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European Commission

Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Blue Economy in the Mediterranean

Conference "European strategy for Blue Growth - Conditions for a Blue Economy in the Mediterranean"/Rome

5 December 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank you for this excellent initiative to organize this conference. I'm happy to be here today and discuss with you about our blue growth vision for the EU and for Italy as maritime nation. You are all part of the "blue economy".

Sustainability is a key element in the EU's maritime policy. If exploited sustainably our seas and oceans have a huge potential to foster innovation, contributing to blue growth across Europe. Our estimates are that we could create nearly one and a half million new jobs by 2020 in Europe.

And the stakes are high. If we succeed we will profit from healthy oceans and seas that can create interesting and sustainable jobs for our young people. If we don't, we could put this precious resource at risk and the EU will not be leading the way in the new blue economy.

With nine thousand kilometers of coast, you know the challenges…for Italy, as Mediterranean nation and as one of the governments holding the EU Presidency next year. And I am very happy to see that the Italian and Greek governments have decided to make 2014 the "Year of the Mediterranean".

Big steps have already been made. The maritime policy is now an essential part of the European Union's collective work. And now we are bringing it to the next level…to secure Europe's place in the global maritime economy.

So how do we do this?

First we make best use of existing instruments and implement our sea-basin strategies. Each sea basin has its own characteristics and challenges and we can only be effective if we have a tailor made approach.

We target the key maritime sectors such as aquaculture, seabed mining, blue biotechnology, ocean energy and maritime tourism, to boost growth and provide the best possible operational conditions for businesses.

We have delivered on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy: we now have an agreement to change the way we fish and stop the waste of unwanted catches. And have taken a brave step forward towards sustainability and to maximize the output from fisheries. We have also made big steps to improve the level playing field in the Mediterranean through the measures adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). Now, we should now move to effectively implement what we have agreed.

On aquaculture we have put forward new strategic guidelines; And we will soon present new papers on tourism, ocean energy and blue innovation.

Blue growth goes hand in hand with the need to improve knowledge. We are investing in science and knowledge of our seas and oceans, seabed and marine life, through the European research Framework 'Horizon 2020", through public and private partnerships and close cooperation within and between Member States and with international partners.

At the same time, we are developing actions to increase maritime safety and to make the monitoring of activity at sea more efficient. The tragic events at Lampedusa have made it even clearer, that better sharing of information is necessary. This will lead to safer navigation and better policing of human and drug trafficking, and illegal fishing. And at less cost.

Finally, we have proposed that Member States set up a spatial planning process for their seas and coastal zones, and encourage them to talk to their neighbors. Cooperation between the regions is essential and there is good progress in many sea basins. For the Adriatic-Ionian Sea for instance big steps have already been made to define concrete actions and I welcome Italy's active involvement in this work.

Clear process will reduce business uncertainty and give business more confidence to invest.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Commission’s focus right now is also on how to facilitate maritime investment through the EU structural and research funds. We must especially target our minds and money on those sectors that with a little 'push' can reach their full potential.

We are now working with the Member States to ensure that blue investments are included in their programming. And it is your input and expertise on how to use funding, that will make a difference for the Blue Growth agenda.

This is a train that also Italy needs to catch.

The Funds are a good train, full of opportunities that you must start catching today. I'll give you an example: the cruise sector.

Yes, the sector is booming despite the crisis, the “Arab Spring” and the Costa Concordia disaster. And yes, one-third of cruise passengers begin their journey from Italian ports, like Genova, Venice, Civitavecchia or Savona.

But how shall we keep the momentum? And are we absolutely sure that we are providing the right services on land, and creating the right spin-offs? We need to look at the good examples already out there and work through public-private cooperation that makes sense, and find good ways of integrated and forward thinking.

The market for tourism is changing. Beaches are still busy, but today holiday makers want new, unique experiences alongside the sun-and-beach constant. They want a range of activities to choose from; they want top-notch service in clean and pristine resorts; they want to taste new experiences and an offer customized to their interests… and they want all this at an attractive price!

This is the moment for Italy to use the new EU Funds and take a sprint: anticipate customer demand, improve mobility, improve service and offer all-year-round solutions.

It is not just a question of 'attracting more people' to your coasts and beaches. It is about creating opportunities here, and improving conditions for people and businesses here. It is a means to provide stable, attractive and qualified jobs for the three million jobless young Italians.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Italy is good at innovation. It is already at the forefront in robotics for ocean observation and exploration. Nothing stops it from pioneering also the research of marine bioactive compounds for pharmaceutical and cosmetics purposes; or from developing deep-water floating platforms for offshore wind turbines, wave energy or stream energy.

These technologies are part and parcel of blue growth and are capable of pushing the technological frontier very far, very fast.

I encourage you to use the new Funds. These are just a few ideas of what can be done. I'm sure that you will come up with many more ideas that can contribute to this smart, sustainable, long-lasting growth.

Ladies and gentlemen,

"Our Blue Future" is about building the wealth, jobs and clean environment of tomorrow. Rest assured that the European Commission is with you in this.

Our Blue growth agenda and the European Funds make it possible for businesses and individuals to roll up their sleeves and start building again.

Thank you.

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