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EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: THE BELL RINGS FOR THE FINAL PLENARY SESSION

April 15th, 2014
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committee on Fisheries of the European Parliament

This week marks the end of the 7th legislature of the European Parliament. During the past four and a half years, we have achieved a lot together with the Members of the Committee on Fisheries and with the European Parliament as a whole.

For the first time this European Parliament was able to co-decide with the Council and have full say on fisheries matters. Also, Members of the Parliament have offered precious and inspiring ideas which shaped the final agreement over the renewed Common Fisheries Policy. This is why we reached together an ambitious reform, putting sustainability at its core. We have shown to our citizens that the EU is capable of reforming while at the same time taking care of creating jobs and protecting the environment.

Furthermore, with the help of the European Parliament, we have been able to include sustainability principles in all Fisheries Partnership Agreements that we have negotiated with non-EU countries over the last five years. The European Parliament has also given the EU the possibility to take action against countries with non-sustainable fishing practices and has supported our fight against illegal fishing. And this is very good news: not only is sustainability becoming now a reality in EU waters but also across the globe.

This European Parliament has gone beyond just saying “yes” or “no” to our proposals and has left an important legacy. I hope that the next Fisheries Committee and the next European Parliament will help implement the reform and continue on the path to sustainability with the same enthusiasm and commitment.

 

EUROPEAN UNION AND SOMALIA

April 4th, 2014
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20140404_piracy_Fight against piracy was one of the priorities of the 4th EU-Africa Summit, held this week in Brussels. Our Joint Declaration emphasizes the need to increasingly work together to ensure maritime security. Piracy is one of the threats to secure and safe oceans.

Pirate attacks are a complex issue to tackle. Actions have to be combined through a broader approach: from trade to development aid, to military and diplomatic efforts, to support to reconstruction. For example, the European military operation Atalanta in the Horn of Africa is a success. Pirate attacks have been curbed in the region. But there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each maritime region troubled by piracy, from West Africa to South Asia, requires different undertakings. This is why tackling piracy also means working hand in hand at international level.

Yesterday, in the margins of the Summit, I met with the President of Somalia, Mr Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Together we discussed a possible collaboration on fisheries as Somalia wants to benefit from the economic opportunities of the development at sea. We have to work in a systematic way, under mutual cooperation, to take advantage of European funding which can build the infrastructure needed for fisheries management and control.

Fighting piracy remains high on our agenda. We know that piracy is often rooted in poverty and underdevelopment. I am confident that developing a sustainable fisheries sector in countries like Somalia can be part of our fight against piracy.

BRINGING TOGETHER EU LEADERS AND CITIZENS

March 28th, 2014
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Pan-European Citizens DialogueOn March 27th I took part in the Pan-European Citizens’ Dialogue in Brussels, with citizens from all across the EU. Together with Commissioner Olli Rehn we discussed with participants on “Overcoming the crisis: solidity and solidarity”. We listened to citizens’ concerns.

For example, one participant asked whether European solidarity has limits. An interesting question that we already asked ourselves when debating policies. I think solidarity is not philanthropy: it is about supporting each other to reach together a common goal. To protect and upgrade our common European house. This is why responsibility goes hand in hand with solidarity. And the EU is about both solidarity and responsibility.

Several questions were raised on youth unemployment. We set up a Youth Guarantee Scheme to support employment of young people across the EU. But it is not enough, of course, since more growth and jobs will come only as a final result of our whole effort for recovery after the crisis. At the same time, facing the mismatch existing between the different EU labour markets can contribute to alleviate the scourge of unemployment. For that purpose we have to defend free movement into the EU to allow workers to access more favourable labour markets. This will also encourage mobility of young workers.

The upcoming European elections were also at the forefront of the discussions. In these elections EU citizens will have to choose where they want to take Europe: backwards or forward. The answer is clear to me. We definitely need more and better Europe to move forward.

THEY SAY OLD HABITS DIE HARD…

March 19th, 2014
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Codfish at juvenile and mature stageFrom fish egg to adult fish, all species follow important stages of development. And we definitely need to respect this life cycle. Even more now that the state of the stocks is alarming in the Mediterranean.

