March 6th, 2014
Number of views : 34
Today, 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.
February 28th, 2014
Number of views : 73
Despite 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.
February 19th, 2014
Number of views : 206
In 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.
February 12th, 2014
Number of views : 128
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.
February 4th, 2014
Number of views : 491
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.
January 30th, 2014
Number of views : 578
Our new Fisheries policy was adopted last year. However one thing was still missing: its funding instrument. Discussions have been intensive. I am very glad to see that this week we have finally reached a much-awaited political agreement on the Fund, after many efforts. I would like to thank the European Parliament, especially the rapporteur Alain Cadec and the shadow rapporteurs for the good cooperation. Also the Greek Presidency of the Council for their contribution in these last stages of a long process.
I am now looking forward to the formal endorsement of the agreement by the European Parliament and the Council.
Together, we achieved a lot: namely, the increase of funding for data collection, control and enforcement measures. Also, support to small-scale, local fisheries and to young fishermen is foreseen, to help them secure their future in the profession.
The European Commission wants a new funding instrument capable to put people and jobs at its core, instead of fishing vessels. This is why I strongly welcome the strict limits and conditions set for spending money on the fishing fleets. I am also pleased we have successfully resisted attempts to bring back subsidies for the construction of new fishing vessels.
For the very first time, a specific allocation will be dedicated to our Integrated Maritime Policy. For instance, money will be available for seabed mapping and for easier access to marine data all across Europe. These measures will undeniably help us know better our seas and foster innovation and investment for our blue growth and jobs agenda.
As you know, our reform of the Common Fisheries Policy has achieved a radical shift towards sustainability. Now this positive change will be supported by a substantial financial instrument to help our fishermen in this transition. The new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is the proper answer to this challenge.
January 27th, 2014
Number of views : 173
Last week I had the pleasure to visit the truly remarkable exhibition “Nautilus : Navigating Greece” in Brussels. It presents an extensive collection of inspiring exhibits, high quality art works from the past to current times.
The fresco of the Fisherman from Akrotiri, found on Santorini Island back in 1650 B.C, is a telling image of how Greeks relied on the resources from the Sea. Some things do not change indeed. On the other hand our sea policy today has to be updated: exploration of all sea resources but in a sustainable way. Today for example, our main challenge is to prevent overfishing from emptying our seas and secure a future for next generation. Our blue growth proposal underlines the dependence of mankind on the sea potential, but also our responsibilities to protect this relation through time. The exhibition is focusing on this relation, in the Mediterranean region, in the most attractive way.
Pieces of contemporary art of the exhibition present powerful images of our present and future as well. Beyond the incredible beauty of the metaphors, a very inspiring video invites us to consider the unleashed blue potential for human prosperity. In these times of crisis, our seas and oceans remain key sources of growth, innovation, employment, communication and inspiration.
January 18th, 2014
Number of views : 420
I visited London this week, while participating in a conference on EU reform. In these times where European ideals arouse scepticism, we, convinced Europeans, must restore citizens’ confidence in our institutions and move European integration to the next level: a strong political union.
At the same time, claiming that more Europe is the remedy to the crisis is not easy after these years of intense difficulties for European citizens. Of course now, as European economy is slightly recovering, new hopes are emerging. But growth and employment are not there yet and citizens are still facing difficulties. However I do strongly think deeper integration is the right solution.
Why? European and Eurozone economies are interdependent. The crisis has shown it. The only way to fill the gap of competitiveness between Europe and emerging economies is to stay together, to secure the size that can respond to the challenges. Therefore, the key is not less Europe but more Europe: an enhanced coordination of economic, budgetary and fiscal policies to restore growth and contribute to job creation. Also, the sustainability of the monetary and economic union depends on the deepening of the political and social unification. Therefore, we need to cover the social gaps of Europe by reducing disparities and providing opportunities for the vulnerable European citizens. We need more solidarity, among nations but also among citizens.
