Oceans are a key asset for the EU. The blue economy already produces 5% of our GDP and provides nearly 5 million jobs. It has the potential to contribute much more.
But we also realised in the EU that if our oceans are not healthy, our economy falls ill. If there is no legal and policy certainty, business will not invest. If knowledge about the oceans is not there or not shared, businesses and politicians cannot make the right choices. And some nascent industries may need a bit of a financial push to scale up.
So this is what the EU has done:
We have put in place a robust set of environmental rules to ensure sustainable use of marine resources.
We drew up an EU-level strategy to boost sustainable blue growth, focussing on particularly promising sectors (ocean energy, marine biotech, seabed mining, marine tourism and aquaculture).
We put in place regional strategies to support the blue economy and to address common policy challenges in our different sea-basins.
We developed a unique piece of legislation that requires countries across Europe to plan the use of maritime space. This gives operators certainty on what can be done, where and for how long and it cuts red tape to get permits.
We are spending about 350 million € per year on marine and maritime research, and putting in place mechanisms for scientists to cooperate better and share more information.
We are giving better access to maritime information for free to industry, public authorities, researchers and civil society.
We are also improving exchange of information between surveillance authorities, such as coast guards, customs and port authorities, and make them work together. This makes all surveillance and monitoring activities much cheaper and efficient.
And finally, we are mainstreaming funding and investment into maritime activities. Blue businesses will be very well placed to access the EU’s new investment fund worth 315 billion euro over the next three years. This will drive innovation, improve technology and build infrastructure in the blue economy.
However, we have also realised that the maritime challenges and opportunities we are facing in the EU are the same globally. Since the oceans are shared amongst all of us we cannot limit ourselves to our own courtyard.
We have a shared responsibility to seize opportunities in a sustainable way.
This can only be done through an international ocean governance framework that ensures that ocean resources are used sustainably. There are doubts whether the existing governance framework is effective in doing that.
We are reaching out to all stakeholders - international organisations, state actors, NGOs, business, the research community, academia – and ask them/ask you: 1) Is the current ocean governance framework effective? 2) If not, what needs to be done to make it more effective?
In addition to the consultation, I'm going on a "Listening Tour" in the coming six months. I will be listening to the views of international partners and other stakeholders – starting here today with some of you.
I am looking forward to your contributions and to our first discussion here today.