Congratulations to the organisers. I am delighted to say that with the Economist World Ocean Summit, I already feel that we already have a very strong friendship.

Congratulations to our hosts – this excellent event is a good indicator of how successful the Maltese EU Presidency will be next year.

Today’s conference is about the blue ocean economy. In keeping with our conference, I will focus in a large part on the Mediterranean. But I first want to state a genuine fact: that there can be no sustainable blue economy without good ocean governance; and there can be no good ocean governance without a sustainable blue economy.

And the European Commission is totally committed to this.

My work this week confirms this. On Monday and Tuesday, I was in Turkey discussing fishing in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea and also sustainable tourism, particularly cruise developments. I discussed the same in Algeria the week before.

On Wednesday, I had the privilege to launch our EU Arctic Communication with the EU High Representative Mogherini. This referenced sustainable development, tackling climate change and international cooperation.

Later that day, I launched our Mediterranean fishing strategy.

And yesterday, I signed an agreement with Canada to jointly tackle illegal, unreported and uncontrolled (IUU) fishing.

So you can see – my work and that of my services, illustrates our efforts to ensure fair, transparent, and internationally agreed rules – for Blue Growth through good Ocean Governance.

Blue growth and ocean governance go hand in hand. Economic opportunities are integrated with environmental responsabilities.

Sound ocean governance is based on conserving and sustainably using our oceans, seas and marine resources. It keeps our oceans and seas healthy for future generations.

This is not just an environmental imperative. It also makes economic sense. Oceans have a key role as climate regulators, as a source of food, and as an engine for economic growth.

In Europe alone, the blue economy already provides 5 million jobs; and it contributes around 550 billion euros to our economy.

Instead of leaving home to seek opportunities elsewhere, new opportunities in the blue economy can give young unemployed the chance to stay and build a future for themselves.

Today, I want to focus on how we can make the most of this potential. How do we create the conditions for success?

We already have many instruments – old and new – to keep our oceans healthy. And last year, the United Nations adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals, including a goal on the oceans, seas and marine resources.

However, our oceans are under pressure. For instance, if current trends continue, they will soon contain one ton of marine litter for every three tonnes of fish. Not in some distant future, but in less than 10 years from now!

If we do this right, and implement the SDG goals, we can create conditions that lead to jobs and economic growth. Not only in the traditional areas of the blue economy like fisheries, which can become more sustainable. But more so, in other areas such as aquaculture, ocean energy, eco-tourism or blue biotech.

Last year we held an international public consultation. Nearly all respondents told us that present ocean governance is not effective enough.

We do not have all the right instruments. For example, there are still legal gaps to fill in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Implementation and coordination are still insufficient and inefficient.

We will be taking the results of this consultation into 2017 when the EU hosts, for the first time, the “Our Ocean Summit”.

So, how does all this apply to the Mediterranean?

One third of international tourists head for the Mediterranean every year. The Med Cruise industry is the second largest globally.

And of course there is the fisheries and the aquaculture sectors.

As I already mentioned, two days ago I was discussing  with ministers from around the Mediterranean, how we could restore the fish stocks in the region. Many of these stocks are seriously depleted. And many of them are stocks shared between countries.

So I invited all the Mediterranean Fisheries Ministers to Brussels. I asked them what we could do – together – to ensure that Mediterranean fishermen have a guaranteed future. 

But ensuring the economic viability of the fishing sector – through rebuilding fish stocks – is only one of many challenges in the Mediterranean. Political instability, economic uncertainty, the on-going refugee crisis – all these can be more pressing.

But for the time being we will discuss fisheries – or rather the precarious situation of fisheries in the Med. More than 90% of the assessed Mediterranean fish stocks are heavily overfished; at times even up to six times the mortality limit. Nearly 50% of marine biodiversity has been strongly and negatively affected since 1970.

But, there is still some hope. Only if we start managing better our fish stocks – and if we start now. We can provide better prospects for the existing fishermen, and for the many young people desperately looking for work.

We can give hope that our small-scale fishermen can once again become thriving SMEs – the engine of our economy.

In the Mediterranean, where international waters begin relatively close to the shores of many countries, the link between good Ocean Governance and blue economic growth is obvious.

And because of that, co-operation between EU and non-EU partners is essential. Let me share four examples of how the EU is doing this in the Mediterranean.

  • The first is through the Union for the Mediterranean, which regularly brings together Ministers from around the sea basin. In November, together with the Jordanian co-presidency, I invited Ministers to meet in Brussels to discuss the blue economy – the first meeting of its kind. We agreed that boosting the blue economy can also boost the stability of the region. And we committed to working together to improve maritime governance, and to stimulate jobs, innovation and investment in key maritime sectors. Work is well underway, and we are planning a follow-up conference for 2018.    
  • Secondly, we are exploring the prospect of developing a maritime strategy for the western Mediterranean. This would initially involve five EU Member States and five countries from the Mediterranean’s southern rim. It would concentrate on marine research and innovation.
  • Third: In the Mediterranean, the Barcelona Convention is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The Barcelona Convention plays a key role in the implementation of the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive. By addressing multiple pressing environmental problems, this work helps safeguard important economic sectors, notably tourism as well as commercial and recreational fishing.
  • Finally, we already have a promising macro-regional strategy in place in the Adriatic and Ionian region. Again, this strategy involves both EU Member States and non-EU countries.

All four examples again illustrate how blue growth and ocean governance go hand in hand.

We are also working excellently with the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean and with FAO. We have had an excellent conference in Catania, Sicily, and strategy sessions in Rome this spring.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good ocean governance will make our oceans healthier. But if we want the blue economy to flourish, we also need to make our waters safer and secure.

That is why the EU adopted a Maritime Security Strategy in 2014. We want to encourage different maritime sectors to collaborate.

Cooperation will allow us to address multi-faceted challenges. For example, we know that human trafficking and illegal fishing in the Mediterranean often involve the same criminal actors. So we are promoting better cooperation between coastguards and navies; between existing agencies for fisheries control, maritime safety and border control.

Dear colleagues,

Let me conclude. When it comes to the blue economy in the Mediterranean, we all share the same objectives.

  • Achieving sustainable fisheries.
  • Restoring marine eco-systems.
  • Creating blue growth and jobs.

Sound ocean governance and blue economic growth will help us achieve this. But I hope I have made it clear that there is one vital ingredient: good cooperation.

We in the EU can look back on 60 years of dialogue and cooperation. And we have learned one thing: working together makes us stronger and more effective.

That for me is the secret of good leadership.

Thank you for your attention.



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