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European Commission

Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Maritime Security: an EU approach

Seminar "Challenges and opportunities in maritime security and surveillance for effective governance and innovation in the EU's maritime domain" at Dublin Castle, Ireland

8 April 2013

Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to take part at this High Level Seminar on Maritime Security together with distinguished representatives of the maritime world. I'd like to thank the Irish Presidency of the EU for this timely initiative. There is a mounting debate at international level on the maritime domain with a special focus on risks and threats involved.

In the EU we are trying to develop our Integrated Maritime Policy taking a more holistic approach that can create linkages between all different maritime sectors. Since 2010 we have moved forward on the main front of integration. We are trying to enhance the sustainable development of the European maritime economy and maximise the sustainability of the use of our coasts and seas by facilitating the cooperation of all maritime players across sectors and across borders.

Last year, the EU's Blue Growth initiative has emphasized, for the first time ever, the importance of our maritime economy for the EU prosperity.

Last month the European Commission proposed a Framework Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management. Our aim is to contribute to the development of economic activities through better management of maritime space.

Our Integrated Maritime Surveillance initiative can improve efficiency, cut surveillance costs, and provide more timely responses to incidents at sea through information-sharing across border and sectors.

We are moving ahead next year towards a digital seabed map of European waters by collecting all existing data into one coherent database accessible to everyone. I am aware of the fact that Ireland is a pioneer in this field and we are looking forward to drawing on your expertise on this matter.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Oceans and seas are of vital importance to the EU, its Member States and the European citizens. They are absolutely essential for trade and free commerce. Let me give you some figures: 75 % of our external market trade is seaborne. Half of the EU population is living in coastal areas. Five and a half million people are employed in Europe in maritime-related jobs. It goes without saying that the environmental dimension of oceans and seas is acquiring a much higher importance over this last period. The UN conference on Rio+20 has testified to this.

Today I would like to focus on a key aspect of our overall action in the maritime domain: this is the security dimension.

Oceans and seas are not havens of peace. It is time to move to the next level and bring Maritime Security to the fore.

As a global actor, the EU has strategic maritime interests, that need to be safeguarded and protected.

Here we are confronted with a number of risks and threats: terrorism, transnational crime, illegal migration, human trafficking, piracy and armed robbery. Also accidents at sea, natural disaster, environmental degradation and destruction, IUU fishing and climate change.

Let me give you some concrete figures:

300 pirate attacks on ships were reported by the International Maritime Organization in 2012. There might be a better situation in the worst area as Somalia, but globally, piracy is still a developing threat.

Illegal Fishing, accounts for at least 15 % of world catches- some say 20%. There is an inherent link between illegal fishing, drug smuggling, human trafficking and organized crime in general.

Acidification has increased by 30% over the last 200 years, carrying loss of plankton, change of ecosystems, and corrosion of infrastructures

We are dealing with these risks and threats every day.

We have already some good illustrations of effective responses so far.

The EU Naval Force Somalia, also known as Operation ATALANTA, is, in this respect, a success widely acknowledged by the maritime community.

Another example is the EU's programme on Critical Maritime Routes in the Gulf of Guinea. It will help governments across West and Central Africa by providing training for coastguards and establishing a network to share information.

At a different level, the Common Information Sharing Environment project proposed by the Integrated Maritime Policy aims to generate situational awareness of all activities at sea. Activities impacting on maritime safety and security but also on border control, marine environment, fisheries and trade. This will allow us to improve our decision-making in maritime security issues even in crisis situation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Addressing the Maritime Security in a more effective manner will require quite a drastic change in the way we operate. Today many authorities are responsible for different elements and working in an uncoordinated way. This undermines our preparedness and response.

At EU level, national administrations and the military need to sit down and work together - across borders, across sectors, across agencies. We need to fill the existing gap between internal and external maritime policies, between civilian and military actors.

In brief, we should add a security angle to the Integrated Maritime Policy. And reversely, we should offer an effective maritime dimension to the Common Security and Defence Policy.

Last but not least, at times of crisis, with public budgets contracting everywhere, we need to find ways to do more… with less. We need to gain efficiency, rationalise, join forces and create economies of scale.

Internationally, this new approach would make the EU more visible, credible and forceful.

We do not want to "securitise" the maritime economy. We want to safeguard our interests and values together with our international partners.

At EU level we are well aware of the challenges ahead. We have the political will to address them and make concrete proposals in the coming months.

I hope everyone present today will be on board. I wish you a very successful debate.


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