MAY 13, 2013 — The European Commission today unveiled what it calls "a maritime strategy for the Atlantic," it has adopted an "action plan to revitalize the marine and maritime economy in the Atlantic Ocean Area" that aims to show how the EU's Atlantic Member States, their regions and the Commission can help create sustainable growth in coastal regions and drive forward the "blue economy," which according to the Commission, has the potential to provide seven million jobs in Europe by 2020.
If the term "blue economy" means nothing to you, it apparently includes not only traditional activities, such as fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and shipping, but also emerging ones such as offshore renewables and marine biotech. Individually, the EU Atlantic Member States (Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom) are making moves in each of these areas and some have adopted their own maritime strategies.
Following is the text of a backgrounder released by the EC today
MEMO: Action Plan for the Atlantic Ocean area
What does the Action Plan contain?
The Action Plan contains four overarching priorities:
- Promote entrepreneurship and innovation;
- Protect, secure and enhance the marine and coastal environment;
- Improve accessibility and connectivity;
- Create a socially inclusive and sustainable model of regional development.
Each of these priorities contain a number of specific ideas, ranging from research cooperation, to investment in infrastructure and cooperation mechanisms - which Member States are invited to implement using EU funds, funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and private sector involvement in the period 2014-2020. Ideas include:
Improving educational and training measures for sea-related careers, including the creation of cross-border programmes and mutual recognition of national ducation and training programmes;
Carrying out research to improve the growth, productivity, competitiveness and environmental sustainability of aquaculture (including offshore aquaculture) and the industry's ability to respond to market needs. In 2010 aquaculture represented 10% of EU consumption. If this percentage could be raised by 1%, it could create 3000 to 4000 jobs.
Supporting initiatives to reinforce marine safety and security, including risk assessments and coordinated response mechanisms as well as investments in state-of-the-art equipment to respond to natural disasters or marine accidents;
Developing new instruments and platforms for ocean observation and monitoring of ecosystems (including seabed mapping) to lower the costs and accelerate the dissemination of data to users;
Encouraging cooperation between Member States on joint actions to restore ecosystems and achieve good environmental status in the Atlantic;
Developing a better understanding of the technical feasibility, economic viability and environmental impact of Mining for Minerals in the Atlantic Ocean, and develop and test innovative mining technologie
Strengthening links between research and industry in order to develop biobanks and identify markets for innovative marine bioproducts (biomedicine, tissue engineering, pharmaceuticals, industrial enzymes) and focusing research into delivering industrial processes for manufacturing them;
Promoting research, development and demonstration of technologies for the construction and maintenance of renewable energy installations for offshore wind, wave, tidal and biomass energies. By 2020, the installed capacity of ocean energy is projected to reach 2 253MW, representing 0.5% of the total installed electricity capacity in the EU-27.Estimates vary, but the offshore renewable sector has potential to create thousands of jobs;
Facilitating the upgrade of infrastructure, such as ports, to improve connectivity with the hinterland, diversify activities such as maintenance of offshore renewable energy installations or tourism, enhance intermodality and promote fast turnaround of ships through measures such as provision of shore side electricity, equipping ports with liquefied natural gas refuelling capacity and tackling administrative bottlenecks;
Identifying and promoting cultural and natural attractions such as the artisanal fishing, gastronomy and maritime heritage of the Atlantic coast.
Who participated in drawing up the Action Plan?
The plan is part of a so-called "sea-basin strategy", the Atlantic Strategy, in which countries and regions around a shared sea space work together. This means that the countries (Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom) and their regions are in the driving seat. The Commission organised five regional workshops which brought together all the regions at the Atlantic coast, with civil society and industry also participating, to discuss common challenges and come up with new ideas. This proved to be a very fruitful, "bottom-up" process.
The European Parliament has lent its special support to this initiative. Members of the European Parliament and also the European Committee of the Regions joined all the discussions.
What is the added value?
The consultation process enabled stakeholders to identify opportunities for growth in the blue economy and to suggest actions that might take advantage of them. This inclusive process meant increased the robustness of the actions and the confidence that they were the right ones. A number of them involve collaboration between different regions and Member States – either through joint projects or through the sharing of experiences in order to identify best practice in solving common problems.
How can the Action Plan be funded?
it is now up to the Member States concerned to decide whether the proposed actions could be funded using planned EU funding. EU funds that are managed by the Member States (the so-called structural funds: the European Maritime and Fisheries Funds, the European Fund for Regional Development, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Social Funds) could be used to put some or all of these proposals into reality. With the start of new financial programmes for the period 2014-2020, the Action Plan should guide Member States and the Commission in planning their use of EU and national funds.
The five Member States are therefore encouraged to take the Action Plan into account in their discussions with the Commission on their respective Partnership Agreements on the structural funds.
Funding might also come directly from the EU budget, for instance through as the financing instrument for the environment (LIFE+), the EU's research and innovation funding programme (Horizon 2020) or the programme to assist enterprise and SMEs (COSME).
In addition, the European Investment Bank would stand ready to mobilise its financing tools and expertise in support of suitable projects in order to further the Action Plan's priorities. The European Investment Bank can extend support to both public and private sector activities in the form of lending, blending and technical advice and offers a variety of financing instruments. At the end of 2012, the EIB had a capital of 242 billion EUR and a lending capacity that same year of 52 billion EUR. Finally, Member States may also wish to approach the private sector to explore involvement and finance.
Is implementation mandatory?
Cooperation on the Action Plan remains voluntary.
How does this fit in with the Commission's sea basin strategies?
The EU's Integrated Maritime Policy promotes growth and development strategies that exploit the strengths and address the weaknesses of each large sea region in the EU. As each sea region is unique it prescribes a tailor-made strategy for each sea basin.
Sea basin strategies align funding from Member States and different European sources on commonly agreed objectives and targeted specific measures. They focus on goals like employment, accessibility and quality of life.
Apart from the Atlantic, good progress has also been made in other areas, notably in the Baltic and Adriatic and Ionian seas. The EU has also adopted a strategy for the Arctic region.