Member of the European CommissionResponsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
National Europe Centre, Australian National University
Canberra, 13 May 2009
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here in this vibrant country with its outstanding maritime tradition. I am especially pleased to be speaking to you here at the National Europe Centre, which is making a sterling contribution towards building ever closer ties between Australia and Europe. One of the many facets of your valuable work involves bringing together universities and national institutions and pursuing academic excellence. This admirable approach is to be encouraged. It also shows the extent to which concerted and genuine co-operation can yield first-rate results in any number of areas. And co-operation is very much the theme of my address to you today.
The period of financial, economic and also political turmoil we are currently experiencing certainly requires co-operation, for no region of the world has been left untouched and we are all feeling the consequences. The positive aspect of the current downturn is that, faced with these global challenges, the international community is coming together as it has rarely done before, to forge common responses.
The importance of the efforts to promote global governance is becoming ever more obvious. Indeed, they are starting to bear fruit in a number of fields.
Today I would like to mention a few issues related to global governance of the oceans where I believe progress is undeniable and encouraging, both on an international scale, at regional level, and within the EU. We have two main instruments in the EU that help us govern our activities with the seas and oceans: the Common Fisheries Policy and the recently established Integrated Maritime Policy. Both policies relate to a number of international conventions, agreements and arrangements of which the EU is often party. Developments in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea are therefore of direct interest to the EU.
A case in point is the international effort on tackling the problems caused by the use of destructive fishing practices. In a world where the search for natural resources, including fish, has become increasingly difficult, technological progress has enabled fishermen to use fishing gears to take them to previously uncharted depths. However, the negative consequences of these fishing practices have quickly become apparent, as, in many areas, vulnerable marine ecosystems have been destroyed by fishing gears raking across ocean floors. We know today that for those vulnerable marine ecosystems to recover - if they are to recover at all - long periods of complete rest and isolation will be needed.
At the UN General Assembly in 2006, the European Community and others decided to take action. The General Assembly laid down a set of rules and conditions to be applied to bottom fishing in a resolution known as UNGA 61/105.
As you may know, fishing on most parts of the high seas is governed by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations or RFMOs. Obviously, RFMOs have a very important role to play in implementing this UN resolution, as they agree on the detailed technical rules and fishing possibilities they undertake to respect in the area of the sea under their responsibility.
The European Union and others have been working hard to promote and ensure implementation of the UN rules on bottom fishing. In RFMOs we have tried to push for the adoption of strict measures, often supported by Australia and other countries. While rule-setting within RFMOs has had a relatively encouraging start, progress is still needed on the implementation side.
Until now, the European Union is the only party that has adopted a set of rules for its fishing vessels limiting the impact, and, in many cases, prohibiting bottom fishing practices in areas of the high seas for which there is no RFMO. We implement a precautionary approach and only allow Member States to permit bottom trawling once there is scientific evidence that such practices do not cause additional damage to vulnerable marine habitats. We hope that international partners will adopt similar measures.
We are looking forward to this year's stock-taking exercise on the implementation of resolution 61/105, at the UN. I hope that increasing transparency on the efforts undertaken will demonstrate that rule-setting at global level on a specific issue which can have a serious impact on marine ecosystems will be both possible and effective.
I mentioned that most of the high seas are covered by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. We are working on filling up the gaps. Thus, the EU and Australia, along with interested parties are in the last stages of agreeing on a convention that would lead to the creation of such an organisation for the South Pacific. In the meantime, management measures have been put in place under an interim arrangement.
There are other examples in the field of fisheries where progress is being achieved both at global and regional level. One major challenge lies in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. With an estimated global turnover of 10 billion Euro a year, IUU or pirate fishing is big business. IUU fishing benefits fraudsters but brings nothing to others but grief through over-fishing, habitats destruction and unfair competition. This is why we must fight these illegal activities together
Negotiations at the FAO Committee on Fisheries in Rome to establish an internationally binding instrument on so-called port State measures are ongoing. The aim here is to allow port States to react with a set of measures when confronted with vessels that have clearly been engaging in IUU activities. Good progress has been made in the last year and, again, at the meeting last week in Rome. The last stumbling issues now need to be resolved so as to pave the way for an agreement on international measures.
