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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
The EU's Maritime and Fisheries Policy: Putting Portugal on the Path to Growth
Conference "Portugal: Path to Growth and Jobs" Lisbon, 11 April 2014
President Cavaco Silva, President Barroso, Ministers, fellow Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen of the audience,
Like my colleagues, I too am delighted to be here with you.
This city can be truly called the European Atlantic capital, and this country a truly maritime nation. Your national strategy states that Portugal has "returned to the sea" and made of the seas and of oceans "a national goal". Well done. This is a smart move for the economy.
Traditionally the seas and oceans have given us food and transport, but today they can give us pharmaceuticals… minerals… and possibly infinite energy – on one condition. Our exploitation must be responsible. Our methods must be safe. Our progress must be systematic, cautious, and fair.
In one word, we have to be smart; smarter than we have ever been.
This is the idea behind the EU's Blue Growth strategy. We want the maritime dimension to be a strong arm of President Barroso's strategy for growth. Portugal knows all this. It not only embraces Blue Growth but is a driving force behind it.
So, what happens now? Beyond the nice words on growth and sustainability, how does the EU plan to help?
It's simple: by gearing its financial support directly and explicitly towards the sea.
The Atlantic Strategy and its Action Plan is our latest achievmenet. Europe is ready to concentrate regional structural funding on a number of maritime priorities, from shipping safety and ports to renewable energies and marine biotechnologies. This country is ideally placed to benefit from it.
Also, the new Maritime and Fisheries Fund should support maritime clustering, marine knowledge or the conversion away from fisheries. For instance we shall support fishermen who start taking care of NATURA 2000 sites or marine protected areas. Or pilot projects, like the one in Algarve and Gulf of Cadiz on trans-boundary Maritime Spatial Planning. Or studies on bathymetry and geology like the ones carried out by the Instituto Portugués do Mar e da Atmosfera. Except the 71 million euros for this kind of initiatives, the research programme has another 145 million earmarked for Blue Growth, with a particular focus on the Atlantic for this year.
Meanwhile the transatlantic research alliance with the United States and Canada will tackle urgent problems such as ocean acidification – and here again Portugal plays a key role.
And let us not forget the overseas regions of Portugal that have always paid the price of their remoteness. But now we have increased by more than 150% the funds that compensate for the additional costs incurred in production and marketing. We also co-finance their projects by 35% more than other European regions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Europe is also making its fishing smarter. The number of stocks fished sustainably went up to 25 last year, 27 this year, and probably 31 next year. Five years ago? Only five.
When we fish outside the EU, we are equally bound by scientifically-set limits. I can't deny that this means some sacrifices right now, but stable and abundant fish stocks will more than compensate for the short-term pain. Sustainability is the only thing that guarantees us social and economic welfare in the long run.
This transition toward sustainable fishing requires adequate support for fishermen, fish farmers and coastal communities. The total EU amount for fisheries and aquaculture is more than 7.5 billion. This new money will help Portugal to develop a sustainable seafood industry - from the net to plate.
We are ready to support investment to make boats safer and more energy efficient, and to make gear more selective. In the previous exercise, the Portuguese vessel Lucimar got 265.000€ from the EU in order to buy energy-smart machines, modern equipment and safety systems. But now we turn to small-scale fishermen and local communities so important for employment and social cohesion. The small vessels get up to 75% of the costs covered if they modernise. Also we are helping young people to enter the fisherman's profession, and fish-farmers to extend to new species or simply reach out to new markets.
We are helping producer organisations to focus on product quality and traceability. The Fund also opens up plenty of opportunities for start-ups to seek technical expertise or get vocational training.
Sometimes even a modest amount can go a long way. Here in Portugal someone had the brilliant idea to use crab shell for the medical and bio-medical industry. With just 12.000€ we let them recover a biological resource that is otherwise discarded. Innovation is the name of the game here.
Except the coastal economy, other sectors such as transport, shipping, energy and tourism would be supported by other European Funds. For instance, you can draw from all existing funds to develop ecotourism or you can make it possible for business to invest on renewable ocean energies and aquaculture together. And so on. If you do, I guarantee you won't regret it.
Portugal really has all it takes to succeed, and now is the time to make a head start. Europe is ready to help. We are providing guidelines and money so that you can in turn build for your people a future of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth from the sea.