European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
A strategy for the Atlantic
Lisbon Atlantic Conference
Lisbon, 28 November 2011
Mr President, Prime Minister, Ministers, Mr Mayor, ladies and gentlemen,
Let's begin with an observation: for years, the Atlantic Ocean, its regions and islands have been seen as the geographic periphery of Europe.
But the Atlantic plays a critical role in Europe's history and identity. It is of vital importance for EU trade and contains tremendous potentials for the future development of Europe.
It was time to act and to offer new perspectives for this sea basin.
The Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic region is our response.
It shows that Atlantic is by no means peripheral to Europe’s interests and decision-making. It promotes territorial cohesion and engages international partners, on all shores of the Atlantic. It promotes blue growth in the Atlantic, namely through the creation of employment and innovation in maritime sectors and coastal areas while respecting the sustainability of resources.
Nobody can ignore the economic difficulties we are in, at this moment of time. But at times as these, we need to have they spirit to seek new opportunities.
In the Atlantic coastal communities, there are maritime sectors which can lead us out of today's economic impasse: some are well-established, mature sectors, like coastal tourism or fisheries; others are emerging, like renewable energy; others still need further support, such as marine biotechnology or mineral seabed exploration
Our Blue growth proposal in the Strategy tackles the specific challenges of the Atlantic. It takes advantage of specific opportunities which are characteristic to this sea basin, such as: strong winds and powerful tides to create green energy; productive fisheries that can sustain their communities if we fish responsibly; potentially vast seafloor resources to be exploited; Opportunities for the tourism industry including nautical leisure activities; Motorways of the sea that can bring new development to ports and coastal regions. For all these sectors we come with proposals, opportunities and investment.
Ladies and gentlemen,
this is what we propose. What can we expect from the Atlantic Ocean in 2020 if our proposal is in place?
Can we make a difference in nine years time?
I believe we can.
The Atlantic's powerful winds that have challenged generations of explorers and seafarers are now on our side. The massive expansion of wind power that is already planned will transform our seas. Our next step will be to generate the marine energy from the tides and waves complementing what we get from the wind. Oceans can provide zero-emission energy. It offers real security of supply. I cannot see anybody cutting off our wind, tides or waves.
EU-wide, by 2020, ocean energy could generate over 26,000 direct and 13,000 indirect jobs; by 2050, over 300,000 and 150,000 respectively.
And by 2020 we aim to see a digital three-dimensional map of the Atlantic including accessible data on what is in the water, on the seafloor and below the seafloor. Offshore businesses have told us in Ireland that such a map can improve their competiveness. And it can offer opportunities for young energetic companies to create new products and services. Making marine data available for sea bed mapping and related uses is a task that only the EU can deliver. The economic benefit is estimated at approximately €3.6 to 5 billion over a 10-year period.
I want us to know what polymetallic sulphides have been precipitated in the mid-Atlantic ridge. Now we have tested ways of extracting them safely and sustainably. And I want us to understand the peculiar processes that allow life to exist without light and whether their DNA provides clues that can help in our quest to find new drugs against cancer. We have to create an environment friendly to biotechnology investment, through spatial planning, incentives and proper funding.
In 2020 I want to see us fishing sustainably in the Atlantic and a substantial increase in our production from fish farms. Fish provides 15% of the world's protein and in 2020 our planet's population will be approaching 8 billion. Simple arithmetic tells us that, if we don't expand production, someone will be eating less fish. And that means a less healthy diet, with all the public health issues that ensue.
By 2020 the increased value of the offshore economy will have increased our vulnerability to the anger of the sea. Will we have the ability to defend our aquaculture cages against biological threats - toxic algae or jellyfish shoals? Will ocean energy platforms or yacht marinas be able to withstand storms like those that came up from Biscay in February last year? How would Europe cope with a triple catastrophe like that which struck the people of Japan in March this year – earthquake, tsunami, severe nuclear accident? How resilient is our infrastructure? Will we have the early warning systems and rescue teams ready? It requires preparation, it requires sophisticated technology but most of all it requires collaboration between neighbours. Can we do it? Our proposals in the Atlantic Strategy are the answer.
After all, by 2020 we want to see our Atlantic ports and coastal communities alive and active. The new economy – offshore renewables, aquaculture, and mining – will offer opportunities, alongside regenerated traditional ones such as shipbuilding and fishing. The young people should no longer be leaving for jobs. Faster broadband communications will mean that Europe’s peripheral regions are no longer so peripheral.
And let's not forget that the Atlantic coastal regions and islands contains a rich and diverse culture from the still vibrant Celtic culture to the EU outermost regions, the historic ports, the mysterious ruins, the wild coastlines of the Atlantic can be enjoyed all year long.
8 millions of European citizens are practising a nautical activity in the area. There is a waiting list for moorings at many Atlantic marinas while the nautical leisure activities are increasing. We have to meet the demand for a more active, discerning and sustainable maritime tourism.
I might have given the impression that this was a strategy for the five EU countries that border the Atlantic: Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Of course they will be in the front line, including their outermost territories, but we do need a wider engagement.
We need to cooperate with other coastal states around the Atlantic – the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil… and within global fora.
The Atlantic is humanity's heritage. Fishing or prospecting in areas beyond national jurisdiction needs internationally-agreed rules. The circulation of the Atlantic has an impact on the climate on both shores of the ocean. Can we ensure that in 2020 we have enough observation in place to understand what is happening or to warn us of any sudden changes? I don't think we have any choice. We can and we must.
All these targets are in the heart of our Integrated Maritime Policy. Now we have taken an important step forward for this policy. After one year of intense negotiations the IMP is now provided with its own financial framework.
The Financial Regulation for the integrated Maritime Policy has just been approved by the European Parliament and the Council.
From now on we can speak about a policy that has become independent and mature. The amount is not big but it will provide a "bridge" for the implementation of actions from now until the next financial perspectives. From 2014 the opportunities will increase.
How do we match the tools with the objectives? This is not something that can only be done from Brussels. We need all of you - industrialists, academics, local and national authorities, citizens from all around the Atlantic - to help us define what concrete steps or projects will deliver the growth we need.
For this reason we will set up an Atlantic Forum. It will gather opinions, digest them and deliver an Action Plan for the beginning of 2013.
The Action Plan must have concrete ideas for turning our vision into reality.
Our final decision will be taken during a Ministerial Conference in Cyprus on October 8th, 2012. Here again, we will be seeking for your creative views.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our Atlantic Ocean is not only the western boundaries of the European Union. It is also the bridge between all the Atlantic States.
The extraordinary Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa wrote many beautiful pages on the Atlantic Ocean. To finish my speech today, I'd like to pick up one verse of his famous poem "O infante":
"Que o mar unisse, já não separasse"- "The sea to connect, no longer divide"