As the biggest market in the world, the EU also wants to take action at the trade level and close the door to illegally-caught fish. Thus, last September it adopted a Regulation on IUU fishing which will enter into force on 1 January 2010. This Regulation will apply to all fishing vessels, under any flag. It seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing in all maritime waters. To ensure that no products derived from IUU fishing appear on the EU market or on markets supplied from the EU, the Regulation seeks to ensure full traceability of all fishery products traded with the Union through a catch certification scheme.
This scheme will improve and facilitate control and compliance with conservation and management rules in co-operation with third countries. The Regulation also comprises provisions on port State control, mutual assistance in monitoring and control, IUU vessel identification, and it includes a system of proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for serious infringements. We obviously want to do all we can to facilitate the implementation of this IUU Regulation and have held a number of bilateral meetings with third countries. My Services have also organised regional seminars for the authorities. Two have already taken place in South Africa and Columbia, one will be held tomorrow in Viet-Nam and one in June in Cameroon. The Commission is looking at having a fifth meeting for the Island Countries in the Pacific.
We also hope that others will follow in adopting market-related measures.
This brings me back to the co-operation I mentioned at the start. I know that Australia is also deeply committed to doing away with IUU practices, and I am confident that by working together we can help stamp out IUU fishing.
Australia's approach to IUU fishing is typical of its longstanding and pioneering commitment to sustainable fisheries. Your fisheries management and the ecosystem approach on which it is based are well known around the world. In the European Union, fisheries are facing tremendous challenges. Our own work in that vein has just entered a new phase with the publication of a Consultation Paper on the reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, kicking off a debate to identify means of achieving sustainable and responsible fisheries in Europe.
The conditions for such a debate are good, given the awareness among European citizens of the need to develop sustainable fisheries. The public consultation will run for the remainder of the year and we expect to have a new ambitious and durable policy in place from 2013.
Co-operation is also very much a core principle of integrated maritime policy – another area in which Australia has led the way and provided us with much inspiration. Europe, a continent located between two oceans and four seas, has nearly 70 000 kilometres of coastline. Europeans have always been among the world's leading seafarers, and this remains the case today. Nowadays, over 40% of the EU's internal trade is carried out by sea, and almost 4.8 million Europeans now work in the maritime sector.
Yet, until 18 months ago when the integrated maritime policy was adopted, maritime matters had traditionally been addressed as part of sector-specific concerns at EU level: maritime transport, fisheries, aquaculture, off shore energy extraction, tourism and environment, to name but a few.
The IMP aims to provide an over-arching, integrated and coherent approach among the various sea-related initiatives taken under sectoral EU policies – an approach grounded in robust and constant multi-stakeholder interaction. The Commission is also encouraging Member States to adopt this integrated approach. This is particularly relevant at a time of economic crisis when we need to give an even stronger push for investment in the industries of the future and to create jobs. Offshore energy, port expansion, new energy transmission systems and the development of cost-efficient coastal infrastructure will ensure a return on Europe's investment.
Having been adopted by the Commission in October 2007, the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy, or IMP, is still in its infancy, but it is already progressing well. We have made meaningful progress in implementing the IMP via a Maritime Policy Action Plan adopted alongside the policy itself, thanks to an encouraging response from EU Member States.
This year will prove momentous for the IMP for two reasons. Firstly, at EU level, 2009 is the year in which we must complete the remaining actions announced in the Action Plan and, more importantly, we shall deliver a progress report on the value and achievements of the Integrated Maritime Policy since its launch in autumn 2007. The result of this process will set the tone for the IMP that will take shape under the new Commission.
Secondly, 2009 is also the year in which we intend to roll out the external dimension of the IMP. Before the end of the year, we will publish a Communication to set out how we intend to work with our international partners to further good maritime governance.
A visit to Australia in July 2005 enabled the Commission to use its analysis of the Australian experience in drawing up its own integrated approach to maritime affairs. Australia's governance system, in particular, was cited as an example of good practice in our Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy that sets out key principles on maritime governance.
A number of other countries have since made significant strides in developing approaches to integrated ocean management. They include Canada, the United States, Norway, Japan and an increasing number of EU Member States. We have begun to notice a real trend developing among OECD countries in terms of building integrated approaches towards oceans, seas and coasts. So it is fair to say that Australia's pioneering efforts have certainly served as an inspiration to others. This has resulted in a considerable stock of expertise and a sufficient level of interest within the OECD members to enhance co-operation on integrated approaches at international level.
