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Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Opening Speech

Brainstorming event on maritime affairs and fisheries in the Black Sea

Brussels, 14 October 2011

Dear Ministers, dear Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted that you have all come here today to brainstorm with us on what we need to achieve together in the Black Sea. I am also really happy that we have such a high level participation, which to me is absolutely necessary if we want to achieve results for the Black Sea.

Now, I know that each of you knows what to do in your own countries. But we need to work towards a common vision for the entire sea basin – and underpin it with projects that involve all actors in an integrated way. This is the real challenge.

I will be honest with you: it won't be done in a day. The basin poses many political challenges. But we have to start somewhere and I promise you that I am willing to embark on this journey together with you.

The Black Sea has a lot of assets: it is a most popular tourist destination; it has a significant volume of traffic – of people, goods, fish, gas, and even oil on its way from Russia and the Caspian Sea; its environmental status is also slightly improving.

What can we do?

Let's start right away with fisheries. We have a real problem here, because Romania, Bulgaria and the Commission actually want to do something to improve the stocks. But in a situation where we only fish a very small proportion of landings in this sea basin it is clear that we cannot do it on our own. If we want to get the full picture of what is going on in fisheries in the Black Sea then we need to get other Black Sea countries to cooperate with us. This is crucial for managing stocks sustainably and it is crucial for enforcing the rules.

As you know I have undertaken to set up a Fisheries Advisory Council for the Black Sea. I would like to hear your views how we can best go about achieving a real co-operation with other Black Sea Countries. My first idea is to start from scientific and research cooperation: The collection of data, the preparation of accurate scientific advice, the research for innovative solution is the base of our policy, for fisheries, environment, maritime affaires, blue growth and jobs. And I think that here we have already done a lot. We need more cooperation to go for the extra mile. So, what can we do for improving research and knowledge about the state of stocks in the Black Sea so that we can manage them sustainably in the long term? What else can do in cooperation?

Let me now come to maritime affairs. What is happening in the Black Sea in terms of competing for space? We have transport, energy, tourism, fisheries and marine aquaculture who all want to create business in the same space. We also have to enforce the Marine Strategy Framework Directive; achievement of good environmental status means addressing problems such as eutrophication or loss of biodiversity and is a substantial contribution to a healthy and productive Black Sea. Therefore planning is as vital in the Black Sea as it is elsewhere. And here we have a similar problem as with fisheries. Why? Because undertaking maritime spatial planning only in the two EU MS in the Black Sea will not do the trick. My goal is to trigger a real regional dialogue so that we can promote cross border maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management. We need this if we want to ensure that all actors operating on sea and land get a fair chance to develop their businesses.

And since I am mentioning here businesses let me explain a little our blue growth proposal. What is it? Blue growth proposal intends to overcome fragmentation and create linkages between different sectors. We also focus on some new promising areas: Aquaculture, maritime tourism, non wind energy projects (current, tidal, algae, sea thermal energy) and mapping and exploitation of the sea-bottom. Here we also need your ideas.

I believe what is also vital in the Black Sea is to bring all businesses in the maritime sector together and foster exchange of knowledge. In Ireland recently, I held a roundtable discussion with the authorities, the Research Institute and with the most diverse businesses starting from IBM over Veolia Windfarms down to a micro company developing devices for fishing nets. These micro companies and multi million dollar businesses actually come together regularly. They exchange knowledge and create new business ideas as they are speaking together under the coordination of Marine Research Institute in Galway. Therefore I am absolutely convinced that we need to offer our businesses in Black sea a data network of comparable and usable marine data. All businesses need to have easy access to this network. I think that this can really be the key to sparking off new maritime business opportunities.

To go back to policy integration and the regional dialogue:

Its framework is the Black Sea Synergy and the Eastern Partnership. But I don't want concrete work on maritime matters to be held up by political blockages – the Black Sea environment cannot wait. Should we initiate a yearly meeting with all Black Sea littoral States on maritime affairs?

How can we best cooperate with existing organisations, such as the Black Sea Economic Cooperation? How do we pursue our strategic goal of EU membership to the Bucharest Convention? How, in the meanwhile, as non members, do we ensure that the substantial financial EU contribution for the Black Sea environment is properly highlighted and efficiently used?

There are also a lot of points related to how you can make the best possible use of the concrete tools that the EU puts at your disposal, beginning with funding. The EU may be the main provider of cooperation funds in the region, but it is not the only one. So cooperating with the World Bank and the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank is high on our agenda. I welcome their presence here today.

I'm fairly confident that, by 2014, we will have one single fund for all maritime and fisheries affairs – a simplification that will make it easier to use the fund and find synergies across areas. So I propose to start working together now to put down some projects that could be supported as of 2014. We will also have better integration of maritime affairs within the other Structural Funds.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I will leave it at this as I am really keen to listen to your views.

There is already a general vision that we all share: having healthy and sustainable Black Sea that boost economic growth for this sea basin.

Thank you again for being here.

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