It is a great pleasure for me to be amongst the key operational actors of the Mediterranean basin here today. For this, I thank France for giving us the opportunity to re-establish operational cooperation in this shared sea-basin, and thank the Italian coastguards for launching in 2009 this brilliant initiative, and for their investment in taking it forward.
The sea is the connecting factor amongst us. Maritime challenges do not recognize physical borders. They are not halted by political considerations. Political will is however necessary to bring about good cooperation.
We have very good reasons to work together to ensure the sustainability of the Mediterranean, a key source of growth for our countries.
Practical cooperation is necessary to preserve our sea and its resources, to detect unreliable maritime operators, and to fight crime. The rule of law must prevail everywhere.
Actions to stimulate growth are all the more necessary at this time of economic crisis. The European Commission adopted last week its proposals for Blue Growth.
The EU maritime economy today already provides 5.4 million jobs, and contributes gross value added of around € 500 billion. By 2020, these should increase to 7 million jobs and € 600 billion. The Commission identifies that obstacles hindering growth have to be removed and smart solutions to boost new sectors need to be implemented.
Traditional sectors such as shipping, coastal tourism, and offshore oil and gas will gain in competitiveness.
Currently growing sectors such as offshore wind, cruise tourism and surveillance; and emerging sectors still under development such as blue biotechnology, ocean renewables and marine minerals, can become a key to creating more jobs, cleaner energy, and more products and services.
On the 8th of October, EU Ministers responsible for Integrated Maritime Policy are expected to confirm their intention to better exploit the potential of seas and oceans for innovative (blue) growth through the Limassol declaration under the Cyprus Presidency. Together with the European Commission - President Barroso and Commissioner Damanaki - Ministers will set a marine and maritime agenda for growth and jobs. The importance of such a policy for the Mediterranean countries is immense.
Where do you fit in?
What is your role? Well the blue growth agenda foresees more maritime development and more human activity at sea.
No policy can be integrated and well functioning without effective enforcement and respect of the rules. This is a precondition of good maritime governance. And no country can do this alone.
You and the authorities you are leading provide the underpinning of Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean. By ensuring safety and security, you provide the fundamentals for maritime activities to flourish.
This explains the Commission’s involvement in today's Forum. We strongly support initiatives which bring Coast Guards together at sea basin or at pan European level.
And our neighbourhood policy tries to help achieve cooperation more widely, by improving capacities beyond the EU to sustain our shared seas together.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When it comes to operational activities in the Mediterranean, it is necessary to share experiences, define priorities and implement concrete cooperation projects. We look at the Forum with high expectations of delivery in this respect.
Let me set you some homework.
First, in close coordination with the International Maritime Organization (including the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC), and the European Investment Bank, we are looking at possible areas of maritime cooperation specifically targeted for this sea area. We are in the process of defining possible concrete project actions which we hope to present to the Working Group on integrated maritime policy in the Mediterranean, this November.
Our initial reflections point towards three strands: making knowledge of existing projects and initiatives more accessible; enhancing navigational safety not least of transiting ships; and facilitating clustering, and thus involvement of all maritime stakeholders in the region. An efficient and more streamlined use of available funding will also form a central element of this initiative.
I would suggest that your organizations keep a close eye on this work. Our Integrated Maritime Policy Mediterranean working group is at your disposal – it should both feed and be fed by the work of the Forum. I call on the Forum's Secretariat to take an active role in both the preparation and implementation phases of projects that will emerge.
And then also, the capacity-building project, IMP-MED, launched in November 2010, is in fact already helping Mediterranean partner countries in defining new project ideas for maritime cooperation. I would also encourage your Forum to liaise with the IMP-MED project team and to develop operational links with them.
At sub-regional scale, we are in the process of defining a maritime agenda for the Adriatic and Ionian macro-region with the eight coastal states. It will address four themes including a safer and more secure maritime space. Depending on the lessons learned, this sub-regional strategy may pilot further actions in other Mediterranean sub-regions.
Let me sum up.
We are looking forward to working with you. There is a lot to do in the Mediterranean, and we need to be moving forward as quickly as possible, in a practical way.
You are part of the big picture of creating the right conditions that will help us to better exploit the Mediterranean to bring more growth and jobs for our countries.
I wish you every success, constructive discussions, and above all, fruitful results today and in the future.
Thank you for your attention.