In this context, the Commission is considering the possibility of using the OECD as a forum for discussing maritime affairs. We believe that this could create a higher sense of ownership in the international community and would facilitate the exchange of best practices with respect to integrated maritime management.
The Commission also believes that the time is right to encourage the UN General Assembly to recognise the integrated approach to maritime affairs in its annual resolution on the oceans and the seas, and to advance the maritime agenda at global level. In our view, the 2009 negotiations on the future climate framework and the 2010 World objectives on biodiversity will provide excellent opportunities to that end.
As I said a moment ago, implementation of our Action Plan is well on track. This can be seen in a number of areas, of which I would like to highlight just two here, both of which are linked to illegal activities at sea, namely maritime surveillance and action against piracy...
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In today's globalised world, we cannot afford to work alone or to deal with issues in isolation. The bonds of friendship between the European Union and Australia are as strong as ever and provide us with a unique opportunity to work together to tackle issues of mutual interest and concern. I am fully convinced that my visit to Australia will produce a wealth of enriching ideas and experiences for us to share and will mark another step on our journey as friends and international partners in maritime affairs and beyond.
Conference: Arctic Frontiers
Tromso, Norway, 19 January 2009
Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first of all thank you for your invitation to address this important conference. One could not have made a better choice for the venue of a conference called "Arctic Frontiers" than the gateway to the Arctic itself.
Arctic Frontiers seeks to forge new partnerships to bring together the worlds of science, art, policy-making and business. Furthermore, its work to reach out in particular to younger generations and transcend ethnic divides will help carry today's decisions through into tomorrow and beyond. These principles very much underpin my message to you today.
We are gathered here in Tromsø to examine the opportunities and challenges for the Arctic region. Yesterday I had the chance to experience the beautiful landscape of the area myself and to gain an insight into what it means to live north of the polar circle and so close to the Arctic. The Arctic, as we know, plays a key role in regulating the Earth's climate system. And because of this key role, the future of the Arctic and that of our planet as a whole are inextricably linked.
Last September, I attended an international conference hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers in Greenland entitled "Common Concern for the Arctic". I came away from Greenland more convinced, than ever, of the pressing need for decisive action in the Arctic at an international level.
With its focus on how to strike the right balance between human activity and protection of the ecosystem in the Arctic, this conference is both welcome and timely.
The melting of the ice in the Arctic together with advances that have been made in modern technology means that this fragile region will become increasingly accessible to international shipping and those wishing to exploit the rich and abundant resources located there. While we cannot prevent this, we can make sure that shipping, fishing and the extraction of minerals in the Arctic is done in a sustainable manner, providing maximum protection to the people of the region and the unique environment in which they live.
The European Union has close historical and geographical links to the Arctic.
We are working hard to limit the damage caused by climate change and we promote environmental sustainability in various ways, in particular through research and concrete action. Yet in areas such as transport and fisheries, our actions have a direct bearing on the Arctic.
In turn, the changing face of the Arctic impacts upon European security, trade and the supply of resources.
The European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy works on the fundamental premise that each sea region is unique and needs individual solutions in order to maximise the sustainable use of resources. The Arctic is no different, and so it is in this respect, that the European Union has an interest in securing a sustainable future for the Arctic. More than that, the Union feels quite strongly that it would also be failing its citizens, and the world at large, if it did not take its responsibility in this regard.
The European Union has a clear vision of the path it would like to take with regard to the Arctic, in cooperation with its international partners. That is why the Commission proposed a European Union Strategy for the Arctic on 20 November.
In a nutshell, the aim of this Strategy is to promote the sustainable management of one of the last relatively unspoilt areas on Earth. It firmly establishes our commitment to the region and states our willingness to be an enthusiastic contributor towards preserving the Arctic's common heritage. This commitment is very firmly underlined by the desire to do this in partnership with others.
More specifically, our Arctic strategy focuses on three main policy objectives: protecting and preserving the Arctic together with its population; promoting the sustainable use of resources; and enhancing multilateral governance in the region.
With respect to our first objective, to protect and preserve the Arctic, we need to channel our efforts primarily into the management of the negative consequences of climate change and into preventing any further aggravation. The European Union is ready to work together with Arctic states, territories, NGOs and other stakeholders to promote high environmental standards and to develop an ecosystem-based approach to managing human activity in the region. Our experience of close co-operation between public authorities and local stakeholders in planning new developments has proven beneficial to all parties time and time again.
