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European Law Monitor newsEurope to take another step towards a new EU maritime policy in Bremen

On 2 May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso will open a major international conference in Bremen on the Commission's Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy for Europe. Hosted by the German Presidency of the European Union Council of Ministers and by the Land of Bremen, this event will be one of the high-points of the year-long Green Paper consultation process. The three days of debate will bring together political and business leaders with scientific experts, and stakeholders' representatives from across the EU. The main focus of their discussions will be on the added value of an integrated European maritime policy, and how to identify new potential for sustainable development of Europe's oceans and seas and coastal regions. Participants will review the preliminary results of the ongoing process of consultation, and their conclusions will inform the activities of the Commission and the Portuguese Council Presidency during the second half of 2007.

President Barroso commented, "The launch of an EU maritime policy was one of the first initiatives of this Commission. So I am delighted to take it forward with Chancellor Merkel and with the forthcoming Portuguese Presidency. The oceans and seas bound Europe, but they also bind it together."

Vice-President Jacques Barrot said, "90% of Europe's foreign trade arrives or leaves by ship. An integrated maritime policy will contribute to recognising the important role of maritime transport for the European economy."

Commissioner Borg added, "The Maritime Policy Green Paper has struck a chord throughout Europe. After ten months of intense public consultation it is fair to say that there is broad support, and indeed enthusiasm, for the main ideas put forward. Encouraged by this debate, the Commission will present in October a package of proposals towards a new integrated maritime policy for the Union that will cut across all policy areas and link them together."

The conference opens with a ceremony and dinner at the Bremen Town Hall, hosted by Mayor and President of the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen Jens Böhrnsen. The keynote addresses will be given by Chancellor Merkel and President Barroso. The conference proceedings will begin on Thursday morning. The two days of debate will be divided into four thematic sections: Employment and Competitiveness; Research and Innovation; Shared responsibility for the maritime environment; and Life on the coasts. Vice-President of the European Commission Jacques Barrot and Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joe Borg will address the delegates, as will German Federal Minister for Transport Wolfgang Tiefensee along with Ministers from other Member States.

The conference is preceded by a number of side events on Wednesday, including the opening of a marine science exhibition, which will be attended by Mayor Böhrnsen, Minister Tiefensee and Commissioner Borg, and workshops on sea-use planning, surveillance of the sea, marine ('blue') biotechnology, marine science and maritime logistics.

Published by the Commission in June 2006, the Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy is an integral part of the EU's policy of promoting sustainable development in Europe in the 21st century. The Green Paper explores the potential benefits of a holistic approach to policy development and planning that would transcend the current sectoral approach to maritime-based activities and decision-making so as to maximise synergies and prevent inter-users conflicts. In this way, it would be possible to promote growth and employment in the maritime sector, while ensuring that the marine environment is protected for the benefit of all, and also for future generations.

The consultation exercise is one of the largest ever launched by the Commission, and will run until the end of June this year. Participation to date had already been extremely broad-based, with 141 written contributions received so far from a wide range of coastal regions, industry associations, scientific institutions and NGOs, as well as from individual citizens. There have been 231 events touching on issues raised in the Green Paper across Europe, organised and funded by interested parties.

A particularly high number of contributions was received from coastal regions directly or through representative bodies, such as the Committee of Regions at the European level or the German Bundesrat at national level, confirming that the debate stimulated by the Green Paper is of genuine concern to the citizens of Europe, of whom more than 40% live close to the coast. Following the conclusion of the consultation process, the Commission will come forward with a range of proposals for action in October.

To offer your comments on the proposed EU Maritime policy please click here   

Reproduced with the permission of the European Commission Reference: IP/07/594