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EU Reviews Maritime Policy

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

20 October 2009

Evaluating progress made over the first two years of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), the European Commission has presented a Progress Report outlining its achievements and the hurdles that remain.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso commented: "The first time ever launch of an ambitious integrated maritime policy is a key achievement of the present Commission. It is also a challenge for the next Commission.”

The report, released on October 15, is accompanied by two concrete proposals on two major IMP issues – the integration across sectors and countries of maritime surveillance, and the international dimension of Europe’s maritime policy. Together, the report and the accompanying proposals observe how maritime policy could be furthered to unlock the economic potential of Europe’s vast maritime and coastal areas, while making its seas safer and more secure through streamlined new governance.

Whilst welcoming two years of achievements, the Progress Report sets out six areas that need increased focus going forward:

  • Maritime governance should be revised, according to the report, to ensure synergy between different sectors’ policies and objectives when reviewing legislation on the sector; this would include improving the consultation process.
  • Maritime spatial planning, comprehensive marine knowledge and data, and integrated maritime surveillance should be bolstered.
  • More stringent rules should be placed on sustainability to ensure that no maritime activities are allowed to develop without real consideration for their cumulative impact on the maritime environment.
  • Future strategies should be adapted to be appropriate for Europe’s different maritime basins.
  • The Commission should continue to proactively tackle climate change, and ensure that the EU remains a major player in bilateral and multilateral discussions on the subject.
  • Sustainable growth in the sector must be ensured, including pushing for the development of intra-European maritime transport, stimulating investments in EU flagged shipping and in the shipbuilding sector.

A detailed policy document to develop these six strategies will be published during 2010.

On maritime surveillance, the Commission has proposed a common information-sharing system to allow greater cooperation between the numerous surveillance authorities. Currently, it is still standard practice in Member States for each sectoral authority that monitors and surveys actions at sea to gather operational data independently of its counterparts. In its last recommendation, the report suggests that if these data were shared, surveillance activities would become more efficient and cost-effective.

Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Joe Borg, said: “Although the Integrated Maritime Policy is a very young European policy, it has already succeeded in changing the way Europe deals with its maritime assets and has placed maritime issues high on Europe's agenda. The excellent start we have made with the IMP should spur us on to even bigger and bolder thinking in the future. It should encourage us to keep pushing the boundaries when it comes to taking concerted action for the good of our marine environment, maritime economy and security.”

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