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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Establishment of maritime zones, including Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), in the Mediterranean: speaking points
11 July 2013
The Commission's Blue growth agenda has set out how to best explore economic activities that depend on the sea representing a gross added value of half a trillion euro per year.
A huge part of it lies in the Mediterranean Sea. Still it remains largely untapped.
A reason for that is the fact that a substantial part of the Mediterranean is currently beyond the jurisdiction of coastal States. It remains therefore largely unprotected, unexplored and unexploited.
The opportunities for reaping the benefits of the blue economy and related activities, such as the development of energy, are weakened by the missing regulatory framework. Also the situation in the Mediterranean region makes it difficult for coastal States to enforce or regulate comprehensively activities.
The study that I am presenting today aims at raising awareness. On the rights and obligations of coastal States under UNCLOS and the state of play in terms of maritime zone establishment at the level of the Mediterranean. By the word UNCLOS I am referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
According to the study, the existence of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) could allow for more effective planning of the marine space. Thereby it would improve the conditions for securing further economic investments, such as for instance in sea energy exploration.
The study also underlines that an EEZ needs to be accompanied by proper monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in order to come to a full realisation of the benefits compared to the costs. Also issues of delimitation of boundaries would need to be addressed.
To conclude, the study clearly demonstrates that there are substantial benefits that may be gained if coastal States were to exercise the rights under the United Nations Convention and extend their EEZs.
The study shows that this benefit can amount to 2,7 billion euros a year only in the three areas that were case studied.
So, what are our future plans on this file? I cannot ignore the fact that stakeholders and other European institutions, have drawn our attention to the urgency of addressing the issue of maritime governance in the Mediterranean.
Of course I underline very strongly that the proclamation and establishment of maritime zones is a sovereign right of each coastal State and I do not intend to interfere neither in that right, nor in that process.
But it is our joint European responsibility to ensure that the right conditions are in place for the blue economy to flourish, to reduce pressures on marine resources and guarantee a stable framework for economic investments and planning at sea. Blue Growth and sustainability are at the core of our agendas. So improving governance of our marine space, through the extension of national jurisdiction, would be extremely beneficial in this respect.
The European Commission follows and will follow closely the developments in the Mediterranean with regard to the establishment of maritime zones, including Exclusive Economic Zones. We will be basing any political initiative of ours on UNCLOS.
The first key word in this context will be cooperation between our Member States and with our neighbours.
The other key word is blue growth. Our aim is to contribute to the full exploitation of sea wealth by EU Member States, promoting EU interests in the domain of economic prosperity, jobs and growth.