State of play
IMP has changed mindsets but is still to prove itself
By Isabelle Smets | Wednesday 19 May 2010
It is nearly three years since the European Commission launched its blue paper on EU maritime policy. “We’ve come a long way,” said Maria Damanaki, the commissioner responsible for this area (see the commissioner’s opinion piece on pages 26-27). “Not only has integration made considerable progress on several fronts but in particular the attitude of Europeans towards the seas and oceans of the continent has changed.”
What can be said now as a first assessment of the state of play? The actions announced in the different sectors when the blue paper came out have practically all been launched. In terms of numbers alone, things are looking good. At the end of 2009, the Commission said that it had launched or carried out 56 of the 65 actions set out in the action plan presented at the same time as the blue paper. Thousands of pages have been published since October 2007, in communications, guidelines, working documents, road maps, (a few) legislative proposals and other reports, in the areas of transport, fisheries, environment and tourism. The main ‘intersectoral’ tools listed by the Commission in its blue paper to consolidate the Integrated Maritime Policy – maritime spatial planning, integration of maritime surveillance and building a marine knowledge base – are being gradually put in place (see pages 20-22 and 24-25).
Under ‘knowledge’, the latest is that a European Atlas of the Seas should soon be launched – the talk is of autumn, after a test phase on the eve of the European Maritime Day (see box) – and before the summer a communication is also due out on the establishment of a network of data on the marine environment.
And on the ground?
Everyone, institutional players as well as ‘stakeholders’, agrees on one point. The blue paper, the documents and debates that have preceded it and followed it have above all 'changed mindsets' in terms of the way to carry out sea-related policies. They have first of all “undeniably had a training effect on institutional actors and mobilisation of stakeholders and society," explains Eleni Marianou, the secretary-general of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR). “The Integrated Maritime Policy has made a considerable qualitative leap possible by taking note that the issues related to the sea and coast need to be tackled together. I think that the main achievement lies in the consensus about this approach,” said Michel Delebarre, the EU Committee of the Regions rapporteur on the IMP.
The Commission says the same thing. “To understand how far we have come in terms of governance, you have to look at in particular what is happening outside Brussels in the member states,” thinks an official from DG MARE. “That’s where the change is visible.” France, with its ‘Grenelle of the Sea’, but also the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, the UK – and others too – have made commitments to reforms that correspond to the 'spirit' of the IMP: carrying out the policy in a cross-cutting way by taking account of the different interests as well as the synergies with other political areas.
It is true for the states but also for the regions. Delebarre is also mayor of Dunkirk, France. His region “has translated the major principles of the Integrated Maritime Policy into its territorial plan," he says. The same thing goes for Jean-Yves Le Drian, president of the Region of Brittany, France, who says that the Commission’s initiatives “have accompanied the regional thinking about putting in place an Integrated Maritime Policy” in his region (see interview on page 9).
CROSS-CUTTING ACTION… LIMITED
Is this change of culture, this cross-cutting type of action, part of the way the EU institutions are working? The Commission swears that it is, as far as it is concerned. It says that structures have been put in place to bring together the relevant DGs for regular meetings. The most visible example of this was under Barroso I, when a group of relevant commissioners was set up. However, it remains to be seen if it will be renewed. This is a discussion underway within the Commission and it does not seem to be an easy one. The first list of groups of commissioners chosen by Barroso II, set out in a note on 22 April – but still to be finalised – does not in any case have a ‘maritime policy’ group. So this is something to be watched.
MEPs have chosen to set up a parliamentary intergroup (see page 11), which brings together deputies from different committees (transport, environment, fisheries). “It’s a way of having a completely cross-cutting approach, at least amongst us,” explains its President, the Frenchwoman Corine Lepage. While it is very much welcomed by other institutions – at the Commission, the talk is of “enormous progress, which shows that there has been a change of culture” – one should not forget that the intergroup is only a plan B that comes in place of a big ‘fisheries and maritime affairs’ committee. Envisaged at one point, the creation of such a committee came up against conflicts of competences as some parliamentary committees – first and foremost
the Committee on Transport – did not look kindly on the idea of having some dossiers taken away from them, even if for ‘cross-cutting’ reasons. A change of culture, yes, but with limits.
AROUND 50 MILLION EURO SOON
What about financing? There was no mention of it in the 2007 blue paper. “The question of funding is an important gap today,” thinks Delebarre. The latest is that the Commission should adopt, probably in June, a funding proposal for the IMP for the next three years – there is talk of around €50 million – which will have to be approved by the Council and the European Parliament. The idea is not for it to finance big new projects as the proposal must concern actions set out in the blue paper. However, nothing prevents the Parliament from adding one or other of its priorities (funds to renew fleets of ships?).
