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Maritime Security: the way forward

Speech at the annual meeting of the Chiefs of European Navies (Athens, 10 May 2013) - Commissioner Damanaki delivered the opening speech at the annual meeting of the Chiefs of European Navies (CHENS), an informal, independent and non-political forum whose membership includes the Chief of Navy of each European nation that has naval armed forces and is either a member of NATO or of the EU. More pictures


Chiefs of European Navies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today. I am grateful for the invitation.

I have been following the work of the CHENS and I am fully aware of your important role in the evolution of naval military thinking and cooperation.

You are military leaders of the first order, and at the same time, you have an unrivalled knowledge of the sea. We want to draw on your expertise. We look forward to further developing together with you the key notions of surveillance, safety and security, that are so important for the maritime domain.

In my previous capacity, as Chair of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hellenic Parliament, I had the opportunity to deal with maritime affairs from a military and security perspective. Further to that, as the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, I transitioned to what you would call the “civilian’ dimension of maritime policy. I consider myself quite privileged, because I saw both sides of the argument and I dealt with both dimensions of the maritime world : military and civilian. I am fully convinced that these two dimensions need to come closer. That is my main thesis today.

Allow me to start by saying that in the European Union there is a consensus on maritime affairs.

There are three elements of this consensus that I would like to touch upon.

First, we have agreed on a new way of managing the sea. This is the Integrated Maritime Policy. We coordinate policy areas such as energy, transport, environment, research, home affairs, fisheries. We adapt them to the specificities of each sea basin.  We are developing new tools, such as the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, to ensure the best use of the sea. Or the Common Information Sharing Environment , which will allow us to accumulate all the data coming to us from different services or providers.

Second, we are focusing on sea and ocean wealth with our Blue Growth proposal. It goes without saying that we are going to be responsible and sustainable. But the figures speak for themselves. In the European Union, our maritime economy produces over 500 million € per year and gives work to five and a half million people. And our interests in energy, trade, transport, fisheries, tourism are only bound to increase over time. I would also like to mention here that the European naval sector had sales in 2007 of 14,75 billion € and employed directly 71.000 people, which was 11% of total European employment in its aeronautics and defence industries. This approach has acquired political legitimacy and a new dynamic after the Limassol Declaration, where EU Ministers agreed unanimously to support the “Blue Economy”, recognizing that the sea provides opportunities for growth and jobs. This was a major step forward.

Third, there is the security dimension. In the European Union, we are getting ready to make the next big step forward.

I was the keynote speaker at a Seminar on Maritime Security, which took place in Dublin in early April, in the context of the Irish Presidency of the European Union. Ministers, military leaders, European organizations, civilian authorities, were all there to discuss the way forward and to start defining the contours of the new “integrated” approach to maritime security. It was illuminating. It is definitely not the end of the journey. But the debate has clearly been launched.

We are now opting for bringing maritime security to the fore. We want to give a security angle to our integrated maritime policy. Or, reversely, to give a maritime dimension to our Common Security and Defence Policy. It is crystal clear to us that without security, a whole range of activities, such as shipping, oil extraction, offshore renewable energy, or deep sea mining will be compromised.


Chairman, Chiefs of European Navies,

Rethinking maritime governance is warranted in today’s Europe – and beyond. There are substantial reasons for that.

First, today’s threats are quite different from those of the past. In this era of globalization, terrorism has acquired an even more disruptive nature. Moreover, piracy, illegal migration, drugs smuggling due to the density of interactions worldwide are leading to more serious consequences. To make matters worse, all these threats are coupled with environmental risks, such as increasing water temperature and rising sea levels, acidification, change of ecosystems.

Second, we are facing serious budgetary constraints. I keep saying that even if resources diminish or at best remain equal, we cannot run the risk of lesser capabilities. On the contrary, we need to gain efficiency, rationalize, join forces to create economies of scale. Being aware of who is doing what and where is very important. Making the big picture available to as many as possible reduces public costs, increases safety and provides a secure environment.

We want to set a new paradigm here. Our aim is to reach a new level of cooperation and a better maritime governance.  We need a clear strategy for maritime security. I am working with Vice President / High Representative Ashton to develop such a strategy.

First, we need to identify our strategic maritime interests, as well as the maritime threats and risks. There is a number of EU interests: the security of EU flagged ships, the freedom of navigation, the protection of international maritime trade, to name just a few. And there are a number of threats and risks, such as terrorism, piracy, natural disasters, illegal migration, competition for energy and other resources in the various maritime zones.

Second, we should be able to build an effective response in order to safeguard these interests and address these maritime risks and threats. We need to bring together all sectors and capabilities. The Navies already play a very important role in that direction. Just an example: The Naval operation ATALANTA has testified to your ability to conduct successful operations in very challenging environments. You are definitely an indispensable partner.

We need further coordination and coherence. We need pooling and sharing. We need to work together, the military and civilian authorities, “suits and uniforms”, border guards and fisheries control officials. This will require a new culture of cooperation. This is definitely budget-driven and cost-effective and, at the same time, it is the best way to deal with complex and multi-faceted issues.

Third, we should contribute to economic opportunity and growth. Maritime security is a powerful economic enabler. It enhances international trade. We can seek and promote innovative solutions, and the thrust towards new technologies would create new and sustainable job opportunities, especially for young people. We can stimulate investment on security research projects at national level, while ensuring proper coordination and monitoring at EU level. And we can certainly boost industrial opportunities by defining new standards, for example for satellite services. My fellow Commissioners Michel Barnier and Antonio Tajani are already working on a promising initiative called “Europe of Defence” to be discussed at the December European Council. This could also yield very positive results.


Chairman, Chiefs of European Navies,

The transformation of the way we are doing business in the maritime domain is absolutely essential.

It is clear that the EU will have to act with even greater determination in maritime affairs. There is a number of requirements that have to be met. There is a lot to be done. But we have the political will to move forward.

It is far too early to say whether the 21st century will ever be called the “maritime century”. But if that were the case, it shouldn’t be for the wrong reasons. It shouldn’t be the century of climate change, piracy, depletion of fish, and maritime conflict. On the contrary, it should be the century of prosperity, international cooperation and sustainable exploitation of the oceans and seas’ vast resources. 

I count on your support and I would be truly honoured if we would work together towards a better maritime future.

Thank you.

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