2012 has been a challenging year for Europe. A year that demanded exceptional perseverance and innovative solutions to tackle unprecedented problems. In Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, we managed to put in place concrete actions, which will translate into sustainable growth and jobs. And I am glad to see that efforts bear fruit: in December, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament endorsed the approach put forward by the Commission for an ambitious reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, aiming at reaching a sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources, based on the Maximum Sustainable Yield from 2015, and introducing a discard ban with clear dates to put an end to wasteful practices. This follows the discussion, leading to the adoption of a general approach, in the EU Council of Ministers, earlier this year. On this basis, I now look forward to the next steps of the Parliament and the Council in early 2013 with a view to ensuring a swift adoption of the reform.
But in the last year, we also set out to improve protection of vulnerable species and habitats: in July, I tabled a proposal to regulate deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic. More recently, the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted in support of closing loopholes that were affecting the effectiveness of EU legislation against shark finning: the new rules will enter into force at the beginning of next year, ensuring that no shark finning takes place undetected and unpunished. At international level, we stepped up our actions in November to fight illegal fishing by warning eight third countries that they risk being identified as non-cooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Earlier this year, I also signed with the United States in May and with Japan in July, a Joint Statement committing them to join forces with us against IUU fishing. As regards fishing opportunities for EU Member States, 27 stocks are already exploited at sustainable levels: this meant 135 million euro extra for our fishermen and coastal communities between 2011 and 2012. I am glad that negotiations in the Council are now firmly based on scientific data and scientific advice improved drastically: for the Atlantic and the North Sea, we moved from last year’s situation, where we had 61,5% data poor stocks, to 15,6 % this year.
2012 has been a crucial year when it comes to putting sustainable growth at the core of our strategy. In October, EU Ministers signed the Limassol Declaration calling for Blue Growth – an EU agenda that creates jobs and growth out of established and emerging marine and maritime sectors. In the specific area of aquaculture, we have already completed the consultation process which will lead to the adoption of strategic guidelines. The consultation process was marked with a constructive conference in La Coruña in November. Of course for sustainable growth we need knowledge: the seabed mapping initiative launched this year will provide the means to increase our understanding of oceans and seas. Also we must tailor our actions to the needs and the potential specific to each sea basin: that is the rationale to put forward my proposal for an Adriatic-Ionian strategy and keep working on the Atlantic and Black Sea.
Last but not least, 2012 marks a milestone as regards the EU policy for the Arctic: the strategy that we adopted is based on three pillars -knowledge, responsibility, engagement- and contains a set of tangible actions for the EU to contribute to research and sustainable development in the region and promote environmentally friendly technologies.
We made good progress in 2012; still, a lot remains to be accomplished. Next year will be challenging, but with the strong foundations we built and with your support, I am confident we will be able to overcome difficulties and deliver sustainable growth for Europe. I wish you all a happy 2013.