Friday, 9 November 2007

European Commission Takes on New Role of Sinbad

On 10 October, the Commission adopted a communication – An integrated maritime policy for the European Union. According to the Commission an integrated maritime policy is needed to enable the European Union to meet present and future challenges such as globalisation and competitiveness, climate change, degradation of the marine environment, maritime safety and security as well as energy security and sustainability. The Commission said that “this Communication lays the foundation for the governance framework and cross-sectoral tools necessary for an EU Integrated Maritime Policy.” The Commission also adopted an action plan which puts forward the main actions that the Commission will carry out until the end of its mandate to implement an integrated maritime policy for the European Union.

Some of the actions that the Commission wants to pursue will raise concerns over subsidiarity. The Commission will invite Member States to develop nationally integrated maritime policies and it will propose a set of guidelines for those policies in order to take steps towards a European network for maritime surveillance and it will develop a roadmap to facilitate the development of maritime spatial planning by Member States. Moreover, the Commission will develop a European Marine Observation and Data Network, and promote the multi-dimensional mapping of Member States’ waters to improve access to high quality data. The Commission will propose a European Maritime Transport Space without barriers, it will put forward a maritime transport strategy for 2008-2018, it will propose a new ports policy and it will make proposals to reduce CO2 emissions and pollution by shipping. The Commission will promote a European network of maritime clusters, it will review the EU labour law exemptions for the shipping and fishing sectors, it will launch pilot actions to reduce the impact of and adapt to climate change in coastal zones, it will take action towards the elimination of discards and of destructive fishing practices such as high seas bottom trawling in sensitive habitats. The Commission will present a European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research, it will propose a Community Disaster Prevention Strategy and it will promote coordination of European interests in international fora.It should be mentioned that on 18 October, the European Commission adopted a Communication on the EU's freight transport agenda: the Commission proposes a package of measures aiming at making freight transport in the EU more efficient and sustainable. The Commission has presented a Communication on a European Ports Policy which implements the Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy. The Commission also presented a staff working paper Towards a European maritime transport space without barriers.

The European Commission wants to put forward a proposal for legislation in 2008 creating a "European Maritime Transport Space without Barriers". The Commission wants to facilitate and simplify administrative and documentary procedures that continue to apply to shipments between European ports, in the same way they do for shipments to third countries for shipping to fully benefit from the Internal Market.

On 22 October, EU ministers responsible for maritime affairs attended a Conference on the Maritime Policy for the European Union, to discuss the Commission proposals for a common maritime policy and to prepare recommendations for the December EU summit. Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, speaking after the conference, said “there had been unanimous acceptance of the need for an integrated approach to maritime affairs in Europe.” He said “we’re not proposing an alteration in competencies, but rather the putting in place of a process that leads to a decision that is more coordinated.”

Although the Commission has not developed the concept of a “Common EU maritime space” as it has mentioned in its Green Paper Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European vision for the oceans and seas presented in 2006, it seems likely from this communication that the EU will further control our seas.

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