It is not by chance that the Earth is referred to as the ‘Blue Planet’. Around 70 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean. In the European Union alone, 22 of the 27 Member States have a coastline and two thirds of European frontiers are set by the sea. Not only an essential provider to society, the sea is also an integral part of the European identity and economy. Defined as "smart, sustainable and inclusive economic and employment growth from the oceans, seas and coasts", it is believed that blue growth can serve as a new pathway in Europe’s future, acting as a central element in the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy.
Currently in the European Union, 5.4 million citizens are working in the marine and maritime economy, with these sectors providing the economy with an annual Gross Value Added of just below 500 billion euros.
By 2020, the European Commission anticipates that in fact the number of people employed in this sector could rise to a total of seven million, with an increase of 100 billion euros in the annual value provided.
According to Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, the ‘blue economy’ can prove essential in aiding Europe’s economic recovery.
“All parts of Europe's economy are essential in helping us through this difficult period. The blue economy presents opportunities for sustainable economic growth both in established and emerging marine and maritime sectors,” Mrs. Damanaki says.
Innovation at its core
Taking as a starting point the belief that seas, coasts and oceans can play a pivotal role in the solutions to many of the current challenges and tensions faced by the EU, blue growth aims at elaborating the maritime dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, with innovation at its core.
“Innovation, enterprise and dynamism characterise these sectors of Europe's economy. Blue Growth is about getting everybody – starting from the institutions and Member States, to regions and SMEs – to work towards ensuring that we overcome existing challenges to ensure the most productive and sustainable use of what our seas and coasts offer,” added Mrs. Damanaki.
Putting the blue economy firmly on the agenda
Last month, the Commission published a Communication marking the beginning of a process to place the blue economy and its development firmly on the agenda of Member States, regions, enterprise and civil society.
Entitled ‘Blue Growth: Opportunities for marine and maritime sustainable growth’, the communication identifies five areas where additional effort at an EU level can stimulate long-term growth and jobs in the blue economy, in line with the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy.
Namely, these areas are:
- maritime, coastal and cruise tourism,
- Blue energy,
- marine mineral resources,
- aquaculture and
- blue biotechnology
The target is to help in the development of maritime activities, with a particular focus on those which present the most promising potential. Among those would be the production of renewable energy and the extraction of mineral wealth from the EU’s seas and oceans, without causing harm to the prospects of future generations and with decreasing technical costs.
In the case of aquaculture and biotechnology, the EU has noted the economic, nutritional, pharmaceutical and other value that these areas can offer, identifying these as rising sectors which should be exploited accordingly.
In the coming months, the European Commission is expected to table specific initiatives in all these sectors in order to explore and develop the potential for growth.
A new impetus
On Monday in Cyprus, ministers of EU Member States adopted the ‘Limassol Declaration’ on the European Union’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). The ‘Limassol Declaration’ aims to re-energise this innovative cross-cutting policy which was launched in Lisbon in 2007, creating the framework for new impetus towards implementing this policy.
According to the Cypriot Minister of Communication and Works, Mr. Efthemios Flourentzou, blue growth is central to this.
“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,” Mr. Flourentzou said.
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