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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
EU strategy promoting coastal and maritime tourism
High Level Conference on Coastal and Maritime Tourism
Athens, 10 March 2014
It is a great pleasure for me to talk to such a reputable audience today about a topic which is discussed for the first time, although being very important for both European and Greek economy: the future of Coastal and Maritime Tourism.
The issue of Maritime Tourism directly concerns the sea and the economic developments which it can bring to Greece and Europe. As the Commissioner about Maritime Affairs, I have the responsibility of this new political aspect within the European Commission.
In collaboration with Vice-President Tajani, we worked closely to promote this particular aspect of tourism which is Maritime and Coastal tourism. We both believe in the important dynamics of this aspect of tourism and we are eager to support its development which will contribute to the economic recovery and economic development of the coastal areas of Europe, and of course of the South European region and Greece.
Before I mention the main initiatives and actions developed by the European Commission to support the Maritime tourism industry please let me make a brief reference to the economic and political context in which we are evolving.
The economic crisis. It has started on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and still affects negatively Europe and especially its periphery. Europe is reacting. In the beginning, a little numb - although Europe had not experienced such a crisis before- but slowly it now shows how determined it is to maintain its unity and to protect its achievements, including the common European currency. It discovers severe structural problems in different sectors revealed by the crisis and repairs them, such as the function of the monetary union, the monitoring of the financial sector, the coordination of Member States' economic policies and in other related sectors. The EU also preserves the single European currency; it established a permanent mechanism to prevent and confront potential future crisis, the European Stability Mechanism. It offers up to 700billion euros in order to support states hit by the financial crisis, which is the greatest effort ever worldwide to support and stabilize countries.
We achieved to protect the Eurozone's integrity. Who does not remember the debates about Greece's future in Eurozone? And the doubts about the willingness of the European States to maintain the unity and the integrity of the Eurozone? These doubts about the future of the Eurozone and the EU have ultimately been proved wrong; not only no country left the Euro, but the EU enlarged, from 27 to 28 Member States and from 17 countries using the Euro to 18. A great effort was needed by a lot of people to make these decisions in the European Institutions. Many times, our battles ended up without results. However, we avoided the worse. We stayed standing. We are all still here and united.
The main challenge now is to maintain a steady recovery path and a complete exit from the crisis. The figures are starting to look more favourable at the moment. But it is very early to rest. We should continue our efforts based on realism and prudence in our decisions.
Our main concern will be to support employment, as a necessary driver for growth and social cohesion. We should avoid the trap of the jobless recovery that is to say of a recovery without new jobs. We owe this to the 26 million unemployed in the EU, to the 1.3 million unemployed of Greece, out of which the majority of them are young people.
There is no magic formula for success. However, the experience gained so far and the 'common sense' show that we should continue our efforts by combining three main policies; fiscal stability, structural reforms and opening of new path through innovation, creativity, using all, both old and new, methods for economic development.
As the Commissioner for Maritime affairs, I will talk today about the latter, that is to say the development of coastal and maritime tourism.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Coastal and maritime tourism is one of the five main sectors of the Maritime economy which the EU Strategy for Blue Growth has identified as important sources of wealth with high development prospects.
The figures of European tourism are impressive; 534 million arrivals in Europe in 2012, representing 52% of the global arrivals. 356 billion Euros in revenue, representing 43% of the global revenue worldwide.
Maritime tourism is the greatest maritime activity in Europe and constitutes the main economic activity in many coastal areas. It employs more than 3 million people. Maritime tourism generates gross added value of 183 billion euros representing more than 1/3 of the maritime economy. Coastal areas are selected by tourists for more than four to nine overnight stays in tourist accommodation in the EU.
If we take the Cruise industry in 2012, it amounted up to 15.5 billion euros and employed 330.000 people. 30 million passengers were transferred from European ports- representing 75% more in comparison with 2006.
Also, considerable information: half of these job positions and half of the produced wealth benefit the countries of the Mediterranean. It is an important boost to the economies of the region.
However, despite these encouraging figures, the successes and the undoubted growth potentials of our coastal areas, there are serious structural problems and challenges that hinder the industry's dynamics and its prospects to create new jobs and to boost growth in the EU.
