Member of the European Commission Responsible for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Integration in maritime affairs: the way forward
Meeting of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Seas and Coastal Affairs
Brussels, 24 March 2010
Mrs Lepage, Mrs Marianou, Honourable Members, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today to meet with the Intergroup on Seas and Coastal Affairs, just a few days after its establishment.
The recent birth of the Intergroup is yet another proof of the Parliament's commitment to promote an integrated maritime policy. The Intergroup's arrival could not have come at a better time. You can help foster the IMP's cross-sectoral approach within the European Parliament and beyond. Your privileged interface with civil society and other stakeholders can make this Intergroup a catalyst that will boost stakeholder participation in shaping future maritime policy. I sincerely hope that this first meeting will establish a long-term close collaboration between us.
Because collaboration is ultimately what this whole exercise boils down to. Through the Integrated Maritime Policy we are first of all looking for the synergies between the various sectoral policies, to prevent incoherence and contradictions. Taking it one step further, we now want to overcome the traditional fragmentation of policies developed in isolation from one another. To act in favour of an integrated, cross-sectoral approach that will promote sustainable growth in coastal regions and maritime sectors as a whole.
In this way, we will promote the spirit of collaborative policy-making that lies at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy, putting the general public interest before the specific sectoral interests. In this spirit of collaboration, we can join forces with the Intergroup to foster an innovative culture of cross-sectoral dialogue for an innovative policy.
At the same time the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) has matured enough – 3 years old - to grow up to a new level. Driving it forward will certainly be one of the flagships of my mandate. We have started taking serious steps towards crafting tailor-made solutions to the specific challenges of our sea basins. And I am happy to say that early signs are encouraging. Rapid technical advances on cross-sectoral tools such as maritime spatial planning, integrated surveillance or marine knowledge further comfort me in the belief that we can safely push ahead with a bolder IMP.
Two main documents will guide us along the way: the November 2009 General Affairs Council conclusions, and last year's progress report on the IMP. On the basis of these two documents, the Commission has established five strategic guidelines:
First, Integrated Maritime Governance. This implies establishing effective structures at all levels of decision-making and involving stakeholders more closely in those structures.
Second, cross-cutting tools. We need to develop the IMP's cross-cutting tools to deliver even better in terms of economic development, environmental monitoring and safety on Europe's oceans and seas. Let me take just one example: The Council has recognised the added value inherent in Maritime Spatial Planning (or MSP) and has asked the Commission to come forward with initiatives in that field. We are now working on a Communication which should be published in the coming months. I cannot stress strongly enough the importance that we attach to the Intergroup's involvement on this issue. The cross-sectoral nature of MSP highlights this Intergroup's key coordination role across parliamentary committees.
Third, sea-basin strategies. In its conclusions last year, the Council pointed to sea-basin strategies as a crucial element for the IMP's success. The Commission intends to roll out this approach, so that policy tools can be tailored to the specific needs of different sea basins. Strategies for the Atlantic and the North Sea are currently under consideration, in addition to the Baltic Sea Strategy and the strategy for governance in the Mediterranean already in place.
Fourth, the external dimension. Dialogue with third countries sharing sea basins with the EU is crucial. Here again, the Commission would value the help of MEPs, whose expertise in relations with third-country parliaments and regional organisations can make them key actors in the IMP's success. Europe has proven time and again that it can be a leader in international maritime affairs. We have spearheaded the international fight against piracy and destructive fishing practices, and could still contribute in many areas with your help.
Last but not least, sustainable economic growth, employment and innovation. This is particularly important in the context of the current economic downturn. There are many opportunities for us to explore – from clean energy generation and co-modality in maritime transport to research for clean shipping, from a competitive marine equipment industry to a safer and more sustainable maritime transport.
Throughout these priorities, one constant remains: that is the need for cross-sectoral thinking to exploit synergies wherever possible. In doing so we will deliver the blue growth and jobs I personally have pledged to create and thus do our bit towards achieving the goals set out in the Europe2020 agenda.
Commission President Barroso has rightly identified a thriving maritime sector as a key source of the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for Europe. And I am certain that with your collaboration we can meet that target and confirm his faith in the maritime sector. I look forward to the Intergroup's suggestions and ideas on actions to bolster the IMP. Likewise, while the Fisheries Committee is evidently our main partner when discussing the CFP reform, we would be open to hear any contributions the Intergroup may want to make on this issue as well. I know that we can expect the Intergroup to play a key role in advocating and promoting the truly integrated approach to maritime affairs that will make a real difference to citizens in coastal and maritime communities the length and breadth of the European Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank each and every one of you, and in particular Mrs Lepage for your firm commitment to see the Intergroup on Seas and Coastal Affairs take shape.