for having made this Charter a reality, but more generally for their broad vision and understanding of the importance of Europe's maritime dimension to this region.

Brittany's avid interest in the Integrated Maritime Policy and its people's long-standing attachment to the sea and maritime activities are no secret. The sea is central to the lives of thousands in this region. And yet, while there is much from the seas to celebrate, memories of tragedies such as the Erika disaster, sadly remain all too vivid.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I can point to Brittany as a region which has turned words of support for maritime policies into concrete action.

Brittany has been a frontrunner in promoting the social dimension and the sustainable development of coastal communities. This includes the creation of a European data network on the marine environment, the proposal for a single maritime area leading to a more integrated maritime economy and better social standards, a commitment to high-quality training for the maritime professions, and support for marine research and development. I have also noted your suggestion for funding - consistent with the importance of the Integrated Maritime Policy's objectives.

Allow me to focus on a number of issues in turn.

The coastal charter first. I am pleased to say that your coastal charter is a prime example of a truly integrated maritime policy at a regional level which takes into account real sea-basin specifics. I am particularly delighted to see that many of the charter's objectives and concerns tally with those of the Integrated Maritime Policy. This is especially true of its ambition to commit as many actors as possible to Brittany's coastal future. The political will to map the issues and highlight the challenges for Brittany's coastal communities is, in itself, a step towards advancing maritime co-operation further, and helping pave the way for maritime communities to reap the benefits of this co-operation.

In short, it is precisely the type of initiative that the Commission would like to foster and one that we would like to see replicated in the many other maritime regions of Europe.

I endorse the charter's three basic principles of:

  • the belief in full mobilisation of expertise and means;
  • the coast as a place of "opportunity and responsibility"; and
  • the concept that drivers such as the environment, the economy and cultural heritage, accessibility and innovation should be further developed and sustained over time.

On a purely practical level, the chosen lines of action are well-suited to the objectives pursued. Put simply, strengthening maritime ambitions, streamlining maritime activities with sustainable policies, promoting sustainable activities, safeguarding human life, tackling environmental threats and preserving maritime heritage are excellent means to excellent ends.

These are all themes that Integrated Maritime Policy has highlighted, however the parallels do not end there.

We also share a vision for the future of coastal communities - a vision which should be at the top of our agendas. This is clearly a vision for sustainability and prosperity. Let me however be clear: it cannot be just about that. We must channel our efforts beyond just the strengthening of key economic activities – including the many areas in which Brittany excels – to the overall development of our maritime economies.

The kind of development I am talking about will have to encompass other important issues – issues which directly affect Brittany's coastal communities. Examples range from spatial planning and water quality to demographic changes, environmental conservation and climate change. It is only by looking at the broadest possible range of issues that an integrated approach can offer genuine solutions and not quick fixes.

By virtue of your coastal charter, you are showing the momentum that lies behind the Integrated Maritime Policy. This is a momentum for change – change in the ways we manage our relationship with the oceans and seas.

A similar kind of momentum is now building up in other areas and one of these is also crucial for Brittany and the EU as a whole. I have in mind the Common Fisheries Policy.

We are currently planning a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in order to ensure that it does better in the attainment of its primary goals of delivering sustainability, ensuring responsibility and maintaining a thriving fishing industry. Given that the fishing sector is inherently linked with the maritime sector, the CFP plays a pivotal role in fulfilling the core aims of the Integrated Maritime Policy.

Indeed, in reforming the Common Fisheries Policy we cannot ignore our latest findings about maritime spatial planning, nor the information we will gather through a future European Marine Observation and Information Network. We will also have to take into account the whole question of maritime governance and the principles of the environmental pillar of Integrated Maritime Policy - the Marine Environment Directive. In other words, we will have to integrate the CFP into the broader policy framework.