But sustainable management, and in more general terms, finding the right policy response for the Arctic Region is not just about environmental action. We are convinced that there are two important ingredients that will make the cocktail right.
The first is about taking into account the specific concerns and needs of indigenous communities and the local population and drawing on their unrivalled knowledge of the region.
Another ingredient for any sound policy response for the Arctic must be based on sound scientific data. With 86 million euros, the European Union is a major contributor to research activities of direct relevance to the Arctic. In addition, individual Member States also fund information-sharing in research and co-operation in areas such as long-term monitoring and surveillance.
Such funding would benefit greatly from partnerships between EU and non-EU countries. An initiative such as the proposed sustained Arctic Observing Network could have a key role to play here. I would like to salute, in particular, the pivotal role that Tromsø University plays in research activities, setting an example to others working in Arctic research.
The second objective of our strategy lies in promoting the sustainable use of resources and focuses on hydrocarbons, fisheries, transport and tourism. The prospects in these different fields vary. Some forms of Arctic tourism for example, especially cruise ship tourism, are already underway, while the future for transport in the region remains rather less clear.
Here I would emphasise our commitment to the principle of freedom of navigation. We support improved conditions for gradually introducing Arctic commercial navigation, as long as stricter safety and environmental standards apply. Indeed in all of the areas I have just mentioned, we must adopt the same approach of strong international cooperation, sustainability, strict adherence to environmental standards and full respect for the rights and interests of local communities.
This brings me to the third objective, namely enhanced governance. The challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic are international in nature. This means they can and must be tackled through concerted international action. We must turn our back on the divisions of the 20th century and make unity the watchword for the 21st century.
The main legal framework and tool for managing the Arctic Ocean and its resources is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, which establishes the notion of a "common heritage of mankind". The Arctic Ocean therefore concerns not only its coastal states. Its sound management and the preservation of its resources is an obligation for all countries and signatories to UNCLOS.
We are convinced that an enhanced system of governance in the Arctic could prove to be a real asset. The European Parliament, which has consistently shown a keen interest in Arctic issues, recently highlighted the importance of Arctic governance. And the Council of the European Union has rightly stated that the EU's goals can be achieved only in close cooperation with all Arctic partner countries, territories and communities.
But we don't need to reinvent the wheel to build a governance system for the Arctic. Indeed, the structures we need for this, already exist.
We believe an UNCLOS-based governance system could deliver security and the sustainable use of resources stability, strict environmental management and subject to open and equitable access – precisely the aims contained in our strategy. In fisheries, we should examine sustainable stock management for the large areas of the Arctic Ocean, which are not covered by any such arrangements. One possibility for this would be extending the convention area of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, NEAFC, to cover the entire Arctic. As regards international navigation in the Arctic, I believe that the International Maritime Organisation will have an even more significant role to play.
Furthermore, the EU would like to enhance its input to the Arctic Council and also hopes to see progress on moves towards an integrated approach to maritime issues.
The reinvigorated Northern Dimension – which counts Norway among its valuable partners – is now earning its stripes as a vehicle for concrete action and cooperation. New and existing Northern Dimension partnerships have great relevance for Arctic cooperation.
The Arctic Council and the Northern Dimension are also important fora for dialogue with the United States and Russia. We look forward to closer cooperation with the United States within the Arctic Council and beyond. The very recent US Presidential Directive on the Arctic contains a policy with very similar objectives to our own, namely protecting the environment, ensuring sustainable use of natural resources, involving indigenous peoples, enhancing monitoring and conducting research. It furthermore recognises that the best way to address challenges and opportunities is through international cooperation.
We look forward to working together towards these common goals.
In the same vein, we will continue our dialogue with Russia as a strategic partner. We are indeed also eagerly anticipating the publication of its Arctic strategy at the end of this month.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Commission has been encouraged by the reaction to its Arctic strategy. As ever we welcome receiving feedback from all stakeholders in order to ensure any proposals are both useful and directly relevant.
I sincerely hope that the discussions over the next few days will generate new ideas and help us take a step further towards securing a healthy Arctic region for future generations to come.
Let me finish by quoting Henrik Ibsen: "A Community is like a ship, everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm".
If the Arctic is our ship then we must all take the helm to preserve its future.
