By Anne Eckstein in Limassol | Monday 08 October 2012
With their adoption of the ‘Limassol declaration’, the 27 member states (plus Croatia and Norway) not only give fresh impetus to the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) but also endorse the European Commission’s ‘Blue growth’ communication. Meeting in Cyprus, on 7-8 October, for an informal conference, the ministers established the framework for a refocused IMP and gave the Commission guidelines for drawing up concrete proposals. The declaration will be formally adopted at the December General Affairs Council.
The declaration, signed in the presence of Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Maria Damanaki, is a political document that confirms the IMP’s objectives while placing it in the context of the strategy for growth and jobs (‘Europe 2020’). As Barroso commented: “Seas and oceans can play a decisive role in Europe’s economic recovery. Today’s declaration sends the clear message that we need to embrace the potential of Europe’s blue economy”.
Damanaki said she was “satisfied because [the declaration] is concrete and has the general approval of all the ministers. So now we have to work to find money for this policy. We already have a good proposal [on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF - Ed] that provides for financing, but because of the crisis, this money will not be enough and we’ll have to finance this policy through cooperation with member states, with regional governments and with the private sector in order to give this declaration a real boost”.
The member states and the Commission reiterate in the text that a dynamic and coordinated approach to maritime affairs will help stimulate the development of the EU’s blue economy, help create growth and jobs and guarantee the sound health of oceans and seas.
In terms of substance, the declaration does not add much that is new. It reiterates the broad lines of the Commission’s ‘Blue growth’ communication, including the five high-potential sectors that should be given priority for EU support: the production of offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, blue biotechnology, coastal tourism and seabed mining.
The member states also commit to put in place the conditions that will enable the blue economy to produce results: support for research and knowledge of the marine environment, maritime training, cost-efficient cooperation on maritime surveillance, improved maritime spatial planning and further implementation of the marine strategy framework directive.
All the ministers signed up to the declaration, but the discussion on 7 October ahead of its adoption nevertheless brought certain criticisms to light. The member states particularly stressed the need to develop the potential of all sectors and not to limit the effort to the five identified by the Commission. The executive replied that choices had to be made given the limited funds available.
Some (United Kingdom and Germany) also expressed misgivings about maritime spatial planning, pointing out that this is a national competence and that subsidiarity applies. Reluctance was also voiced over the social aspect, a “weakness” highlighted by France. But “this dimension is de facto included in the text,” explained Barroso, because “growth and employment are its key elements”. On maritime safety, barely mentioned, Christofias explained that “this question is the competence of the Transport Council, not the IMP”.
The declaration is available at www.europolitics.info > Search = 322009