Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here in Sicily, especially at this particular time. On Monday a new European Commission is taking office, and a time of renewal provides an opportunity to look at where we are and see where we can do better in the future.
At the end of the day we all want the same thing, don’t we? We want jobs. We want more jobs, we want stable and sustainable jobs.
The maritime sector can contribute many additional jobs if we do things a bit differently.
The starting point is that we have to strike the right balance between the economic imperative and the environmental one. And not just for the sake of the planet. For the fisherman's job to be there for the next generation, the sea has to remain alive. For the hotels to flourish and to compete in the world market, the coast needs to remain beautiful.
In the maritime business there will be no lasting jobs without a healthy sea. This is well understood by President elect Juncker.
From now on we will have one single Commissioner – Karmenu Vella - for both maritime affairs and environment: to strike that right balance.
It's good to see that we are now at a point in Europe when our countries are prepared to discuss the use of marine space together.
We put in place the basic underpinning – the Marine Strategy Framework Directive – as the first step already a few years ago.
We have now put in place a very effective new legal tool, unique in the world, in fact. The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive will allow EU countries to manage the competition for space, to assess the human impact in a cumulative way, and choose the right spots for the right activities.
And another new dimension - the Italian Presidency is working to put together an action plan to bring to life the Maritime Security Strategy adopted by the EU in June. One aspect of this is that sectors and functions that have always operated independently of each other will work towards communicating with each other, sharing means, and working towards the same goals.
There are around 300 different authorities in the EU that have maritime responsibility for transport, fisheries, environment, border patrol, customs and defence. They are already beginning to share information in pilot projects that the EU has been setting up in recent years. One idea is that those bodies should never collect the same data twice let alone three hundred times. And because data would be shared – they become better informed than ever before, better able to react. This amounts to doing better for less money.
If we identify the right actions, and if we implement them, the maritime security strategy will make Europe better able to protect its strategic interests and its citizens.
And just like fair and careful maritime space planning, a safe and secure environment contributes to legal certainty and helps create a good investment climate that can create more jobs.
Most maritime investment will surely come from the private sector. And there is strong EU level public support that aims to bring that forward. Blue Growth features prominently in Horizon2020, the EU's 80-billion-euro programme to finance innovation and research. And the present generation of structural and investment funds are also now hard wired to help develop the blue economy. Those funds are now there for the regions to use.
In the European Commission, we promote a partnership approach between the different authorities – national and regional authorities - and industry and stakeholders in general, this is because a joined-up approach can better unlock bottlenecks and avoid duplication. Better targeted investment can produce more jobs.
There is no denying that the Mediterranean sea-basin could do with more coordinated action. But it is also true that here we have to reckon with a complex geo-political scenario, and neighbours who are at different stages of political readiness.
So what we can do – and we are working in this sense – is to take a step-by-step approach and promote further cooperation at sub-regional level by building on existing processes. For example the Union for the Mediterranean, the 5+5 dialogue and the Barcelona Convention.
We should not be too modest either, because now we do have a success story: the EU strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian region just endorsed by the European Council. This should inspire us to do more also in other parts of the Mediterranean.
One of the most urgent aspects to address is overfishing. Mediterranean stocks are in a bad state. Addressing this is urgent: fishing is an important part and parcel of the blue economy, and science tells us we are running out of time.
In the Mediterranean we share a large number of stocks and fishing areas with third countries. We have an authority - the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - and that authority needs to become stronger, it needs to set up proper management plans for the stocks, and it needs to set up coordinated action against illegal and unregulated fishing. But we need to have workable examples of effective systems in our own EU territorial waters as a basis for progress. Progress at home is a pre-condition - it goes hand in hand with progress internationally.
Implementing the newly reformed common fisheries policy means that business as usual at home is anyway not an option. And the new regionalisation dimension of the policy gives a new opportunity and a new impetus for an intelligent and effective bottom-up approach to meet our legally binding outcome obligations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The potential for more blue growth is there – it’s for sure there in the Mediterranean.
There is an opportunity – a challenge – to do more. Only an integrated approach will work.
The menu of tools and support is there.
The EU will do all it can to help sustain and create jobs in the maritime economy.