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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Maritime Challenges for the EU: Ensuring the security of our seas
Workshop on Maritime Challenges for the EU organised by ELIAMEP (Hellenic Foundation for European &Foreign Policy) and EUISS (European Union Institute for Security Studies) Athens, 6 June 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to open this workshop and I am very grateful to the Greek presidency for organizing it, because it coincides with the ongoing discussions in Brussels on the development of a EU maritime security strategy. This is an issue which is dear to me and to the Commission.
Ensuring the security of our seas and ocean has never been so important.
Today’s risks and threats have to do with piracy, terrorism, drugs, human trafficking and organised crime. They are so complex and multifaceted that they impact not just maritime transport, but also tourism, environment, fisheries, immigration… in one word: the economy.
These new challenges require a new response, equally integrated and equally far-reaching. A response that is exhaustive, powerful and coordinated between Member States and EU institutions.
International organised crime does not fit into national boundaries – nor should our response.
On the contrary: one of our most valuable instruments, one of the greatest strengths of the EU is the comprehensive approach: the effective combination of economic, political, financial and diplomatic instruments.
It’s time now to apply that comprehensive philosophy and develop the broadest possible vision of what security is about and what the response to threats and risks should be.
It is for this reason that earlier this year Catherine Ashton and I tabled a joint communication for a Future European Maritime Security strategy. The proposals followed up a request from Council and were elaborated in close collaboration with Member States experts in order to achieve their buy-in. We have brought in the expertise of many sectors: law enforcement, naval and transport monitoring, customs control… to forge a more exhaustive approach.
This is by the way not an isolated action in the EU. We have also seen that key third country allies such as the US, relevant international bodies such as NATO and individual Member States such as the UK or Spain take similar initiatives.
Let me stress one thing: elaborating something as completely new and ground-breaking as this at EU level - involving 28 Member States - is no easy task, because it requires changing the mind-set of many players who are traditionally used to working in distinct sectors and in isolation, not bothering too much of what the other sectors are doing at sea.
But at the same time, I am happy to report that the initiative is receiving wide support. In fact we are now witnessing a very collaborative process among EU Member States and EU institutions to elaborate a fully-fledged strategy for adoption by Council at the end of June, and we are hopeful that this will continue under the Italian presidency with the adoption of a corresponding action plan before the end of the year.
With a bit of luck, five to ten years from now we should have a different approach compared to today, where Member States work much more closely together, share their assets and capabilities much better and in particular the collaboration between civilian and military authorities is much tighter than today.
It is my firm opinion that it is only through such collaboration that we can ensure the safety and security of our seas and oceans and avoid disasters like the one that occurred near Lampedusa.
So what is this strategy trying to do in a nutshell?
The purpose of the strategy is to better link the EU’s external and domestic security policies and strategies and to provide all States with a strategic framework that allows joined up action in the global maritime domain.
What is needed in particular is to identify the strategic maritime security interests of the EU: the prevention of conflicts, the protection of critical infrastructure and of the global trade support chain, the effective control of external borders and so on; and to identify the corresponding response.
In this respect, it is no coincidence that two watchwords for this new endeavour are cooperative and comprehensive.
In the maritime sense comprehensiveness means investing in early warning and risk analysis; being prepared in accident prevention just as much as in crisis response and in rescue operations.
Cooperation means working systematically and closely with partners on the full range of issues that may pose security risks.
Let me give you a couple of examples of why this would work.
The simple sharing of surveillance data and information can give us a much clearer idea of the global picture and allow us to react quicker to any crises. I say let us have a joint situational awareness picture five years from now.
Improving interoperability, for example between Coast Guards, stops us from to duplicating work and frees up valuable resources to use elsewhere. I say let us improve daily operations at sea with a network of Coast Guard functions five years from now.
There are at least 20 other actions where I can show you that cooperation is the smart way to go. And it makes sense that the European Council endorsed defence cooperation.
Cooperation is not a luxury, or some sort of diplomatic weasel-word.
It’s a necessity. In today’s – and probably tomorrow’s – Europe of continually squeezed budgets, cooperation is the only way to acquire and sustain capabilities that are out of reach individually. The maxim “pool it or lose it” has never been truer.
Be it for small boats in the Mediterranean or the new routes in the Arctic, cooperation is the only way to respond to today’s challenges. And allows main actors to really focus on their core business.
But cooperation is often not instinctive. On defence issues it may even be counter-intuitive.
That is where the new Strategy comes in. We don’t propose to create additional structures or increase red tape, but to make the best use of existing resources and be cost efficient. We cant do it overnight, but we can do it step by step.
None of the capabilities we need comes cheap. We are all desperately trying to square the circle of the spiralling cost of complex military systems with reducing defence budgets.
By pooling our resources together and by working with each other we can do more and we can do better – and we can do it cheaper too.
At its heart the strategy will promote effective and credible partnerships and encourage our EU countries to work hand in hand.
Last week I addressed the Heads of European Navies and heard a clear message from them that there is a need for closer cooperation – between NATO and the EU, between the military forces, but also between military and civilian authorities.
And indeed, we need to get military and civil technologies to work together to avoid unnecessary duplication.
So many key technologies have both civil and military applications. Ever since the internet or satellite navigation, the distinction between military and civilian technology is becoming increasingly blurred anyway.
So harnessing those synergies is vital.
The bottom-line is: we cannot afford to pay for the same technologies twice. We need to exploit all means available to ensure that investment in innovation and technology is done intelligently, drawing on a combination of intergovernmental and community instruments.
This is crucial. It will not only ensure that Europe is able to develop the capabilities it requires to protect its strategic interests and its citizens. It is also a driver for economic growth, jobs and innovation.
Defence is a sector that generates an annual turnover of almost 100 billion Euros, and almost half a million jobs. The maritime industries are worth almost 200 billion, and employ several million people.
We must therefore reverse the trend of fragmentation and move towards consolidation.
Perhaps in the last two decades we in Europe could afford the luxury of designing, developing, and manufacturing three different combat aircrafts, fourteen different types of frigate, and eleven different types of fighting vehicles. Those days are over!
We need to work and act together to make this happen and this workshop is a great place to keep the momentum.
We should not be too modest either, because we do have some really good examples where cooperation works very well already.
It works in the Horn of Africa, where operation ATALANTA has made international shipping lanes much, much safer.
Did you know it reduced pirate attacks from 176 in 2011 to 7 last year?
And as we help build up government institutions and maritime capacity in the region, we also work with nations to control and manage fisheries, comply with international rules and stop illegal fishing.
Having made tangible progress in West Africa, we are now closing in on illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean – because staunched sustainability at home makes little sense if two-thirds of the fish we eat comes from stocks being pillaged in the rest of the world.
To conclude, we are on the right track. Cooperative and comprehensive – that is the way forward.
I would like to thank the ISS and ELIAMEP for bringing us all together. It is reassuring to see so many people committed to making our seas open, secure, and able to deal with the wide array of maritime threats out there.
Use this event to challenge each other, exchange ideas and to create the partnerships we need.