The maths are simple: for one juvenile left in the sea today we will have a new generation tomorrow. For example, a juvenile codfish reaches 10 cm, weights 5.4 grams and has no chance to reproduce. A mature codfish of 80 cm weights in average 3.6 kilos and produces 657 eggs. And if we let these new 657 juveniles grow up to maturity, we could fish in the end up to 2400 kilos of codfish. In other words, fishing juveniles is completely illogical.

Cultural change needs to happen in the Mediterranean. Indeed, the regional gastronomy still frequently features juvenile fish despite its catastrophic consequences. We have set minimum fishing size for several species and minimum mesh sizes for nets within the Mediterranean Regulation. We have put sustainability at the core of our renewed Common Fisheries Policy. But this is not enough. We need deep changes in our mind-sets.

I do think that a complementary solution lies with each and every one of us. We all need to act by our own means to stop eating juveniles. Fishermen need to commit to respect minimum size, fishmongers and retailers to stop selling undersized fish, consumers to pay attention to labelling and to the fish they choose.

They say old habits die hard. But I am convinced that well informed consumers and conscious professionals can put an end to harmful juvenile consumption.

(Picture and figures: courtesy of Prof. Konstantinos Stergiou from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, HCMR)

LESS IS MORE: WE NEED A GLOBAL STRATEGY TO END FISHING OVERCAPACITY

March 12th, 2014
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dorota-przyludzka-dsc07772011-06-09-mallaig-scotland-2This week, I have chosen to share the floor on my blog with Mr Pascal Lamy, Global Ocean Commissioner and former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and Mr Trevor Manuel, Global Ocean Commission Co-Chair and former Finance Minister of South Africa. Together, we all believe that we need a global strategy to address the issue of excessive fishing power which if remained unchecked will threaten the sustainability of our seas and oceans.

 The following op-ed was published on the Huffington Post on Wednesday March 12th: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-damanaki/less-is-more-we-need-a-gl_b_4948936.html

Read the full entry

FOR A EUROPEAN MARITIME SECURITY STRATEGY

March 6th, 2014
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GAC-Maritime-Security-Provides-P-Trap-Anti-Boarding-DeviceToday, the Commission adopted the proposal I made together with Cathy Ashton on a European Maritime Security Strategy – for the first time ever in the EU.

This has been a truly demanding endeavour. Our aim from the beginning was to produce a holistic strategy covering all strands and levels of maritime security. It also meant responding to the great challenge of bringing together the military and civilian dimensions under one European framework for security, safety and surveillance. We managed to break silos and we succeeded in developing a comprehensive response. Our initiative was also driven by the need to ensure cost efficiency. In times of crisis like these, it makes a lot of economic sense.

Cooperation at all levels will be of key importance in carrying this strategy forward. I am confident that the Greek Presidency will look into the follow-up to this joint communication with a sense of urgency and priority.

We have a lot of work ahead.

But today we made a big step forward.

PROTECTING THE NORTH-EAST ATLANTIC MACKEREL

February 28th, 2014
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Protecting the North East Atlantic MackerelDespite this autumn’s slightly more optimistic scientific advice, the North-East Atlantic stock of mackerel remains at risk. Yet, the EU and Coastal States (Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway) have been holding political discussions for some years now about the management of this crucial shared stock. It is becoming imperative to find a common ground in order to stop a potentially harmful increase of quotas, unilaterally taken by some Coastal States.

The EU has worked intensively to find a negotiated agreement between all Parties. In 2013 and 2014, we have demonstrated considerable flexibility and made concessions. It is a real pity that, to date, other Parties have not shown the same flexibility. Current discussions on sharing concentrate on a mere 0.8% difference separating the Parties. It is crucial to overcome this difference during next round of negotiations, taking place in Edinburgh next week on 3 and 4 March.

The time for agreement is now. All the elements are now on the table, including the relative shares, a three-year arrangement, a sustainable fisheries guaranteed by a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) level for 2014 and a commitment to follow the advice of the International Council on the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in 2015 and 2016. In reality, nobody will understand if no agreement is reached in Edinburgh.

This is why we cannot afford another inconclusive meeting, endangering this shared stock. The EU has done its part and has demonstrated its commitment to sustainable fisheries for mackerel. I call on other Parties to put an end to this unresolved dispute next week in Edinburgh and to act responsibly for the sake of our mutual resources.