Europe wants to contribute towards the sustainable development of the Arctic region while protecting it from environmental changes that result from increasing human activity. With that in mind, our message to you is clear. All of us in a position to make and influence policy must recognise the need to contribute to the decisive international action we need for the Arctic in order to preserve our common heritage.
Let us be bold and protect this precious region in the interest of our planet as a whole.
Midday Express of 2006-11-24
Reference: MEX/06/1124 Date: 24/11/2006
News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
24 / 11 / 06
Joe Borg welcomes consensus reached at the UN General Assembly on tackling destructive fishing practices (23/11)
At the end of the preparatory meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations, in New York, Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, welcomed the consensus achieved by the Parties on tackling destructive fishing practices.
Oceans and the Law of the Sea: Towards new horizons
Speech by Dr. Joe BORG, Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, "Oceans and the Law of the Sea: Towards new horizons," Address at the Conference of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Hamburg President of the Tribunal.
When Arvid Pardo, on 1 November 1967, suggested to the UN General Assembly that a regime of common heritage replace the traditional regime of the high seas, he could not have imagined the historic importance his proposal would grow to assume. It was the start of a long process which led to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a Convention which as you well know was adopted finally in December 1982, and only entered into force in 1994.
Despite its long genesis and the delays in its entry into force, or perhaps because of them, the Law of the Sea Convention clearly has become a success story for the United Nations and the international community at large. On the first day on which it was opened for signature, 119 countries signed the convention, which was a record at the time.
With today's 148 ratifications, this constitution of the oceans may be deemed as practically universal and is among the major achievements of global governance based on the rule of law.
The European Union has, overall, been a supporter of UNCLOS, which by now is already a part of the Union's legislative architecture. The European Community deposited its instrument of ratification of UNCLOS on 1 April 1998, and since its entry into force one month later, has been an active and interested party to the Convention.
Over and above the EC as a Community, 24 of the current 25 EU Member States are also contracting parties of UNCLOS. These memberships prompted a declaration clarifying the division of competences between the European Community and its Member States as to the rights and obligations contained in UNCLOS.
In the context of the UN System and within the subject of oceans and law of the sea, the EU has also been an active participant in the Informal Consultative Process (ICP) on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at the United Nations. We have followed this year's session closely and have taken particular note of its agenda comprising issues such as the conservation and sustainability of marine biodiversity and the contribution of fisheries to sustainable development.
I am also pleased to say, that the Union has been a strong supporter of this forum and we are fully committed to a prolongation of the ICP mandate. We have also made it clear that we attach great importance to resolving the discrepancy that currently exists between the European Community's observer status and its competences - whether exclusive or mixed - with respect to many issues that are being discussed in the ICP.
As a contracting party in its own right of both UNCLOS and of the UN Fish Stock Agreement, the European Community has accepted legal obligations with respect to oceans and the law of the sea that are particularly relevant to the ICP agenda. We hope, therefore, that the UN will grant the EU the status that fully reflects its rights and obligations under international law within the ICP.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The peaceful settlement of disputes is an essential element of good governance of the oceans. The importance of the achievement of UNCLOS in instituting a specialized, permanent Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLOS) cannot be underestimated. As you are probably aware, although the Community has contributed to the Budget of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea since 1998, it initially had a "wait and see" attitude towards this institution. Indeed in view of Article 287 of the Convention, the European Commission had proposed to the EU Council of Ministers in 1999 to take a decision not to express a preference for any of the three dispute settlement procedures provided for in UNCLOS and which are open to the Community, namely ITLOS, an arbitral tribunal or a special arbitral tribunal.
The Council of Ministers, however, never formally decided on the line proposed by the Commission, and the Commission in October 2004 decided to withdraw that proposal together with others that are no longer relevant.
Notwithstanding the 1999 proposal, the EU was positively disposed towards ITLOS. Indeed, already in the year 2000 in the context of a fisheries dispute between the EU and Chile the latter requested ITLOS to constitute an arbitral tribunal under Article 287 of UNCLOS. The European Community, represented by the European Commission, agreed that the case should be heard by a special Chamber of ITLOS.
This case concerning the conservation and sustainable exploitation of swordfish stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean revolved around questions of compliance with UNCLOS and whether the Galapagos Agreement which Chile has negotiated with three other southern American coastal states is in conformity with the Law of the Sea.
