As the European Union’s new president, Portugal aims to develop a common marine policy aimed at improving the bloc’s transport network and boosting regional safety, the Portuguese deputy minister for defense and marine policy has told Kathimerini. «The future of European marine policy constitutes a unique opportunity for Europe to boost its international role in the 21st century,» according to Joao Mira Gomez. During its six-month term at the helm of the EU, Portugal aims to develop Europe’s network of sea routes to support increased commercial and passenger traffic, he said. «Half the population of the EU lives less than 50 kilometers from the coast,» Gomez said, noting that the bloc has 68,000 kilometers of coastline. Gomez said he also intended to curb illegal immigration and cross-border crime through joint initiatives by member states, an initiative originally mooted by Greece in the form of an EU coast guard. «The development of mechanisms for multilateral regional cooperation in the areas of safety and defense is essential to tackle these changes,» Gomez said.