Ladies and Gentlemen,
As any proud person from Split will tell you, my home town on the beautiful Dalmatian coast is a jewel in Croatia's crown – an important maritime hub and popular tourist destination.
So I feel a great affinity with today's discussions on the importance of Blue Economy – not only professional, but also personal.
Communities like ours – in Split, here in St Julian's, and in many places around the world – rely on the sea, not only for our livelihoods, but for the very lifeblood that runs through all our veins.
The sea is the primary food source for almost half of the planet's population.
The global ocean economy is estimated at EUR 1.3 trillion currently. And, the OECD has predicted that this could more than double by 2030.
As such, the ocean economy has the potential to outperform the land economy as a whole, both in terms of value-added and employment.
However, unless we change our current course of direction – sea levels will continue to rise, and our oceans will become warmer and more acidic. By 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the sea.
It is vital therefore that ocean governance and the blue economy have been recognised at the highest global political levels – in the Paris Climate Agreement, and in the 2030 Agenda, in particular through Sustainable Development Goal 14.
And it is truly encouraging to see such an important gathering of leaders from the government, business, research and civil society sectors in Malta today. I would like to thank my dear colleague and friend, Karmenu Vella, for bringing us all together, to join forces and help keep global efforts on the right track.
The European Union remains fully committed to honouring these global commitments. In 2016 we agreed on an agenda to ensure that the world's oceans are safer, cleaner, more secure, and more sustainably managed.
The area under my responsibility, that is cooperation with developing countries, is central to this effort. Many of these countries, and in particular the Small Island Developing States, are highly dependent on the Oceans.
Several of them in the Caribbean have recently been pounded by climate-related disasters.
For them, and for the other Small Island Developing States, building a sustainable and resilient blue economy is a matter of survival.
The EU will assist them in their efforts. Promoting blue economy and blue growth is not a new concept for us. We have already achieved robust results in terms of development support in the maritime and fisheries sectors.
For many years now, we have been supporting developing countries in their fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing – building capacity for governments and local fishing operators and communities to retake control over their fish stocks.
Our support takes many forms: from large marine security operations along the East and West Africa coastlines, to coastal biodiversity and ecosystems protection in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa.
And it is in this vain that we are determined to continue, stepping up our efforts, and diversifying further our broad range of activities in support of blue growth.
As a prime example of that, I had the pleasure yesterday to sign a new Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership programme, worth EUR 45 million. With this project, we support sustainable management and development of fisheries, climate change resilience and conservation of marine biodiversity.
And we will continue to support the World Bank's Global Fisheries Programme - PROFISH - to which we will contribute this year with a minimum of EUR 1 Million, focusing on the welfare of the poor in fisheries and fish farming communities in the developing world.
The blue economy cannot be sustained without the proper complementary support for the ecosystems on which many communities directly depend.
With this in mind, the European Union is dedicating EUR 8.5 Million to the preservation of marine and coastal biodiversity in the Caribbean Sea Basin.
And we are reserving EUR 20 million from the upcoming phase 2 of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Programme, to support research propping the management of Marine Protected Areas in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
For the monitoring of climate change effects, fisheries operations and marine protection, the European Union will be investing EUR 23 million into the Marine Services of its satellite monitoring programme - Copernicus - in 2017 and 2018.
In the same spirit, in order to ensure that human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way that enables blue growth, the European Union will provide EUR 1.4 million Euro to support the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission to develop a Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime Spatial Planning processes worldwide.
And finally, we are teaming up with the International Maritime Organisation for aEUR 10 million project on climate change mitigation in the maritime shipping sector. Through five Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, we seek to form a global network to support developing countries in developing energy-efficient solutions for maritime transport.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The eight initiatives I have chosen to mention today add up to well over EUR 100 million, and affirm the European Union's determination to promote the development of the Blue Economy worldwide.
We will keep supporting our developing country partners in their efforts to implement SDG 14 – with our development cooperation instruments contributing a total of nearly EUR 175 million to the pledges announced by the EU over these two days.
By working together, we can ensure the sustainability of life below water, for all of those above it, whose lives and livelihoods depend on the future of our oceans.
Thank you very much.
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