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Spain : A case in point for Blue Growth

Luncheon debate organised by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg

Brussels, 23 January 2013

Commissioner Maria Damanaki delivered a keynote speech at a luncheon debate, organised by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg, discussing issues relevant to the EU Blue Growth strategy and ways to boost sustainable growth in the European marine and maritime economy.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Due to the crisis that severely hit Europe and the southern countries in particular, millions of Europeans are facing particularly hard times.
It is therefore ever more pressing for policy-makers to look for new economic growth and employment opportunities,  and we, in the Commission, are making our best to do so in all sectors.

The maritime economy makes no exception: if treated with due respect and proper safeguards, the coastal and marine environment can provide opportunities for many to re-enter the labour market. Also to invest their entrepreneurial vigour towards creating sustainable economic wealth and jobs.

In this decade alone, employment in Europe linked to the maritime economy can realistically grow by over one and a half million jobs and gross value added by over a 100 billion euros. This is the scale of growth opportunities we are looking at.

This is BLUE GROWTH – Growth from seas and oceans. To boost  European ministers responsible for marine and maritime affairs adopted it last November the Limassol Declaration on “A marine and maritime agenda for growth and jobs”.

The declaration endorses the Blue Growth strategy that I tabled a month earlier, to highlight opportunities for sustainable growth from marine and maritime sectors in Europe.

Sustainable growth opportunities exist throughout all the established, emerging and prospective sectors that together make up Europe’s blue economy. However, our Blue Growth strategy focusses specifically on the five areas that have the highest potential: blue energy, maritime, coastal and cruise tourism, blue biotechnology, marine mineral resources and aquaculture.

Fisheries is an important dimension of the maritime policy and blue growth agenda. You are probably aware that we are in the middle of a major reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, which is currently negotiated in Council and the European Parliament. I made these proposals for a fundamental switch to sustainable use of resource.  Reaching what we call Maximum Sustainable Yield is the only way to ensure the long term basis for the substantial economic and social benefits that we can generate in this sector.

Supporting the Blue Growth strategy,  I will present an initiative on Maritime Spatial Planning that will provide certainty for investors as it will rationalise the use of Europe’s marine space.

Also, we are pursuing the goal of multi-resolution seabed mapping. This in-depth knowledge of our seas and oceans will help businesses take informed decisions on their investments in the marine environment.

We are also developing tailor-made strategies for Europe’s sea-basins. The Atlantic Forum set up under the Atlantic Strategy, for example, is aimed at distilling common objectives of the five EU Member States on Europe’s Atlantic seaboard. Spain has an important role there and you as stakeholders can contribute a lot.

Last but not least, we need to make the best out of available resources: Europe’s structural funds for the next 7-year financial period can support to blue growth areas. Likewise, the research funds available through Horizon 2020 for marine and maritime research will be crucial for innovation and for translating this innovation to commercial opportunities. Here we need your cooperation. Without it we will not succeed.

Our Member States are already undertaking projects aimed at fostering growth in the maritime economy. Spain is a case in point. There are many examples where authorities and enterprise have seen growth opportunities arising from investment in the blue economy.

First, marine renewable energy. A remarkable number of Spanish companies and institutes are involved and run interesting pilot projects in several regions. The Basque Country is in the Spanish vanguard for testing. A case in point is the Mutriku plant which is the first multi-turbine wave energy facility in the world. It is estimated that up to 10% of electrical consumption in the Basque Region could be obtained through marine generated power.

The Cantabrian coast also has great potential to develop tidal energy projects. Last year the University of Oviedo (Asturias) announced the launch of the first Offshore Pilot Project on the Asturian coast. Moreover, Galician companies are in contact with the naval industry to seek synergies between the shipbuilding industry and the marine renewables sector. In the Canary Islands, the TROPOS project funded by FP7 is aimed at developing synergies through an offshore multi-use platform, combining offshore energy, aquaculture, leisure and transport.

A second example of a sector that has particular potential for blue growth in Spain is blue biotechnology.

On the coasts of the Canary Islands and Andalusia alone, there are more than 7,000 marine species with potential for development through biotechnology. Some examples : the production of biofuels from the algae biomass, the production  of molecules for pharmaceuticals, for food and feed products, for cosmetics, for natural pesticides, among other potential uses.

I would like to cite one example: the Spanish company Pharmamar, which developed a cancer-fighting drug, Yondelis, from a marine organism. Research and innovation are fundamental to similar future discoveries.

A third blue growth example is aquaculture, which is a relatively important area of potential growth in Spain. We had a very fruitful exchange of views with Spanish sector in La Coruña some months ago. The Commission is coming forward with Strategic Guidelines is to increase the competitiveness of the sector, to cut red tape for SMEs and simplify administrative procedures, to address issues of availability of space and spatial planning, and to provide a level playing field for EU operators to exploit their comparative advantages.

Maritime, coastal and cruise tourism, is the largest single maritime activity in Europe and is of particular importance for Spain. Its vital economic contribution can be further enhanced: Spain received a total of above 55 million international tourists from January to November 2012, an increase of almost 3% compared to the same period in 2011. Of this, an important share goes to coastal and maritime tourism.

The Communication on Coastal and Maritime Tourism that the Commission will adopt later this year will target the need to increase sustainable growth and jobs in this sector. Particular attention will be given to the need to increase the competitiveness of Europe’s coastal destinations vis-à-vis non-European destinations, to improve the quality of services provided, to address challenges such as seasonality and connectivity, and to establish ways to mainstream EU policies and financial instruments towards the sector.

In this context, I welcome Spain’s Comprehensive National Tourism Plan for 2012-2015, developed by the Spanish Ministry with the aim of increasing competitiveness of Spain’s enterprises and destinations.

The main growth sector in maritime tourism is the cruise sector. Cruise tourism’s contribution to the Spanish economy has grown almost to 10% from 2010 to 201. It accounts for over 27,000 jobs and approximately €1.3 billion in expenditure. Barcelona was the leading cruise port in Europe in 2011, with a total of over 2.5 million passengers embarking and disembarking.

Beyond the sectors that are specifically targeted by the Blue Growth agenda, Spanish maritime economy has other strong assets. In fisheries, for instance, Spanish vessels have a long history of fishing not only in European waters, but also in many of the major fisheries around the world, under bilateral and multilateral agreements.

There is a particular challenge here to use this excellent know how and experience better. Spain can contribute really to sustainable fishing worldwide, bilaterally and in the multilateral context, in the fight against illegal fishing. We can use our market power – after all we are the biggest importers of fisheries and aquaculture products in the world! Here again, sustainable resource use is key, and that is exactly what I propose with the fisheries policy reform. This is the principle that also comes to its external  dimension, which by the way the Council and the EP have already endorsed.  

Spain has a wealth of resources that can contribute to the development of a successful blue economy.

What I am certain of is that EU Institutions, Member States, regions, local authorities, business and enterprise, can together fulfil the inherent sustainable growth potential in Europe’s blue economy.

I am confident that, in this respect, Spain will provide us with many more success stories in future.

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