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Borg Takes Stock Of Maritime Policy Progress

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

08 November 2006

Speaking on Monday at the 'Governance and the Future EU Maritime Policy: which Role for the Regions' CPMR (Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions) seminar, EU Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner, Joe Borg delivered a speech entitled 'The Future Maritime Policy: Taking Stock of Progress'.

He told those attending the seminar that:

"It is a particular pleasure for me to be here at this conference, which addresses one of the most important issues of the Green Paper on a future EU Maritime Policy: the role of the European regions and their contribution to the prosperity of European citizens."

Explaining that the European Commission has been working hard towards obtaining such a more integrated, intersectoral and interdisciplinary approach to our oceans and seas, he observed:

"But this, of course is not something that can happen overnight. It is a process that takes time – time for all players to feel a part of the process, time for what we are trying to achieve to become a reality for those involved at all levels."

He continued:

"As you are aware the ongoing consultation of the Green Paper lasts for one year. Such an extended period finds almost no parallel in other Commission's initiatives. It is a lot of time, but it is not by any means a waste of time. It gives all, including yourselves, the opportunity to come forward and have their say."

"Every contribution counts. Your views, as the views of coastal regions will be critical because for a new maritime policy to be accepted it must be the result of clear demand."

"Let me explain better. This is a two way avenue: It is true that a holistic and more sustainable maritime policy cannot be tackled by a few Member States alone. The oceans and seas know no borders and the maritime activities we develop tend to be global in their reach and scope. It makes a lot of sense therefore to build a common approach and a policy framework at European level. This is exactly what the EU should be for."

"On the other hand, there must be visible a clear need to move forward and in so doing, bring about necessary changes. The case for this must be made by Europe, its stakeholders, the Member States but also the regions, maritime sectors, NGOs, academy and citizens. You are the source of inspiration for the project. You are the cause and the main reason to embark on this process and you are the ones who will benefit from a future maritime policy."

He went on to outline the European Commission's progress in launching its new, holistic maritime policy.

"As you may recall we started in the beginning of 2005 with a Communication from the Commission which set the tone and laid down the scope of our action. This Communication put forward a vision: A vision for Europe's oceans and seas, thereby declaring that a policy framework at European level is vital if Europe is to make the most of its maritime potential. It also referred to the fact that there is a growing awareness of the need for integrated coastal management and development in Europe’s regional policy. "

"You also know that the Green Paper launched last June followed immediately after that. A steering group made up of first seven, but now ten, Commissioners directed this project."

"All the while we have been working to advocate and link maritime affairs with other relevant issues of the Commission agenda, joining the dots between different policies and various documents. We have done this in the 7th Framework Program on Research, in the Marine Thematic Strategy, and in other environmental strategies such as the soil protection strategy, where the action of the sea on coastal zones and of degraded soil on coastal waters seriously contributes to create a negative impact on the sea."

"We have advocated the importance of oceans and seas in other relevant initiatives. For instance, on innovation and competitiveness, where maritime technologies and future uses of the sea qualify as products and services for lead markets, and in the recent Action Plan on Energy Efficiency where the link between energy savings and maritime transport is clearly established."

Commissioner Borg continued:

"Consultation on some of your and our ideas is now underway. Both the Maritime Affairs Task Force team and I are sparing no effort to ensure this consultation is as wide as possible. We are participating in as many events as possible and are also recipients of a growing number of written contributions which we are analysing as we go along."

"We have also been working closely with institutional stakeholders which are key to the success of this process. Hence, we continue our work with a Member State Experts' Group, who have contributed significantly to the preparation of the Green Paper itself. The Austrian Presidency has supported us by ensuring a very positive reference to the Green Paper in the conclusions of the Vienna European Council of June this year. The Finnish Presidency has also been supportive and has organised a series of meetings, which has attempted to cater to our wish of discussing the Green Paper in a cross-sectoral format."

"At the end of this we expect that the Presidency will produce a short report of the Member States' preliminary discussions. In 2007, the German Presidency will take the process forward by organising a major event early May, which will begin to bring the consultation phase to an end. The Portuguese Presidency, we expect will also be helpful in moving the process forward, at a time however when the ball in really in our court and we will be busy charting the way ahead."

"The European Parliament, in turn, is appointing a rapporteur on the Green Paper as we speak. We expect its report to be adopted during the first half of 2007. Finally, the Committee of the Regions is also preparing a new Opinion on the Green Paper, further to the one it had already adopted before the publication of the Green Paper. We expect both reports to be supportive and to contain useful suggestions."

"After the end of the Consultation period the Commission will come up in the fall of 2007 with a Communication, declaring the way forward of the Green Paper. This document will reflect the analysis of the inputs made during the consultation phase, it will draw the pertinent political conclusions of the wide debate maintained and will point out future actions to be featured in a coming Action Plan. This action Plan should then be adopted in 2008."

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