COASTAL AND MARITIME TOURISM: MORE GROWTH AND JOBS

February 19th, 2014
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Sea organ and regattas in Zadar, CroatiaIn times of economic crisis and with soaring unemployment records, the Commission’s first priority has to be sustainable growth with more and better jobs. To achieve this goal, our Blue Growth Strategy has identified in 2012 five promising sectors of the blue economy. One of them is coastal and maritime tourism. Both the Council and the European Parliament have confirmed in 2013 the need to promote this sector.

The coastal and maritime tourism sector is already a great provider of job opportunities as it currently employs over 3.2 million people. At the same time, it is facing multiple challenges: accessibility and connectivity issues, the requirements of environmental protection, a high degree of seasonality or the substantial dependence of coastal economies on tourism. The European Commission has set as an objective to identify and remove these obstacles which hinder the further development of this sector. In parallel, we have also worked towards a wide range of funding opportunities to support the sector and Member States’ actions.

On Thursday, together with my colleague Commissioner Tajani, we will present concrete deliverables to the Council of Ministers on how to make the most out of European Coastal and Maritime tourism and to improve the competitiveness of the sector. We are aiming at promoting opportunities for innovation, better skills, more value added and further cooperation between stakeholders in the pursuit of synergies that could lead to more investment and growth.

EUROPEAN PRINCIPLES NOT “A LA CARTE”

February 12th, 2014
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European principles not "à la carte"This week-end, Switzerland came down with a narrow majority for a limitation of “mass immigration” through a popular referendum. This vote expressed the will to bring back strict quotas for immigration, from asylum seekers from third countries to European cross-border customers or workers. While the democratic expression of Swiss citizens should be fully respected, this decision goes at the same time against the principle of free movement, inherent to European values and to the EU-Switzerland free trade agreement.

Switzerland is a major partner for the EU. Numerous EU citizens live on its territory and many others cross daily the borders to contribute to Swiss economy. Various European companies have settled their headquarters in Swiss cities. On the other hand, Switzerland reciprocally benefits from a privileged access to the European single market: Swiss citizens and companies use all four freedoms of movement in the EU (movement of people, of goods, of capital and services) which they do not enjoy elsewhere in the world.

The recent vote is a threat to our bilateral agreements. Specifically since the four fundamental freedoms are strictly inseparable; you cannot be selective and “pick and choose” if you want to access the European Single Market. Also because it threatens reciprocity; Swiss citizens cannot enjoy full freedom of movement if they do not equally offer it.

In these difficult times where people are tempted by xenophobic and protectionist scepticisms, one should remember that immigration brings mutual advantages: free movement benefits the ones who move but also local economies.

EIGHT COUNTRIES, ONE SEA-BASIN, ONE STRATEGY

February 4th, 2014
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Gondola in Venice by Sara Negrinotti, 2013

Gondola in Venice by Sara Negrinotti, 2013

Following Member States’ support of macro-regional approaches, the Commission will table a concrete proposal for the Adriatic and Ionian region. Eight countries share this common sea-basin.

For the first time, they will be equally represented, – four EU Member States and four non-EU members – in Athens, the day after tomorrow, for a high level meeting that I am going to attend. This meeting is going to prepare the upcoming tailor-made macro-regional strategy. This approach aims at promoting sustainable economic and social prosperity in a region still facing challenges.

During consultations with the local stakeholders, four key areas have been identified as holding important growth and job creation potential: firstly, innovation and blue economy which can provide the region with crucial business opportunities. Equally important is the issue of connectivity: making the region more accessible and increasing the flows of passengers, energy and goods will contribute to making the Adriatic-Ionian more attractive. Similarly, developing various and alternative touristic activities can bring long-term benefits and solutions to local populations. Finally, dealing with trans-border challenges such as environmental issues, by providing joint standards and monitoring will benefit the whole region. An enhanced and focused macro-regional cooperation in the Adriatic-Ionian seas brings clear advantages: optimising the costs while mutualising the means.

After the success of both the Danube and the Baltic Sea strategies, I am confident that this third macro-regional strategy will take the same direction: an ambitious approach with a strong political commitment from Member States to tackle together regional challenges.

Last update: 16/04/2014 | Top