An ocean of opportunity: Commission proposes Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU

On the 10th of October 2007 the European Commission adopted a Communication setting out its vision for an Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU, together with a detailed action plan setting out an ambitious work programme for the years ahead. Scientific discoveries, huge strides in technological development, globalisation, climate change, and marine pollution are rapidly altering Europe's relationship with the seas and oceans, with all the opportunities and challenges that this presents. An integrated maritime policy will enable the Union to meet the challenges head on. This proposal is grounded in an extensive public consultation which ended last June, and represents the work of a Steering Group of 10 Commissioners chaired by Joe Borg. The Communication and Action Plan are accompanied by a report on the results of the consultation which revealed strong stakeholder support for the Commission's initiative.

Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, who initiated the new approach to maritime policy, said, "I am convinced that a great part of our future lies in the untapped potential of the oceans. Our proposal for an integrated maritime policy has been designed to generate growth, jobs and sustainability. We conceived it to promote our common European interest and to seize all opportunities that the oceans offer, while acting in a sustainable manner. It is part and parcel of our strategy to modernise Europe and prepare it for the globalised world".

Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg, added: "Our stakeholders have spoken and we have listened. This is a crucial first step for Europe's oceans and seas – unlocking the potential and facing the challenges of a Maritime Europe will be our common goal. It will allow us to make the most of our maritime assets and will help Europe face some of the major challenges before it".

Until now, the different activities and policies relating to the seas have been managed on largely sectoral lines. An integrated maritime policy will change the way policy is formulated and decisions taken in the maritime sectors, in full respect of the principle of subsidiarity. It will enable the relevant authorities to analyse interactions between the various sectors and policy areas concerned and to take them into account at every level so as to develop common tools to exploit synergies and avoid conflicts.

The new policy will build on Europe's strengths in marine research, technology and innovation. It will be anchored in the Lisbon agenda for more and better jobs and growth, and in the EU's overarching commitment to ensuring that economic development does not come at the price of environmental sustainability.

The Communication and accompanying Action Plan list a range of concrete actions to be launched during the mandate of this Commission. These actions cover a wide spectrum of issues ranging from maritime transport to the competitiveness of maritime businesses, employment, scientific research, fisheries and the protection of the marine environment. They include:

* A European Maritime Transport Space without barriers
* A European Strategy for Marine Research
* National integrated maritime policies to be developed by Member States
* An integrated network for maritime surveillance
* A Roadmap towards maritime spatial planning by Member States
* Elimination of pirate fishing and destructive high seas bottom trawling
* Promotion of a European network of maritime clusters
* A review of EU labour law exemptions for the shipping and fishing sectors
* A European Marine Observation and Data Network
* A Strategy to mitigate the effects of Climate Change on coastal regions.

Delivery of the Action Plan has already begun today, with Commissioner Spidla presenting a review of labour law exemptions in the maritime sectors and Commissioner Piebalgs publishing a report on the inter-linkages between the EU energy policy and the new integrated maritime policy.

An integrated maritime policy will only succeed with the continued engagement and support of all the actors and stakeholders concerned. The Commission will continue to work with stakeholders and authorities at European, national and regional levels in order to translate its vision into reality.

Further initiatives will follow in the coming weeks in ports policy, fisheries and the protection of the marine environment.

The full package as well as further information on maritime affairs can be found at: