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Borg Speaks At National Maritime Conference In Hamburg

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

06 December 2006

Speaking on Monday at the 5th National Maritime Conference in Hamburg, European Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner, Joe Borg addressed the issue of developing a coherent maritime policy for Europe.

He commenced by observing that:

"We are living through exceptional times – times where change seems to be the order of the day. Globalisation and modern technology have brought about new opportunities and new challenges to which we need to be able to apply new strategies and new thinking. Other trends whether in the form of an ageing population, falling levels of growth or increased competition from abroad, are also upon us and too require an immediate response."

"With a view to meeting these challenges, we need to take a strategic look at the things we do best: enhancing the ones in which we perform to the highest standards and in which we can obtain the maximum return on our inputs. One such area, identified by President Barroso at the outset of this Commission’s mandate, is maritime affairs."

"The maritime sector has experienced high growth rates over the past few years and has been at the cutting edge of innovation. It has also performed well vis a vis our competitors. Europe also has an established maritime tradition and Europeans have long enjoyed a close relationship with the seas."

Commissioner Borg continued:

"The shape and form that a future Maritime Policy could take is the subject of a Green Paper issued by the Commission in June of this year. This paper presents the prevailing situation and seeks to stimulate an exchange of ideas by raising questions as to what benefits we can hope to have from a new, integrated and wide-ranging maritime policy for the Union."

"We believe that the maritime sector can become a flagship for Europe. We also believe that the best way for it to do this, is by widening its scope to encompass all the segments of the economy having a maritime slant."

"The idea behind our drive for an all-encompassing approach to the maritime economy is simple. This is a multi-faceted sector, with multiple actors acting at a variety of levels: regional, national, European and international. The oceans and seas also know no boundaries and are thus difficult to manage. Finally, the oceans and seas are a fragile resource that must be preserved."

He went on to suggest that:

"The reasons for an integrated approach are clear. The oceans and seas, and the ways in which we use them, have changed dramatically in recent years. Seaborne trade, for example, has grown by about 400% in the past 40 years; coastal and marine tourism are booming; we are moving towards deep-sea drilling for oil and gas; and new sectors are emerging such as renewable energy and blue biotechnology."

Having outlined issues addressed in the European Commission's recent Green Paper, Borg concluded:

"We have been working closely with institutional stakeholders which are key to the development of this process, and with the Member States, who have already contributed much to the preparation of the Green Paper itself. The Austrian Presidency supported us with a positive reference to the Green Paper in the conclusions of the European Council in June this year. And the current Finnish Presidency has been similarly supportive, organising a series of discussions on the Green Paper. They are currently preparing a report of Member States' discussions to date."

"In 2007, we are counting on the German Presidency to take the process the next step forward."

"I am delighted that the Federal Government has decided to include Maritime Policy as one of the priorities in its EU Presidency programme. In the first half of the new year, the consultation of stakeholders on our proposal will enter a decisive phase. It will culminate in a major conference in early May, towards the end of the consultation process, which the German Presidency and the Commission will organise at a high political level."

"The debate at, and the conclusions of, this conference will help us summarise the views of EU Member States, regional authorities and stakeholders. It will also enable the Commission to report on the results of the consultation and propose where concrete action can be taken."

"As a coastal state and major maritime power, Germany clearly has a vital interest at stake here, and I count on all of you to contribute actively in the stakeholder consultation that has already started."

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