Europe is no longer solely a single market. It is a political and social project. This is why we need to pursue our continuous and dynamic efforts for more and better Europe. It is also vital, in the light of the upcoming European elections, to resist to the temptations of populism and extremism. We need to keep European values alive: an open Europe, with strengthened economic governance and a political dimension, which encourages responsibility. This is the Europe which will bring long term solutions for future generations.
We definitely need more and better Europe!
January 10th, 2014
Number of views : 429
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
Do you know that the biggest part of biodiversity on earth is found in the sea? Have you realised that our seas and oceans are the largest unexplored territories on earth? We need to discover more.
A number of important achievements were made towards this direction under the European Research Framework Programme for 2007 to 2013. A very interesting example can be the EU-funded biotechnology project PHARMASEA. This project was launched by a pan-European team of researchers to identify and evaluate the potential of marine organisms as new medicines, and more specifically antibiotics. This could revolutionise infection-fighting treatments and benefit directly to citizens.
Horizon 2020, the new European research program for 2014 to 2020, promises more. More money, 80 billion euros – a 30% increase compared to the last program-, will be dedicated to better-targeted projects in areas with the most growth potential. One of those areas is Blue Growth. For the first time maritime economy is a horizontal priority for Horizon 2020 proposals. A lot of research areas can touch upon sea, such as seabed mapping and knowledge, the impact of climate change on the sea, extraction from sea bottom, ocean energy or biotechnology, aquaculture or fisheries. We estimate that through these opportunities, up to a total of € 275 million could flow in blue economy in 2014 and 2015. Also, very significant additional amounts of funding will be made available specifically for SMEs. This could particularly benefit marine and maritime research where SMEs are actively involved in projects on new emerging technologies.
Let us hope that the European research community is going to take the best advantage of all these new possibilities!
December 23rd, 2013
Number of views : 366
2013 marked a milestone in European fisheries. We successfully achieved our ambitious new Fisheries policy which will enter into force on January 1st 2014. This new policy finds a balance between environmental, economic and social sustainability by putting an end to overfishing and discarding. While negotiating the reform, implementation of the new policy already started. This year’s international agreements, conservation and management plans are generally in line with the reform’s objectives: sustainability, sound fisheries management and reliance on scientific knowledge. The recently adopted new EU-Morocco and EU-Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreements are a good example of promoting a sustainable future to local fisheries, in line with both our objectives and with international law.
On Maritime policy, our Blue Growth strategy is now fully developing. It received strong support from Member States and the European Parliament. Marine knowledge 2020 is advancing, a specific Blue Growth call for research and innovation has been launched under Horizon 2020 and the proposed directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management is on its way. We have worked on maritime tourism and a special communication is coming in January. Our sea-basin strategies have led to concrete steps: the Atlantic Action plan has been adopted and stakeholders have provided valuable input for actions under the strategies for the Baltic and Adriatic-Ionian regions. We have also published our study highlighting the economic added value of the establishment of Exclusive Economic Zones in the Mediterranean Sea. The international cooperation on marine research and seabed mapping was framed by the “Galway statement on Atlantic Ocean” enhancing cooperation between the two sides of the Atlantic. Furthermore, Europe’s Arctic strategy is becoming a reality and the EU is ready to address the common challenges of the region.
To follow the objective of boosting growth in coastal and rural areas, the Commission has introduced strategic guidelines for aquaculture in order to address the challenges of the sector and unleash its crucial potential. Also, European consumers will soon benefit from new guidelines on clear labelling for fish and aquaculture products in order to ensure their informed choice.
In 2013 we have improved controls and our seas, oceans and fisheries are now more sustainable, safer and secure. TACs and quotas negotiations have been fruitful and stocks fished at MSY level are increasing. In addition, we have intensified our fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by identifying third-countries which have not shown a real and clear commitment to tackling illegal fishing. Also we have started using our legal instruments referring to their exports.
I am proud that a lot has been achieved in 2013 but let’s focus now on going beyond: 2014 will be the year of implementation and sustainable growth for Europe. I wish you all a happy New Year 2014!