New integrated maritime policy to bring jobs and protect environment

Protecting Europe’s maritime ecosystems while at the same time creating new economic growth and jobs are the ambitious goals of the Commission’s Maritime Green Paper presented on 7 June.

With its new vision for an integrated maritime policy, the Commission wants to help Member States making the most of the great potential for growth and employment contained in Europe’s 68,000 kilometres of coastline.

The Commission also wants to raise awareness of the part oceans and seas play in “our history and identity,” to quote Joe Borg. Indeed, lands cover only 30% of the Earth surface, and one in two European citizens lives in coastal areas.

As maritime activities constantly develop and diversify – from fisheries, shipbuilding, port activities, tourism, coastal management, environmental protection and maritime safety, to name just a few – maximising the use of maritime space has become a major challenge.

Underlining the inconsistencies and possible conflicts of interests caused by the sector-by-sector approach that has governed European maritime policy up to now, the Green Paper invites stakeholders to discuss ways to establish a truly integrated Maritime Policy which will both deliver on growth and jobs and set high standards of protection for the marine environment.

Concretely, the consultation aims to highlight the often neglected overlappings and inter-linkages between the sectors concerned, for example between development of port infrastructure and protection of local ecosystems. 

The Green Paper also identifies key factors of competitiveness for European maritime sectors, such as research, exchange of information, maritime skills, good governance, etc.

In a first reaction to the Green Paper, WWF expressed its concern that "integrating these policies based only on economic growth will jeopardise the protection or the marine environment and undermine the goal of sustainable development". WWF spokesperson Carol Phua pointed to the experience of the EU's fisheries policy: "Billions of Euros have been spent on the fisheries sector in the name of economic growth, but much of it has lead to less competitiveness and the annihilation of the marine environment". 

The Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR)  welcomed the Commission's Green Paper but expressed "strong reserves as to the fact that the Green Paper does not specifically address transport and maritime safety policy and lacks an overall strategic approach on policies concerning islands and outermost regions."

Over 40% of EU GDP is generated in maritime regions, and almost 90% of the EU’s external trade is carried by sea. Although tourism in coastal areas currently only contributes 5% to GDP, this sector is increasing annually by 3%. In addition, the 1,200 ports throughout the continent are also an extremely valuable resource.

But oceans and seas face a challenge of sustainable use and exploitation (eg. fisheries stocks) and current policies are too much based on a sector approach. The Commission therefore asked a Maritime Policy Task Force to prepare a Green Paper that would lay the foundations for an integrated maritime policy.

  • The Maritime Green Paper consultation process is due to last until the end of June 2007.
  • The issues raised in the Green Paper will be debated in a number of events organised in various Member States. Comments can be sent to the Commission by mail, in person or through the website dedicated to the Green Paper: http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/green_paper_en.html

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