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Friday, December 15, 2017

Commissioner Borg explains the need for an integrated EU policy on the oceans and seas

On the 4 April 2005, Dr. Joe Borg, the European Commissioner responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, gave a speech at the 10th Annual Maritime Law Course of the IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI). In his speech entitled, 'Designing a European vision for the Oceans and Seas', he talked about the process that is currently underway in Brussels to develop an integrated European Union (EU) maritime policy. 

The Commissioner first talked about the rationale for such a policy and made reference to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), which was built on the principle that 'all the problems of ocean space are closely inter-related and need to be considered as a whole'. This principle had become the source of integrated maritime policies in countries like the United States, Australia and Canada. These countries have already recognised the vast contribution of sea-based activities to their economy, have focused on a wide range of sectors such as maritime transport, fisheries, offshore oil and gas extraction, and have come to the conclusion that these activities offer great potential for policy integration.  

According to Mr. Borg, the current fragmentation of decision-making makes it difficult to reconcile competing uses of the oceans and seas and to define priorities. This often results in the adoption of conflicting measures. Looking at coastal areas, for example, increasing competition is evident for space along the shore between port infrastructure, recreational marinas and off-shore windmill parks, to mention but a few. The definition of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), as stipulated in UNCLOS, had also led to a progressive occupation of the ocean space far beyond coastal areas. This trend underlines the importance of marine spatial planning and zoning. 

The Commissioner then went on to explain the great importance of the oceans and seas for Europe's economy, which could sometimes be in conflict with concerns relating to preserving a viable marine environment. Recent disasters of the Erika and the Prestige have pushed the issue of the governance of oceans and seas higher up on the agenda of political decision-makers. Against this background it is now due time for a comprehensive and co-ordinated EU approach to the oceans and seas that would ensure their sustainable development, he believes. 

Commissioner Borg finished his speech by stating the EU vision for a future maritime policy: 'Our vision is that of a Europe with a dynamic maritime economy with a marine environment, supported by sound marine scientific research and technology, which allows human beings to continue to reap the rich harvest from the ocean in a sustainable manner'. 

INTERTANKO is in contact with Commissioner Borg's services and will participate actively as a stakeholder in this process. 

Contact: Kristian R. Fuglesang