And how about the long term? Up until now, maritime projects or those linked to coastal regions have benefited from funding from a large number of funds or sources: Structural Funds, research programmes, European Fisheries Fund, Trans-European Networks, the Marco Polo programme, etc. That equates to quite a few projects and quite a bit of funding. A Commission study has shown that, over the period from 2000 to 2008, the EU’s budget had financed a little more than 74,000 projects related to maritime policy at a cost of nearly €15 billion. The discussions to come on the EU’s new financial framework will inevitable put the issue back on the agenda. One idea, which the EU’s Committee of the Regions has put forward for consideration in the context of discussions on the 2014-2020 financial framework, is the possibility of creating a ‘coastal and island fund’ for maritime projects and coastal regions. It would be a simplified and unique mechanism, which would have the added advantage of increasing the visibility of the IMP. “It would be a strong signal for the territories that have to put the IMP in place,” says Delebarre.
However the Commission continues to be fairly cautious on the issue – the idea is more that one does not need a dedicated fund; the proof is the €15 billion and the 74,000 projects – as does the European Parliament. Another idea is 'earmarking'. That would be about reserving a well-defined part of the resources of existing financial instruments for ‘sea’ projects.
The progress report envisages, by 2010, a new Commission document detailing the initiatives to be developed in the future. It is not likely to see the light of day before next year. “We need more time,” explains the Commission. “We are in the most difficult phase, that of making things concrete.” The Commission will, in all likelihood, wait for the report being prepared in the European Parliament (rapporteur Gesine Meissner from the Transport Committee) – which is only at a preliminary stage – before launching a new public consultation. It will then decide if a new action plan is needed.
Will it be the chance to move to a more binding stage for the IMP? The idea is envisaged, especially with regard to spatial planning. While up until now the main principles that govern it have been put in place in a non-legislative way, the current phase of making things concrete has clearly triggered thinking about the usefulness of legislative instruments both within the Commission and the parliamentary intergroup and regional actors (see pages 24-25). “To the extent that it avoids two obstacles,” says Le Drian, “excessive precision that would ignore regional specificities and a very general approach that would not contribute much.”
Two and a half years after the adoption of the blue paper, the time has come for it to bear fruit. But one needs to bear in mind that the economic situation has changed since the end of 2007. “A Europe of the seas has become a reality,” says Marianou. “What remains is that it must today make a more tangible contribution to sustainable growth.” The current economic context makes it essential to think about jobs and economic growth, and the IMP certainly has a role to play here. In her written replies to the European Parliament questionnaire, Commissioner Damanaki announced a communication on the IMP’s contribution to growth and jobs. It is keenly awaited.
The way forward
The progress report on the Integrated Maritime Policy, adopted by the Commission at the end of 2009, sets outs what should be the main areas for action in the future. As one might expect, it is based on continuing with what has been done so far:
- strengthening integrated maritime governance, and therefore ensuring that the progress made in recent years is long-lasting by adapting governance structures at all levels of administration
- continuing to base oneself on intersectoral instruments: planning of maritime space in particular, which must, says the Commission, become a practical instrument used at all relevant levels of governance
- put in place the framework directive on a strategy for the marine environment (see page 12), with the definition of the boundaries of sustainability of human activity having an influence on the marine environment: DG Environment had to fight for this priority to be put on the list and it has been
- continue to act at the level of maritime basins – action at the sub-basin level may also be useful
- give more attention to the international dimension of IMP, which will happen through strengthening dialogue with “a limited number of significant partners” and by taking part in international fora
- focusing on economic growth, jobs and sustainable innovation; consequently exploring synergies between the EU's energy policy and the IMP, promoting the production of energy at sea and tightening up a strategy to adapt maritime and coastal zones to climate change. The EU will also have to ensure a better promotion of maritime transport, put in place the concept of ‘motorways of the sea’, and stimulate employment and investment in maritime transport more by supporting the concept of clean ships.
European Atlas of the Seas
Launched in a test phase on the eve of the European Maritime Day of 20 May (where it will be demonstrated), the European Atlas of the Seas is a pilot project meant to facilitate the improvement and networking of knowledge. Some maritime policy initiatives – such as the strategy for the Baltic Sea region, the Mediterranean strategy, maritime spatial planning, maritime surveillance and the improvement of knowledge – concern member states and stakeholders first and foremost. However, the European Atlas of the Seas is targeted first and foremost at the general public.
The atlas puts the emphasis on the maritime regions of Europe in their different aspects (environment, transport, economy, population, etc), including the outermost regions. It provides facts and figures on the seas as well as information on maritime policies and activities. These include sea depth and undersea relief names; rivers and their drainage basins; tide amplitude and coastal erosion; sea level rise and marine protected areas; maritime transport and port statistics; population density in coastal zones and employment in the fishing sector; fisheries product consumption; fishing quotas by species; fishing zones; the European fishing fleet’s locations and composition; aquaculture production and much more.
The data in the atlas have been collected from European Commission departments, EU agencies and international organisations. The plan is to update the data every three months. The current test phase will include a public survey to improve the tool based on the observations and needs of users. An online survey will run from May to July 2010.
Further information is available at