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EC Welcomes Progress On Integrated Maritime Policy

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

24 November 2009

The European Commission has welcomed the conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) of November 16-17, which acknowledge the progress achieved in the field of the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) over the past two years, and endorse the integrated approach to maritime affairs.

In its conclusions, the Council referred both to last month's IMP progress report submitted by the Commission and to the recent Communication on the integration of maritime surveillance.

Commissioner responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg announced that: "The Council's continued support for an integrated approach to maritime affairs is a fitting way in which to bring the first phase of the Integrated Maritime Policy to a close. Now we can set about taking this ambitious policy to a new level."

"In response to the Council's requests, we will now open the IMP out still further, in order to address the medium- and long-term challenges for Europe's seas and coasts and focus on economic growth, quality jobs, environmental protection, safety and security, and citizens' well-being."

On maritime surveillance, the Commissioner added: "By welcoming the Commission's Communication and endorsing our approach, the Council has yet further confirmed that the integration of maritime surveillance is on the right track, and fully deserves its place at the heart of our Integrated Maritime Policy."

"It is clear that all concerned parties share the conviction that integrated maritime surveillance will deliver benefits across the board, through better use and effectiveness of existing resources, which will also result in cost effectiveness."

The GAERC Council called on the Commission to maintain the momentum behind the Integrated Maritime Policy. It pointed to the need to enhance the economic potential of maritime sectors, improve the effectiveness of governments' actions at sea and generate synergies in pursuing economic growth, environmental stability and a solid social dimension for maritime activities.

Furthermore, the Council pinpointed a number of future avenues for the IMP. These included defining a strategy for growth, jobs and sustainability, pursuing maritime spatial planning initiatives, coming up with proposals on governance in marine and maritime research to enhance the role of scientific knowledge in decision-making, and making further progress towards integrated maritime surveillance.

In particular, the Council called for the further development of the strategic approaches to regional sea basins, thus building on the Commission's recent work on the Arctic, the Baltic and the Mediterranean Sea and extending it onto other regions.

Welcoming the Commission’s Communication on developing the International Dimension of the Integrated Maritime Policy, the Council also recognised the importance of the dialogue at international level on an integrated maritime policy and other maritime issues in the relevant fora, including on the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In a separate set of conclusions, the Council endorsed the Commission's approach in its Communication entitled ‘Towards The Integration Of Maritime Surveillance’, which lays the foundations for a Common Information Sharing Environment.

The Council asked the Commission to work closely with Member States and relevant EU bodies to bring together the appropriate civilian and military aspects of maritime surveillance to establish an integrated approach to surveillance activities.

To this end, it called on the Commission to draw up a Roadmap by the end of 2010, listing the necessary steps towards this integrated approach. The Roadmap would then be updated in 2011 to reflect the results of relevant projects and the lessons learned from European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) operations.

The Council also called on the European Parliament, Commission, Member States and future Council presidencies to keep the integration of maritime surveillance on the front burner and to explore the potential opportunities and synergies to be derived from cooperation and mutual support on a cross-sectoral and cross-border basis, including ESDP aspects as appropriate.

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