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Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Maritime spatial planning: the right answer to secure and support Blue growth for the European Union

Conference on Maritime Spatial Planning

Brussels, 26 March 2012

Dear Ms Cristas, Ms Wypych-Namiotko, Ms Meissner, ladies and gentlemen,

Today the oceans and seas around the European Union are shrinking.

They are not becoming smaller, but more and more users are racing to develop their activities there, and to compete with those who’re already there.

Maritime Transport grows at an average rate of over 8.5 percent every year, and cruise tourism alone has tripled its size between 1999 and 2009.

Even more potential rests in those sectors that are only beginning to take off: renewable wind energy or aquaculture.

Offshore wind energy is expected to grow from 4 GW capacity this year to 150 GW in 2030 – this is 4000 percent! And we have to understand the potential of deep sea mining and non-wind renewable energy.

At the same time, these uses are competing with more traditional activities such as dredging – which are also growing: dredging companies have increased their turnover by 150 percent in less than a decade.

And then there is aquaculture. I am convinced that we need to think in terms of more, not less aquaculture: this industry can and indeed must grow in Europe, if we are to meet the rising demand for fisheries products and make the catching sector more sustainable.

One thing that all these activities have in common is where they take place: They all use maritime space.

Later today we will be hearing from shipping operators, who will tell us that wind farms placed in less than optimal places cost time and money, and are even a safety hazard.

Fisheries operators on the other hand calculated years ago that a badly-coordinated use of maritime space, crowding them out, can cost them hundreds of millions in revenue.

This means more space than now, better-planned.

The same is true in many areas of the world. Norway, but also Australia and the United States, have set up systems to manage their oceans' space coherently. They too have understood that oceans are economic engines and have made Spatial Planning a key component of their ocean policy.

Others have shown us that this is doable /– so let's do it here in the EU. Let's have Maritime spatial planning for a sustainable exploitation of our maritime spaces and marine resources.

If we do not give ourselves the means to manage the growing demand for sea space across our sea basins, these developments could be slowed, or even blocked. Their impact on the environment would be higher and they would cost more to set up.

Studies have been carried out to estimate the economic benefit of maritime spatial planning in EU sea basins. I will spare you the details, but the economic benefits, either in investments or in simple economic returns go into the hundreds of millions of euro.

Operators tell us that they need transparency, efficiency, predictability and stability. Transparency about the rules and priorities that determine how offshore activities can take place.

Efficiency of the processes that allow them to invest.

Predictability about what is possible now and what will be possible in ten years.

Stability, so they know that the activity they are undertaking now, has a future.

They know that Maritime Spatial Planning can provide them with these essential conditions for their success.

An additional element to consider is that all this is coherent with what happens at land. That’s why I am working closely with my colleague, Commissioner Potocnic, to ensure coherence with their policy on integrated coastal zone management.

I intend to work closely with relevant actors to develop this policy.

Rest assured however: our intention is not at all to interfere with concrete planning issues at national level. That’s why the subsidiarity principle of the Treaty is relevant for this exercise.

This is why I have organised today’s conference, and I thank the Ministers, the stakeholders and the European Parliament for being here. We want to work for you in the best possible way, and for that, the discussion with you, is essential.

With your help I hope that we will be able to announce a proposal on the best way to further develop MSP in the course of this year. The main aim of this initiative will be to ensure that planning is ensured at Member-State level, that there is a common framework on how this is done and that there is a fully-functioning cross-border cooperation between States on planning issues.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Europe is at a crossroads. We need concrete action, now, to make sure that the European Union delivers on growth and jobs. We need to set the scene now for those economic activities that will carry us into the future.

Blue Growth is about investing in maritime Europe, but focusing our efforts where it matters and working with emerging sectors to secure their development.

We are currently determining the best course for this, I plan to propose a policy initiative on how to harness Blue Growth later this year. Our focus will be on emerging maritime sectors that have the potential to serve Europe’s future needs - such as aquaculture, seabed mining, offshore renewable energy sectors and maritime tourism.

Blue Growth can also focus on how we can secure the health of our coastal economies, that depend on their maritime assets. We are trying to organise the operation of regional funds and policy in a way that supports the development of coastal communities to the greatest extent possible.

In sum, dear participants, we have to do what it takes to make sure that the right conditions exist for the "blue economy" to develop.

And Maritime spatial planning is the right answer to secure and support Blue growth for the European Union.

I look forward to hearing from our panellists and experts about their experience and their expectations.

I welcome you to the conference, and I wish you interesting discussions.

Thank you.

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