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Maria Damanaki

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Setting the stage: at the interface of Climate, Biodiversity, and Integrated Governance

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

UNESCO Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands

Paris, 6 May 2010

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first of all thank the Global Forum, the IOC, the French Government and all the other organisers for their kind invitation to address this important conference.

The fact that so many highly qualified professionals and important decision-makers have gathered here is heart-warming. This morning's discussions have shown that we are all part of a global movement to preserve our marine resources and the governance of our seas, in the face of the many challenges ahead:

  • climate change,

  • the economic downturn

  • and an incredible loss of biodiversity

I am pleased that the Global Forum's ambitious agenda reflects the need for a global response, based on sound knowledge, and aiming at sustainable management.

This is all the more important when at the time we are talking, a dramatic oil spill threats the marine ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.

It is increasingly clear that maritime policy has very wide implications, and a real potential to fuel sustained recovery and growth across Europe and the world. Our goal has to be to create jobs and to foster growth in an environmentally friendly manner. We must encourage people to protect the sources on which they depend for their livelihoods.

Economic growth, social development and environmental protection must go hand in hand. They are not competing goals, but elements of the same and one equation. I am happy to see that so many of us recognise this and work toward that end. France, Monsieur Borloo, is a perfect example, with the recent launch of the new maritime policy by Mr Sarkozy. And I am proud to add that the European Commission actively works in that direction.


In 2007, the European Union set out its vision of an Integrated Maritime Policy, or IMP.

It all starts with a very simple observation: various sectoral policies that have a very direct and real impact on the marine environment and coastal regions - tourism, environment, transport, etc – are developed in relative isolation from one another. The IMP provides a policy framework that coordinates these sectoral policies and develops integrated responses to maritime challenges. In that way, we can promote the sustainable growth of the maritime economy, and the coastal regions.

We have developed a series of tools. For example:

  • maritime spatial planning brings balanced and sustainable management of resources, allowing the various maritime activities to develop in harmony. By removing the anarchic competition of the past, we are able to foster collaboration and healthy competition.

  • Second, integrated surveillance provides us with a multi-purpose tool that increases our overall knowledge of marine activity. With that, we are better equipped to take the right decision for the environment, for safety, security and many other policy areas.

  • Third, marine knowledge is about creating a solid scientific network to advance our understanding of the marine environment.

On top of these we are also taking active steps to develop solutions that are tailor-made for each of our various European sea basins. We have already done so for the Mediterranean, and for the Baltic, and we are preparing similar plans for the North Sea and the Atlantic.

I am happy to say that the early signs are encouraging. I am a true believer in that approach. Bringing the IMP to a new level is one of the flagships of my mandate in the European Commission, together with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which as you know also falls under my responsibilities.

Global dimension of IMP

We do not want however to limit our vision to Europe alone. We want the IMP to be part of a global governance movement. Marine ecosystems and maritime economies transcend national boundaries. The nature of the challenges is such that their answer can only be transnational. We know that first hand, though the success of common European strategies and policies.

In other words, the IMP cannot afford to ignore what is going on beyond Europe's borders.

The European Commission has published a strategy document that outlines what the EU can do to reinforce its contribution to maritime affairs in the international arena, and to bolster global governance of the oceans and seas.

We have identified a number of areas that clearly require international solutions, such as the protection of marine biodiversity, including biodiversity on the high seas, climate change, maritime safety and security, decent on-board working conditions and marine research. I hope these are areas where our experts will be able to collaborate.

This conference is a welcome illustration of the increasing support of an integrated approach to maritime policy.

An increasing number of countries have set up an integrated maritime policy or are working in that direction.

We are all, in this room, the activists of this innovative policy which looks into the future. This is most welcome, and also bodes well for future international cooperation on a range of maritime issues.

It also reminds us of the need for greater coordination between the relevant international organisations, not only to ensure consistency of approach, but also to ensure comprehensive protection of the marine environment.

We look forward to more international and bilateral dialogue and cooperation, to exchanging best practices and to creating synergies wherever possible. By taking this route we can make a tangible contribution to sustainable maritime governance at a global level.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Global Oceans Conference offers us a great opportunity to bring all sectors of the global oceans community – governments, international agencies, NGOs, industry and scientists – together to address the major policy issues affecting the oceans at the global, regional, and national levels.

Events such as this one show us the only way forward: the way of international collaboration. And we, as European Commission, are fully committed to play our part in that endeavour.

Thank you for your attention and I would like to wish you all every success at this meeting.

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