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EC Calls For Greater Cohesion On Mediterranean Maritime Issues

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

15 September 2009

The European Commission on September 11 presented a strategy aimed at countering the various maritime challenges in the Mediterranean Sea basin.

The Commission considers that improved governance of maritime affairs would be an important driver for more sustainable growth in the region, while at the same time addressing common issues of concern. Competition for marine space, threats to maritime safety, environmental degradation, and the adverse effects of climate change all point to the need for a more coordinated response of maritime governance in the region, notes the Commission, in particular underscoring the need for increased cooperation with non-EU Mediterranean partners.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg said: "The development of more integrated decision-making processes in the Mediterranean region will certainly be beneficial to all stakeholders and administrations. Our success in ensuring a strong and sustainable future for the maritime industries and the preservation of the marine environment in the Mediterranean region will depend on how much effort we put into improving maritime governance in all its aspects. The EU must work for a more integrated and inclusive maritime policy not only for the EU, but also in partnership with all our neighbours."

Since the set-up of the Integrated Maritime Policy in 2007, it has developed and promoted a number of tools that can assist maritime governance, such as:

  • Maritime spatial planning (MSP), for the better use of marine space. The Commission is launching a study to assess the possibility of applying MSP in the Mediterranean and will follow it up with a test project to encourage cross-border MSP practices.
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) of coastal areas and islands and a more coherent approach across the land-sea boundary. The Commission will provide a web-based inventory of best practices from all sea basins and will further develop the knowledge-base on ICZM in the Mediterranean through the EU's 7th Framework Programme.
  • Integrated research efforts, which the Commission will strengthen in line with the EU Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research. In particular, it will develop under the 7th Framework Programme a major cross-thematic research opportunity tailor made for the Mediterranean.
  • Integrated maritime surveillance to make the Mediterranean Sea safer. Six coastal EU Member States have already joined a pilot project to enhance cooperation and information exchange among national authorities responsible for monitoring and surveillance at sea, which will contribute to more coherent maritime surveillance throughout the Mediterranean.
  • Enhanced cooperation between the countries affected to tackle common challenges is only half of the solution. Decision-makers need to shift from sector-by-sector action to comprehensive policy-making that takes into account links between different maritime activities.

Therefore, through this communication the Commission proposes to:

  • encourage stakeholders and administrations in the region to address maritime affairs in a more integrated manner and to engage in priority-setting for maritime governance;
  • examine ways to foster further cooperation among stakeholders and administrations both from across all maritime-related sectors and from across the Mediterranean;
  • assist Mediterranean EU Member States to exchange best practice in integrated maritime policy, for example with the support of existing EU funding for territorial cooperation;
  • make available technical assistance under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument for those non-EU Mediterranean countries that want to pursue a more integrated approach to maritime affairs;
  • promote the ratification and the implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention of Law of the Sea (UNCLOS);
  • set up a basin-wide working group on Integrated Maritime Policy in order to foster dialogue and cooperation with non-EU Mediterranean partners; and
  • enhance multilateral cross-sectoral cooperation, through both specific studies and a better overview of existing international and regional agreements that regulate maritime activities in the Mediterranean.

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