Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here in Lithuania, and a great opportunity to discuss the Baltic maritime economy.
It's going very well. 20% growth for offshore wind energy… 11% growth for the cruise sector… 13% for aquaculture… 127 000 jobs created in 2010 in the tourism sector… These are great figures.
Prospects are even brighter: there's talk of an eight-fold growth for offshore energy between now and 2020. There is huge promise for more Baltic maritime growth and jobs.
This is no coincidence: cooperation is part of this region's culture and much work has gone into driving the economy forward, notably in the context of the Baltic Sea Strategy.
In the Baltic, sustainability is seen not just as a duty towards the environment, but as a means to achieve long-term growth. This is the right approach for the whole EU.
The coming years will be crucial to ensure that all is done to maximize blue growth in the Baltic.
For international maritime tourism we have barely scratched the surface. Shipping is already the greenest form of transport, but we can make it even greener. Your LNG infrastructure and your smart grid solutions for offshore energy have undeniable pioneering value. As with tourism all these could benefit from a more strategic, more common approach.
So I repeat what I said last month in Copenhagen: now is the time to set a regional agenda that makes sure that the economic promise comes about.
The right strategy must have at least three ingredients.
First, the right drivers today for tomorrow’s growth can only be sustainability and smart technologies.
Second, challenges can be better tackled collectively. We need to mobilise businesses from all sectors and local authorities at all levels to work on maritime projects delivering growth and jobs. We must also involve the education establishments, because we need a workforce that is skilled and qualified for tomorrow's technology.
Third, we can apply our Blue Growth concept. We must especially focus on those sectors that need a little 'push' to reach their full potential. I am thinking in this region in particular about aquaculture, offshore energy, tourism and blue biotechnologies. And we should focus our minds and money on those.
The new European Strategic and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and other funding possibilities including from the European Investment and Nordic Investment Banks, are there for coastal regions. They are there to help the businesses and coastal communities to plan actions in support of smart growth.
The draft partnership agreements we’ve seen so far need more Baltic thinking.
These opportunities need to be grasped now, planned now, for a better economic future: for what the UN calls "green investments for the blue world".
Ladies and gentlemen,
Blue Growth needs the right framework: a context of certainty and legality for business to operate in. So at central level we have been working too; and on flanking initiatives for spatial planning, for marine knowledge and for maritime surveillance. And these are making progress.
Sometimes locating one wind farm across state borders can be more efficient and make better environmentally sense than building two in two separate and more vulnerable spots.
Reallocating shipping lanes away from protected areas reduces the risk of environmental disasters.
The framework for Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management that the Commission has put forward is saying that our countries need to have planning processes for their use of sea space.
I know that Baltic States have put a lot of effort into this subject and have high ambitions within HELCOM and VASAB; so let's work together on a swift adoption of the Commission's proposal.
Our Marine Knowledge initiative is now moving from the pilot to the operational phase. Over 100 organisations in Europe have accepted to open up their data on our seas and coasts – data that was not widely available before.
At the same time we are also improving knowledge of what is going on at sea at any given moment. The vision here is for an integrated maritime surveillance information that will enable Member States to better combat crime and pollution; that will save costs; and that will dramatically improve preparedness and rescue capabilities in case of accident. This is particularly important for this sea basin, where shipping accounts for 15% of the world's cargo traffic.
On fisheries, the Baltic is a role model, with several stocks already exploited at Maximum Sustainable Yield levels. With the agreed reform of fisheries policy, we will now stop the waste of discarding fish and make further progress on moving towards a long term sustainable ecosystem based approach.
To sum up: Blue Growth in the Baltic is a success story already. But there is more potential here. You can link the success stories in the areas of clean shipping to more strategic development of clusters and research communities. You can combine the political action on sustainability with actions favouring the competitive development of sectors such as water management and aquaculture. You can push for more investment in offshore energy and budding sectors like Blue Biotech.
And we want to do all we can to facilitate. By the end of this year we will come up with a document outlining our take on Blue Growth in the Baltic, and on what the EU can do to help.
We will then work with you on how the Blue Growth Agenda for the Baltic can be linked to and complement the Baltic Sea Strategy; how it should be implemented on the ground; and how it should help you use all the funding options offered by the new financial framework.
We are also making this kind of effort with other sea basins like the Atlantic and, as Commissioner Hahn said, the conditions at EU level have never been better.
I'm sure that your strength in research and innovation, your well-oiled cooperation mechanisms, and the head start this region has in developing sustainable growth models will enable you to continue to lead the way in Europe.
Our people need the jobs - and the sooner, the better.