ECONOMY

EU unveils new vision of integrated maritime policy

The European Commission yesterday presented a consultative Green Paper for an integrated maritime policy, ambitiously aimed at «the 21st century and beyond.» The paper, titled «Toward a Future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European Vision for the Oceans and Seas» asks citizens how they want to deal with oceans and seas and launches one of the largest consultation exercises in the EU’s history. A starting point for the paper, the EU executive says, is the realization that about half the European population lives near the sea (within 50 kilometers of the sea) which accounts for about 40 percent of the Union’s gross domestic product (GDP). The component activities of this large share of GDP vary widely, function independently and are frequently unrelated or in direct competition with one another. «Can Europe afford to manage its seas and oceans in a sectoral, unconnected, way? Or has the time come to establish a truly integrated Maritime Policy which will release untapped potential in terms of growth and jobs while strengthening the protection of the marine environment?» asks the European Commission’s Green Paper. «As our maritime activities increase and diversify, so does the need for coordination and planning so as to avoid conflict and optimize our returns from the sea. An all-embracing approach would allow us to combine economic growth with effective protection of the marine environment and greater stakeholder participation,» Joe Borg, European commissioner for fisheries and maritime affairs, said. The Commission argues that a maritime policy ought to include an entire galaxy of sectors and activities, such as transport, shipping, trade, coastal and port-based industries, offshore, traditional and alternative energies, fisheries, aquaculture, marine research and tourism, that affect one another and can have an impact on the ocean environment and the quality of the life they help sustain. The Green Paper seeks to highlight this interdependence; for example, the development of port infrastructure has to be weighed against the protection of local ecosystems, the promotion of coastal aquaculture and tourism development, as well as the benefits of economic growth through foreign trade. All these sectors today either come under separate policies and provisions or are effectively left uncovered by a particular EU policy. The aim is to bring them under a single legislative umbrella that will allow their better tapping. This includes the utilization of particular resources, such as a long maritime tradition and, particularly, its continuation through training in the sea professions, as well as older ideas such as the formation of a common coast guard, or newer ones such as the determination of a «European sea area.» The issues raised in the Green Paper will be debated in a number of events organized in various member states. The broad consultation process will last for about a year before the lawmakers get down to the nitty-gritty. In order to find out more about the relevant public events and how to contribute to the debate, log on to the website http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs.