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Member of the European Commission Responsible for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Maritime policy at the heart of Europe2020
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Inaugural conference of the Blue Chamber Network - maritime expertise among European chambers of commerce and industry
Brussels, 16 March 2010
Mr Chairman, Honourable Members, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by thanking you for your kind invitation to address this important conference to launch the Blue Chamber Network.
This initiative is very promising. It brings together small and medium-sized enterprises – the backbone of our economy – with a focus on maritime policy. It is also timely, because it coincides with our efforts to ensure that the Integrated Maritime Policy is at the centre of the EU's drive for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
I would also like to thank the European Parliament for hosting today's event. The European Parliament is one of the champions of integrated maritime policy in the European Union. Thanks to its standing committees including the Transport and Fisheries Committees. But also the Intergroup on Seas and Coastal Affairs, whose chairperson, Mrs Lepage, is here today.
I do not need to tell you how difficult the economic climate is at present. Nor do you need reminding of the extent to which the economic crisis – which continues to affect European citizens – has highlighted the fragilities in Europe's economies.
It is true that the challenges we face are daunting. They include a declining workforce, an ageing population and fierce competition from around our globalised world.
Yet the potential for maritime policy to fuel sustained recovery and growth across Europe is well and truly evident. President Barroso has fully recognised this. He identified a thriving maritime sector as a key source of the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe. This thinking has fed into the plan we now have to take us forward: the Europe2020 Strategy.
Above all, this would mean unlocking the economic potential of maritime Europe. Getting the public authorities more involved in action on the seas. Looking to create further synergies to enable economic growth, social and environmental stability to go hand in hand.
The maritime sector has already been established as a provider of jobs and of wealth so, the building blocks and raw materials we need are already in place. Indeed, the European Union's global maritime influence on many fronts is impressive. But the maritime industries are too often fragmented.
We have begun to overcome this fragmentation with the advent of clusters. Many EU Member States rightly see clusters an ideal means of representation for their maritime industries.
We must ensure that existing and emerging maritime segments create real and significant growth opportunities for Europe. This will mean harnessing cutting-edge marine and maritime technologies, resources and services – as catalysts for innovation, competitiveness and, ultimately, the blue growth and jobs I want to see Europe generate.
For its part, the Commission will define growth scenarios and the means required to carry them through. We can already prepare for this on three fronts. Firstly, established industries will have to re-examine their needs in order to attract skilled workers. Secondly, the future success of industries such as in the marine biotech sector or offshore energy will depend on a clear picture of the challenges ahead. Thirdly, we should be thinking about industries which have to emerge but which harbour new opportunities for us.
This is where organisations such as yours can come into their own, by providing the expertise and broad knowledge to identify future needs. Collaborative efforts are the way forward and lie at the very heart of the IMP. This is why I call to you today to work closely with other maritime stakeholders on issues of mutual interest in order to avoid a renewed fragmentation of maritime sectors.
I am always ready to engage in significant dialogue with stakeholders. I see this event as a solid first step towards structured dialogue with the Commission and the other EU institutions. I hope it will soon lead to input and ideas in relation to our strategic agenda for growth and jobs in the maritime and coastal economy.
In the meantime, I would like to wish you all every success at this meeting.