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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Opportunities for Blue Growth in the Black Sea
Black Sea Stakeholders' conference - Sustainable Development of the blue economy in the Black Sea
Brussels, 30 January 2014
Prime Minister Ponta, Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you all to this Black Sea Stakeholders' Conference.
We have worked very closely with the Romanian authorities in order to set this up.
I am truly thankful to Prime Minister Ponta and his Government for this excellent cooperation.
Being here today to discuss integrated maritime policies with the Governments, the private sector and the stakeholders from all the Black Sea countries region is a great opportunity for me.
The Black Sea is very important.
Its potential is huge.
And there are some many good things that could be done.
But there are also problems:
Addressing the issue of illegal fisheries - and improving fisheries management is a challenge;
Untapping the potential of coastal tourism will not be easy.
But still, in the region a lot of good work is being carried out.
I take great pride in the sustained and productive collaboration we have with the organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, perhaps the oldest cooperation structure in the region.
This is only bound to intensify this year, with two EU Member States succeeding as Chairs.
Given the pressing environmental needs of the Black Sea, the EU is also seeking to become a Contracting Party to the Bucharest Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea against Pollution.
And we would appreciate the support of the Conference participants in this regard.
The big challenges we face in the Black Sea need to be tackled collectively and at all levels of governance.
This means at the supranational, national, regional and sea-basin levels.
We need to step up our sea-basin cooperation and our efforts in a pragmatic way.
We need to do so for the well-being of our citizens and for our economies.
And, above all, we have a clear vision; we know where we want to go – but we may need to walk in small steps.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Each sea basin is unique - and requires its own tailored mix to carry out its promise.
But there is a common thread that unites all these approaches.
Allow me to refer to a number of other sea basins at this point:
First, the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea.
Cooperation is happening in both of these sea basins - not just among the EU Member States, but among all the countries sharing the basin.
Our colleagues from Russia have been actively involved in setting up and implementing the Baltic Sea Strategy, with projects aiming at research, tourism and better connections through all transport modes.
Our colleagues from Turkey work actively with us on Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean.
Moreover, on both sides of the Atlantic, countries have agreed to work together to protect the marine environment, improve accessibility and connectivity, promote business and create a sustainable and socially inclusive development of the region. We have a research alliance with Canada and the US.
All countries of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas are now translating their common maritime strategy into concrete actions for tourism, transport, fisheries and the environment.
All these positive developments have taken place without setting up new bodies or establishing new bureaucracies.
We used what was already there.
The key to all these sea-basin strategies was dialogue; and the firm commitment to work together and reach across and integrate all the policies that have an impact on the sea.
In the EU, we have brought the integrated maritime policy to the next level.
It is now high on the political agenda.
Within the EU, we have been pushing for an integrated approach to the "sea system".
There is today a consensus in Brussels regarding the importance of this policy domain.
Integrated Maritime Policy has become a horizontal key priority in the programme of the current Greek Presidency of the EU.
We have devised a strategy to push the blue economy forward, which is called 'Blue Growth'.
We look at specific areas where there are opportunities to seize, such as aquaculture or tourism or energy.
We want to give a boost to these sectors - because they can make a real difference for the economy.
We have a solid plan to remove bottlenecks, to provide incentives and to create the best possible operational conditions for business.
My aim is to promote a similar agenda also for the Black Sea, based on practical cooperation and concrete projects.
There are definitely blue growth possibilities in the Black Sea.
We are currently carrying out two studies on the blue growth potential of the Black Sea and on the use of the so-called maritime clusters, networks of firms, training establishments, research centres, local and regional authorities.
We will assess the final results with you after the spring, but some preliminary results show already that coastal and maritime tourism, as well as other traditional maritime sectors, have unexploited potential.
There are real opportunities also in emerging areas, such as marine aquaculture.
We aim to work with you and the regional organization in place to develop this economic growth potential of the Black Sea.
We can offer you a dedicated project of technical support on maritime integration in the Black Sea. Our experts can help you in developing concrete projects and access EU funding.
We have a similar positive example in the South Mediterranean, where national and regional administrations and stakeholders have been benefitting from a similar project for four years now.
On funding, most importantly, we are opening up opportunities for the next seven years.
Over the past seven years the EU has invested nearly 140 million in the Black Sea basin under the Black Sea Synergy, on top of another 800 million in regional and bilateral initiatives geared towards the Black Sea countries.
This testifies to the degree of our commitment to the region.
And from now on an even more substantial part of the EU's effort for growth is going to be directly targeting our seas and coasts.
In fact, we have a call for proposals the Black Sea region right now which amounts to 1 and a half million euro. It aims to encourage research and innovation cooperation between researchers from the Union and from the regional partners.
I strongly encourage all the Black Sea countries to apply.
Another success story is the Cross Border Cooperation Black Sea Basin Joint Program. And it will now continue until 2020.
There may be positive movement on a number of fronts, but it is also clear that a lot remains to be done.
One of the most pressing problems I would like to highlight here is the state of our fisheries.
EU Member States are making a huge step forward with the Reform just adopted in the EU, which aims to prevent overfishing and which bans the unacceptable practice of discarding fish.
Let us not forget that a sound fisheries management will not only address the worrying state of our fish stocks: it will also rekindle the health and the competitiveness of the fishing industry.
Also, I would like to touch upon the environment - which is a major theme of our Conference- and which needs to be addressed in the most effective way.
Two important environmental monitoring projects which cover all Black Sea countries are underway. They will contribute to the protection of the basin's marine environment and benefit each and every country in this region. We should discuss ways to further enhance our action in the environmental sphere.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The way to go is quite clear:
We need more concrete projects; designed from the bottom up; implemented in small steps; and with stakeholders playing a leading role.
And this is precisely why we are here today: to start using all those avenues of cooperation for our most pressing needs.
And to make a measurable step forward.
In order to preserve the marine ecosystem and at the same time create economic growth around a sea basin we need to work together.
I look forward to working with all of you in that vein and making a strong contribution to the prosperity of the Black Sea Region.