Maritime Affairs

EurOCEAN 2014 - Let there be Blue Growth!

EurOCEAN 2014 - Let there be Blue Growth!

EurOCEAN 2014 - Let there be Blue Growth!


Speech by Lowri Evans at EurOCEAN 2014 - Rome, 7 October 2014

Ladies and gentlemen,

These are challenging times for Europe. We are only just tentatively emerging from one of the most testing economic crises in our history. A crisis which has triggered unacceptably high levels of unemployment and which has left us with low levels of investment and stunted growth.

So we need to get more people back into work. We need to stimulate growth by incentivising innovation and investment that will help create sustainable jobs for our young people for the long term.

But we cannot and must not do any of this without protecting our environment, meeting our climate targets, and preserving our natural resources.

That's why President-elect Juncker has nailed the next Commission's colours to the mast by making sustainable growth the number one priority.

Our Blue and Green Growth agendas will make environment and maritime conservation key drivers for economic recovery. Protecting the environment and maintaining our competitiveness are complementary - both are about a sustainable future.

We'll now have one Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries. Sustainable growth and a sustainable environment go hand-in-hand.

Let me assure you that the Commission has already started on making this happen.

The President-elect has declared his ambition for the European Union to become the world leader in renewable energy and he has proposed a three year investment effort worth 300 billion euro.

Ocean energy can not only help us meet our growing energy needs but can also create jobs in an emerging sector and help us achieve the climate targets which have been already set for 2020.

But to unlock this sort of potential in the blue economy we need more investment. And that means creating a stable and predictable climate for investors who don't want to put their money into the unknown.

That's the thinking behind our Maritime Spatial Planning directive which came into force just last month. It creates the world's first legal requirement for countries to create transparent planning-at-sea systems and to cooperate with their neighbours in doing that.

Aquaculture, which has a huge growth potential in Europe, is another prime example. The biggest barrier to making that growth happen is uncertainty about access to suitable space.

This competition for space needs to be organised. It needs to cater for multiple use of space whenever possible. It needs long-term planning across sectors and across borders. This will be good for business, good for investment, good for the environment and good for jobs. We must now make sure that the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive is implemented effectively. This implementation moment must be seized to identify more sustainable growth opportunities.

* * *

This audience knows very well that Blue Growth can only become a reality by taking the best ideas from marine research and applying them in practice.

That's why the EU will continue investing in innovation and research through Horizon 2020. More money will be channelled into marine research in the next few years. We will not only continue to support basic research on the ocean, but help to transform that research into growth and jobs through also supporting pre-commercial, innovation-driving projects. Your input to determine priorities will be key.

We will also provide some practical support. By the end of next year we will create an online information platform to share results from completed Horizon 2020 projects as well as nationally funded marine research. The EU has been spending about € 350 million a year on marine research, around 17% of the total EU plus Member States’ spend. We think we can leverage much more from that research by making the results transparent and accessible. Co-operation with the US and Canada goes also in this direction.

We will also set up a Blue Economy Business and Science Forum to encourage research, business and education actors to come together to turn ideas into reality.

* * *

We also know that for innovation to drive Europe's economy forward we need data on the state of oceans, seabed resources and marine life. We must connect all the dots; and fill all the knowledge gaps as soon as possible.

This is why the European Commission has undertaken to produce a multi-resolution map of all European seas by 2020.

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will help finance over a hundred scientific institutes, hydrographic agencies and geological surveys. Every year the amount of data available will increase.

In 2015 we will involve the private sector more – both in order to check that we are meeting private sector needs and to ensure that the marine data that they collect for planning, developing and operating offshore facilities can be made available in the public domain.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sound growth is impossible without integrating sustainability. Nowhere is that more true than in the maritime economy. We will invest to drive innovation, stimulate growth, and make the EU a world leader in safeguarding the environment. This is a recipe that will help create many more jobs.

I look forward to Thursday's Rome Declaration where you will outline your vision for marine research and innovation for the coming years. We will look at that very carefully. Your forward thinking and your hard work is a very big part of making sustainable blue growth a reality. I urge you to continue on your path and we look forward to working together to make it happen.