Feature - A new boost for the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy
04.10.2012, 14:15 (CET)
It has been identified by the Cyprus Presidency as one of its biggest successes. European Parliament Member (MEP), Mr. George Koumoutsakos has labelled it “a necessary boost”, while fellow MEP, Ms. Gesine Meissner already considers it a landmark, as it will inform the wider public of “the importance of maritime policy for the future of the EU”.  The Limassol Declaration on the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) is expected to be adopted and presented this week, at the two-day Informal Ministerial Meeting in Cyprus on October 7 and 8. Cyprus’ Communications and Works Minister, Mr. Efthemios Flourentzou gives his own insight on the Limassol Declaration and its possible implications for the future of the EU.

A maritime perspective to European policies was introduced in 2007. How did we go from Lisbon of 2007 to Limassol of 2012?

Indeed the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), which constitutes the first introduction of a maritime dimension to European policies, was first presented in 2007. The conclusions of the past five years are expected to be presented this upcoming December, so an evaluation on where we went right and wrong could be made. We, as the Cyprus Presidency, felt that we should create the correct conditions for providing a new boost and dynamic for this incredibly important intersectoral policy.  The EU’s IMP should constitute the start of greater contribution to the European economy, with the creation of growth and new jobs through the exploitation of non-traditional sectors of the sea, shipping and coastal tourism.

How can the Limassol Declaration, in your opinion, act as a landmark that will boost the EU’s policies in exploiting the maximum from the potential of European seas?

I believe that the Limassol Declaration will act as a landmark because through it, the relevant Member State Ministers for maritime issues and the European Commission express their determination and willingness to promote initiatives for further development of the EU’s IMP.  The Declaration will provide guidelines, not only for existing but also for new sectors of sea exploitation, therefore highlighting the ways in which the sea and the oceans can be used to contribute to growth and to the EU’s overall economy. Through the Declaration, the great potential of ‘Blue Growth’ to contribute to the EU’s efforts for economic growth and for reaching its target of the “Europe 2020” Strategy will be encouraged. The Declaration has two pillars – ‘Blue Growth’ and the IMP’s external dimension, which includes the promotion of cooperation with neighbouring countries with which the EU shares the same sea basin.

Which are the main sectors that ‘Blue Growth’ can contribute in?

‘Blue Growth’ will help in the development of maritime activities, especially those which present the most promising potential. It can help the European industry in sectors such as the production of renewable energy and the extraction of mineral wealth from the EU’s seas and oceans, by instilling confidence and identifying ways of consolidating these activities without harming the prospects of future generations. It will also contribute to the production of energy through the decrease of technological costs, a process that has been developing at rapid pace. Aquaculture, which has already contributed greatly to economics outside the EU, is seen to have an important role to play in the EU also. Biotechnology is also an important sector, as it can be used for nutrition, pharmaceutical products and chemicals. All these rising sectors, which are linked to the sea, should be exploited accordingly.

How can the Limassol Declaration contribute to the cooperation and dialogue with third countries with which the EU shares the same sea basin?

The Limassol Declaration includes important references which enhance cooperation, dialogue and the exchange of best practices of the EU’s Member States with neighbouring countries which share the same sea basin. The Declaration also mentions the fact that maritime activities should be developed on the basis of the legal framework which governs the international convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS) or other related international conventions. The sea should be a force of unity for people and the EU’s IMP is an excellent medium which must operate towards that direction.

How important is the EU’s IMP for the Union and its ability to counter the financial crisis?

The IMP and ‘Blue Growth’ will contribute to the creation of new jobs. Currently, there are some 4.5 million job positions linked to the sea, while the number is expected to rise to seven million by 2020. 88 million European citizens work in coastal areas, where some 205 million Europeans reside. The target is for the maritime economic contribution to be raised from its current level of 500 million euros to 700 million euros, with the potential of reaching even higher levels by 2030, when the contribution from the exploitation of mineral wealth from EU waters starts.

What are the most important challenges of promoting the EU’s IMP? Do you think the necessary political will exists for them to be addressed?

I believe that the political will does exist since Member States recognise the advantages which the EU’s IMP can bring to the Union’s economy through ‘Blue Growth’. Already, countries of the North Sea have significantly advanced structures of governing in relation to maritime issues.

Therefore, is the Limassol Declaration an expression of this political will?

Certainly. Member States have already collaborated with the European Commission in working groups for the drafting of the document on ‘Blue Growth’ and the EU’s IMP and the Declaration will be a huge success for Cyprus because when speaking of the EU’s IMP, people will refer not only to Lisbon, but also to Limassol. The document is being drafted gradually with the input of the Member States, which have shown remarkable interest, and their contribution shows the importance that they place on this particular sector of the EU’s economy. The final version of the Declaration will be approved during the Informal Ministerial Meeting of October 7 and 8 in Cyprus.

Apart from ‘Blue Growth’, other pillars of the EU’s IMP include the collection and exchange of data. How important do you deem this practice at a European level?

I believe that a European database will contribute substantially to the economic growth of Member States because above all it will strengthen their cooperation and will therefore decrease the administrative burden and possible overlaps.

The Limassol Declaration is regarded as one of the most important successes of the Cyprus Presidency, at least by Cyprus. Do our European partners feel the same?

The European Commission and our European partners have embraced this effort, something that has been highlighted not only by their active involvement during the evaluation of the Declaration’s draft but also by the importance that they place on the development of the EU’s IMP. Considering the great potential of the EU’s IMP for the Union and bearing in mind the defining role that the Declaration can play for the future of the IMP, I believe that the Limassol Declaration is perhaps one of the greatest successes of the Cyprus Presidency; without, of course, undermining other issues and priorities and especially those which fall under the Multiannual Financial Framework. The Declaration is a purely Cyprus Presidency initiative and one that we hope will contribute to the EU’s policy and to economic growth by using the energy resources of the European seas.  

Coordinator on Maritime Transport and EU Integrated Maritime Policy, Communications Officer
Vassilis Demetriades

Ministry of Communications & Works
Integrated Maritime Policy
Telephone: +357 22800256
Communications Officer
Konstantina Liperi

Ministry of Communications and Works

Telephone: +357 22800246
Mobile: +357 99923041