First of all, the fragmentation of the industry sector, composed by 90% of small and medium or very small enterprises. These enterprises cannot address the multiple challenges nor develop adequately the existing potentials of the industry. What are these main challenges?
The great challenge for the EU in these critical moments, where the exit of the crisis is starting to become visible, is to remain competitive and support the economic recovery with higher incomes and more jobs.
In this framework, we recently presented a European strategy to boost Coastal and Maritime tourism with Vice-President Tajani. The main goal is to help the industry to adapt to modern requirements and help businesses and regions to address the multiple challenges, so that maritime tourism becomes the main component of the blue economy of the EU.
We have designed a number of actions and I would like to mention the main pillars of our project.
Firstly, we must improve the competitiveness and the performance of the industry. We should support the industry to make it resistant to competition from other parts of the world through innovative products and new targeting. For example, as I mentioned before we should face the lack of data and the seasonality of the industry. For the former, we organise a platform for better access to data and information and to exchange best practices. At the same time, we create a platform to bring stakeholders together and enhance cooperation between the industry's authorities and research institutions, private companies, coast guard structures, investors, etc.
About seasonality, we support the effort of the industry to attract visitors during the low season, based on alternative forms of tourism. For example, with regards to the policy aspect I am responsible for, diving, fishing and gastronomic tourism or yachting are forms of tourism that can receive support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Furthermore, Marine Protected Areas could attract visitors with diving activities and thus could benefit local economies as in Medes Islands in Spain.
In addition, the European Commission recently revised its Visa Code to simplify the procedures for non-European visitors who, in many cases, prefer travelling in Europe outside summer seasons.
Furthermore, we need to support the improvement of skills and innovation which are prerequisites for sustainable and competitive development of the industry. In order to secure that the human resource would satisfy the industry's demand, the European Commission has undertaken several initiatives: for example, through the online job search portal EURES there will be a section dedicated to "blue jobs".. In addition, we will soon publish a map of 'skills' and training needs' for tourism services which would be linked with the European Qualification Framework and the European Convention on the academic recognition. In the yachting sector, we will harmonise the safety requirements and professional qualifications for skippers within the EU in order to increase their mobility. The new program Erasmus + will enhance strategic partnerships between education, training, business environment, and innovative forms of vocational teaching and language teaching.
The pressures on coastal resorts are not only economic. Coastal areas are among the most populated regions of Europe. Thus, they also face severe environmental pressures. The viability and the sustainability in tourist industry are really important. The European natural environment is an advantage to attracti tourists. For this reason, addressing the environmental pressures is a critical issue of our strategy. We have to face issues such as the management of the waste or the deterioration of sea environment.
Clean coast means attractive coast for tourists. The fight against marine pollution is a priority for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) which will fund actions to cleani seas of plastic waste, which are sometimes resulting from the fishing activity such as lost or abandoned nets.
Finally, and perhaps one of the most important aspects of the support of the Maritime tourism is the new opportunities for European Funding. The new EU financial framework for 2014-2020 has the potentials to boost the sustainable development of the industry. The EU Member States and the regions should design national and regional strategies for the funding of future operational programs. As I mentioned before, the Maritime tourism industry consists of small enterprises that do not have the means or the expertise to search for funding opportunities. For this reason, I would like to mention some of them:
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the main logic of our strategy for Maritime and Coastal tourism that we presented three weeks ago.
We have created a new European framework for the Maritime tourism. We have asked the national government to design their strategies for the Maritime and Coastal tourism. On our part, we are committed to promote and support the implementation of the four pillars that I mentioned as well as the 14 targeted actions included in order to support national policies. We have also published a number of recommendations for both public authorities and the private sector.
With regards to private sector, I am really happy to see so many of you here today. You are the key players who will make the difference. The European Commission can help you navigate, but you are the ones who will steer the ship.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are many challenges to overcome and much work to be done at national level, both in public and private sector.
This afternoon, I will participate in the Informal Council for Tourism and I will discuss with the EU Ministers about Maritime and Coastal tourism. In any case, the European Commission recognises the potentials for development of the Coastal areas through both the Strategy for Blue Growth and the initiative for Maritime tourism. It is worth to invest in order to make this industry become more sustainable and more competitive worldwide. A powerful and intelligent maritime tourism will act as a catalyst for the economic recovery in Greece and throughout the European continent.