Despite its many achievements, the CFP is still far from perfect, particularly as regards tackling overcapacity in the fishing fleets, fisheries management, control issues, IUU and discards. Simply said the over-riding aim of this exercise is to deliver the sustainability needed to secure a prosperous future for the fishing industry and coastal communities.

Although the reform of the CFP is due in 2012, we will launch the start of the reform process next month, in April, via a Green Paper. This Paper will analyse the current situation and ask a series of questions, to which all of Europe's citizens are invited to respond. All issues should be up for debate, including deeply-entrenched elements of our policy that have been in place for years.

By starting this ambitious reform process now, we are giving ourselves the chance to seek bold solutions with the potential to transform the way we manage our fisheries over the longer term. As France's foremost fishing region, Brittany is well-placed to extensively contribute to the reform debate. I invite you to participate actively in this debate as you have done in past.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before concluding my address to you today, I would like to address two important aspects of the Integrated Maritime Policy which I believe could be of particular interest. The first concerns the role of Europe's regions in the development of the Integrated Maritime Policy. The second concerns the relationship of Integrated Maritime Policy with the EU's future territorial cohesion policy.

On the first issue, as I have often stated, the Integrated Maritime Policy will only be a success if the Commission, regional bodies and local actors work towards the same goals. Any doubts in this respect were laid to rest with the enthusiastic participation of maritime regions in the public consultation of the Maritime Policy Green Paper.

Allow me to underline this, here, in your House, in the Committee of the Regions: We would not have arrived at this point without you. The interest, the support and the strong representation made by Europe's maritime regions has been an indispensable part of our project. Your support and commitment has not only been vital for our project to get off the ground, it is also helping to translate it into tangible actions. The work undertaken by regions like Brittany and Schleswig-Holstein, in developing their own sets of action, have gone that extra length and set the standard for other regions and Member States developing their integrated approaches to maritime policy. You have not only achieved something vital for your own areas, you are now contributing decisively to make this Integrated Maritime Policy an irreversible process.

While this gives me great pleasure in itself, I also wish to thank you for being so proactive and committed to the success of the Integrated Maritime Policy.

On the second issue – the new territorial cohesion policy that is currently being discussed at a European level – I would like to thank the CPMR for its valuable comments on the Territorial Cohesion Green Paper at its meeting in Aarhus in January.

We all know that inter-regional co-operation is vital. Pooling knowledge and exchanging best practices is the way forward for all sea basins around Europe.

The Commission's view is that territorial objectives must be integrated into sectoral policies.

The Territorial Cohesion Green Paper currently has a strong terrestrial component. I share the CPMR's opinion that this territorial component must be perceived as having both a terrestrial and a maritime dimension and that the two must be co-ordinated. To that end, sea-basin strategies under the Integrated Maritime Policy, which combine a cross-sectoral approach with properly designed governance structures encompassing all levels of administration, must be an integral part of any territorial cohesion policy.

In the context of discussions on territorial cohesion and the relevant policy intervention, bottom-up local development approaches should be strengthened. These galvanise local actors into developing strategies tailored to the needs of their sea-basin areas. We are already trying to do things in this way in a maritime context.

And this leads me to the links that exist between territorial cohesion and the Integrated Maritime Policy. Any future development of Maritime Policy needs to be guided so as to ensure the coherence of regional development in coastal regions and we need to explore how we can better co-ordinate future financial instruments that may cover action in coastal regions. Any such development must also entrench the principles of sustainable economic development, enhanced competitiveness and the importance of the ecosystem approach.

Now, more than ever, is the time to fully engage in the debate on this new cohesion policy which is bound to significantly affect the ownership and visibility of European regions as a whole, and of Brittany in particular, in Community policy-making.

I am looking forward to being able to count on Brittany and the Committee of the Regions to proactively involve yourselves in that debate, as also in the debate on CFP reform and future debates that may arise on how we can deliver a healthy marine environment to support our coastal communities for generations to come.

Thank you for your time today and thank you for your hard work.

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