Local and regional leaders call for EU agenda for the future of our oceans


Innovation in the maritime sector is critical to success of the EU's blue-growth strategy and its fight against climate change, European Committee of the Regions rapporteur tells ministers

"The Maltese presidency and this conference provide a unique occasion to give new impetus to the Blue Growth Policy in Europe. When it comes to "blue growth", the key priority for cities and regions is the creation of sustainable, high-quality jobs. To achieve this, research is essential. We argue that 10% of the research policy budget should be allocated to blue growth," Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council, said at an Informal Ministerial Conference on Blue Growth and Ocean Governance in the EU held on 20 April in Malta.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss the future direction of the EU's Blue-Growth Initiative and the development of the implementation of ocean governance in the EU and the Mediterranean. The meeting also revolves around the importance of innovation for the sector’s competitiveness.

"The European Committee of the Regions feels that the sea should no longer be merely the subject of projects; rather, it should form the subject of policy. Our discussions and today’s declaration will be meaningless unless the Council establishes a new governance framework or provide the Commission with a clear mandate to embark quickly upon new projects. We propose that: a Commission vice-president should be involved; an annual "sea council" should take place; and a white paper should be drafted on "the sea at the heart of Europe". This will ensure a cross-cutting approach and will develop and set the course for the kind of roadmap we need," Mr Clergeau urged.

At their meeting, ministers adopted a declaration focusing on the role of the circular economy, clean technologies and renewable energy in spurring sustainable economic growth linked to Europe’s oceans and seas and also on supporting industries – such as maritime shipping, fisheries and nautical tourism – by developing skills and creating jobs. The declaration also stressed that climate change is exerting increasing pressure on the oceans and marine ecosystems, and emphasised the oceans’ role in combatting rising temperatures.

The European Committee of the Regions considers that, if the maritime strategy is to deliver results, cross-border regional cooperation will be an important tool, a broader approach will be essential, and adequate funding will be necessary. It also stresses the need for European coastal and maritime regions to develop local strategies that aim to promote distinctive local features. The CoR notes that an enhanced policy framework for the inclusion of private business in the blue economy is necessary.

The CoR has drafted an opinion on a New stage in the European policy on blue growth , which is due for adoption in May CoR plenary session after having already secured unanimous support from the CoR's Commission for Natural Resources. The opinion, which has been drafted by Mr Clergeau, calls for a White Paper on "The sea at the heart of Europe", recommends the creation of a specific investment fund for the "blue economy", and proposes reinforced support for research, development and innovation, including a target of 10% of projects of the EU's Research Framework Programme to be dedicated to marine and maritime research and stresses the need to protect the interests of the EU's economy and maritime areas. The opinion encourages strategic investments into key sectors of the blue economy, such as maritime industries and marine biotechnologies, as well as need to move beyond the 27% by 2030 EU target on renewable energy production. It stresses the need of a citizens-based strategy, which would foster a common awareness for maritime issues.

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Last modified on Monday, 24 April 2017 19:00