European Commission proposes integrated maritime policy for EU –

European Commission proposes integrated maritime policy for EU Published:  10 October, 2007

Joe Borg

THE European Commission has set out its vision today for an integrated Maritime Policy for the EU, together with a detailed action plan and an ambitious work programme for the years ahead.

Scientific discoveries, huge strides in technological development, globalisation, climate change and marine pollution are rapidly altering Europe’s relationship with the seas and oceans, with all the opportunities and challenges that this presents,the Commission underlines. An integrated maritime policy, it is said, will enable the European Union to meet the challenges head on.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who initiated the new approach to maritime policy, said: “I am convinced that a great part of our future lies in the untapped potential of the oceans. Our proposal for an integrated maritime policy has been designed to generate growth, jobs and sustainability. We wish to seize, in a sustainable manner, all the opportunities that the oceans offer. It is part and parcel of our strategy to modernise Europe and prepare it for the globalised world.”

Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joe Borg added: “Our stakeholders have spoken and we have listened. This is a crucial first step for Europe’s oceans and sea – unlocking the potential and facing the challenges of a Maritime Europe will be our common goal. It will allow us to make the most of the geopolitical realities of our continent and will help Europe face some of the major challenges before it.”

The Commission’s proposal for an integrated maritime policy is grounded in an extensive public consultation on the Green Paper, which was published in June 2006. The consultation was a huge success with more than 250 conferences and events, and 500 written submissions – including a number from Scottish organisations, local authorities, the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee and the Scottish Government.

Until now, the different activities and policies relating to the seas have been managed on largely sectoral lines. An integrated maritime policy will change the way policy is formulated and decisions taken in the maritime sector, in full respect of the principle of subsidiarity. It will enable the relevant authorities to analyse interactions between the various sectors and policy areas concerned and to take them into account at every level. Policies will be made and decisions taken in a joined up way.

The new policy will build on Europe’s strengths in marine research, technology and innovation. It will be anchored in the Lisbon agenda for more and better jobs and growth, and in the EU’s overarching commitment to ensuring that economic development does not come at the price of environmental sustainability.

The Communication and accompanying Action Plan list a range of concrete actions to be launched during the mandate of this Commission up to 2009. These actions cover a wide spectrum of issues ranging from maritime transport to the competitiveness of maritime businesses, employment, scientific research, fisheries and the protection of the marine environment. They include:

· A European Maritime Transport Space without barriers;

· A European Strategy for Marine Research;

· National integrated maritime policies to be developed by Member States;

· An integrated network for maritime surveillance;

· A Roadmap towards maritime spatial planning by Member States;

· Elimination of pirate fishing and destructive high seas bottom trawling;

· Promotion of a European network of maritime clusters;

· A review of EU labour law exemptions for the shipping and fishing sectors;

· A European Marine Observation and Data network; and

· A Strategy to mitigate the effects of Climate Change on coastal regions.

A number of proposals for actions outlined in the Communication are particularly relevant for Scotland, including:

· Ensuring the sustainability of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in harmony with marine eco-systems; and

· Preserving European maritime skills, providing young people with better career prospects in the maritime sector, and improving the image of the maritime professions.

Delivery of the Action Plan has already begun today, with Commissioner Spidla presenting a review of labour law exemptions in the maritime sectors and Commissioner Piebalgs publishing a report on the inter-linkages between the EU energy policy and the new integrated maritime policy.

The Commission has said that an integrated maritime policy will only succeed with the continued engagement and support of all the actors and stakeholders concerned. The Commission will continue to work with stakeholders and authorities at European, national and regional levels in order to translate its vision into reality.

Further initiatives will follow in the coming weeks in ports policy, fisheries and the protection of the marine environment.

WWF, the global conservation organisation, has welcomed the EU proposal.

It stresses, however, the need to avoid that this policy becomes a simple patchwork of actions taken in isolation of each other. The deteriorating state of the seas, it says, is calling for an urgent translation of the Maritime Policy into concrete actions.

“For years, oceans and seas have been treated as a no-man’s land for free exploitation. Now, for the first time, we see the intention to apply to the marine environment the same principles used on land. WWF looks forward to the setting up of corridors for maritime transport, areas for sustainable energy, fishing zones and closed marine areas,” says Aaron McLoughlin, Head of WWF European Marine Programme.

WWF supports the idea of planning the use of marine space and strengthening measures to protect marine eco-systems. WWF also asks to improve fisheries management in international and EU waters, especially in relation to the problem of illegal fishing. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.