I am honoured to be here today. Thank you, Minister Oprea, for making this meeting possible. And let me first of all say that I fully support your statement.
We all agreed last year in Burgas that the sea we share – its resources, its potential, and frankly its survival – go beyond politics.
So I am glad that, one year after the commitments made in Burgas, we meet again.
This is a historic moment for the blue economy in the Black Sea. A commitment by Black Sea countries to join forces. And to work towards implementing the priorities of the Common Maritime Agenda.
But let’s have no illusions: history will put this achievement to the test. The Common Maritime Agenda is the beginning, the first step. How far the Black Sea blue economy can go will depend entirely on the will and the commitment of the participating countries.
Today the Black Sea region is at an environmental crossroads. Scientists keep sending us worrying messages. The Black Sea ecosystem is at risk – from climate change, pollution, erosion, illegal and overfishing, to name just a few.
We can continue down the path of neglect. Or we can move towards a more sustainable future – and secure the prosperity of our coastal communities.
The Common Maritime Agenda sets out how we can get there. Its three main goals are:
- Healthy maritime and coastal ecosystems,
- A competitive, innovative and sustainable blue economy,
- And boosting investment.
Together, these three goals will allow us to address the pernicious problems of plastic litter and maritime pollution.
They will help us promote the action for more sustainably managed fisheries and aquaculture.
They will allow us to connect people, businesses and communities. Through transport and digitisation, but also through scientific cooperation.
This is already underway. Two weeks ago, Black Sea researchers and scientists came together to launch the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda, the science pillar of the Common Maritime Agenda. The European Union will support their efforts through our research and innovation programme Horizon 2020.
Finally, we want to boost investment. Because this region has huge potential for blue growth. The Common Agenda is about working for more projects, attracting more investors, joining forces to tap into all available funds – public and private.
Because there is money out there. Between 2015 and 2018 alone, the European Union has supported the region’s blue economy with more than 13 million euros.
And I am pleased that we have three major banks present at this meeting today. To ensure maximum impact, public and private money needs to be channelled coherently towards the priorities we have agreed.
Sea basin strategies work. Other European regions have proven it. The Atlantic Strategy has led to more than 1200 projects in the space of four years. In the Western Mediterranean, countries have benefitted from more than 10 million euros of project funding in 18 months.
Now it’s time for the Black Sea to shine.
The European Commission is your partner in this process. We stand ready to support you every step of the way. For example by continuing our assistance mechanism for the Black Sea.
But we strongly feel that the implementation should be as inclusive as possible – which is why I am pleased to have both the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the Black Sea Commission on board.
And as I said last year: This is your venture, your commitment, your project, and ultimately your result. You are the ones in the driving seat. Today, we have confirmed our desired destination. Now it’s up to you to get us there.
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