As you are well aware, this case raises a number of difficult jurisdictional issues, including with respect to the relationship between UNCLOS and the WTO. This was also the case when the EC initiated proceedings concerning Chilean restrictions on transhipments through its ports. I have been given to understand, that proceedings in both cases have remained suspended to date.
The European Commission is thankful for the cooperative attitude that the Tribunal took in the handling of the dispute, namely by first guiding the parties to an agreement on the establishment of a special chamber for hearing the dispute, and then by suspending the time-limits for the proceedings in this dispute, thus allowing the parties to accommodate each others concerns, at least for the time being.
Even if the Tribunal has not as yet decided on the merits of the actual dispute, the experience so far shows that proceedings have already been an important contribution to the peaceful settlement of the dispute. This demonstrates the Tribunal's potential role as a facilitator for peaceful settlements well beyond its intrinsic authority to rule on the merits.
The European Commission also has a major interest in the case concerning the Mox Nuclear Plant in Sellafield. In this case, Ireland brought an application against the UK and this Tribunal ruled, by Order of 3 December 2001, on a request for provisional measures, the substance of the case having been referred to arbitration under Annex VII of the Convention.
The arbitral tribunal felt that there were significant questions of EC law, and suspended its proceedings in order to give the Parties the possibility to resolve their dispute under EC law. Interestingly, the arbitral Tribunal ordered that the European Commission be provided a copy of its order.
The Commission in fact brought a procedure against Ireland on 30 October 2003 before the European Court of Justice. In that procedure, the Commission submitted that Ireland instituted the proceedings against the United Kingdom without taking due account of the fact that the European Community is a party to UNCLOS and that through its act of ratification the relevant provisions of UNCLOS have been incorporated into Community law. In those circumstances, by submitting the dispute to a Tribunal other than the European Court of Justice, Ireland has violated the exclusive jurisdiction of the ECJ for disputes between Member States concerning the interpretation of Community law.
This case raises a fundamental issue of Community law, on which the Commission seeks a clear judgement by the Court of Justice. The action by the Commission is guided by its duty, as established in the European Treaties, to secure and defend the integrity of the Union's legal order.
In no way does this action reflect a lesser perception of the authority of ITLOS.
On the contrary, the case reflects the great significance of UNCLOS as an integral part of the EC's regulatory framework on maritime affairs. This case also finds a close parallel in the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice in the Etang de Berre case, where the Court decided that a provision contained in an international convention for the protection of the maritime environment in the Mediterranean has direct effect on the Community legal order.
In addition, in 2003, the EU Presidency emphasised in the UN the importance of judicial mechanisms in the prevention and resolution of legal disputes, stating that "In our view the early and more frequent resort to these mechanisms and, in particular to the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal of Law of the Sea, would greatly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of the primacy of international law in international relations."
There may have been some misjudgements in the past on the economic importance of the oceans, for example in relation to the exploitation of the resources of the seabed. Yet today, the overall assessment remains however, that politically, economically and environmentally, the importance of the oceans, and thus UNCLOS, is on the rise and thus needs to be given its full due. According to one recent estimate, the economic value of the oceans amounts to a total of 4,363 billion euro for the years 2005-2009, not including the value of the ecological contribution by the oceans to mankind.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The recent enlargement of the European Union has not only strengthened the EU politically and economically. It has also increased the length of the EU coastline and the total area of water under EU jurisdiction. The tonnage of the EU-controlled and registered, merchant shipping fleet is now also the biggest in the world.
It should not be a surprise, therefore, that this enlargement has helped us to become even more conscious of the maritime dimension of Europe and the great potential that oceans hold for us.
It is against this background that the European Commission is now preparing a Green Paper on an all embracing Maritime Policy, which is to be published in the first semester of 2006. This Green Paper will be the basis for a broad consultation of interested parties, a number of whom have already submitted their contributions.
By this Green Paper, the EU is seeking to address the economic, environmental, social, as well as governance challenges relating to the oceans and the seas, in a holistic manner. The objective is to set out options for a maritime policy that will maximise the benefits Europe can draw from ocean and sea related activities, bearing both the Lisbon strategy of employment and growth, and questions of sustainability, in mind.
Within this comprehensive approach to the oceans and seas, an important theme of the Green Paper will be the protection of the marine environment, as an essential component for the sustainable use of the oceans and seas, both in relation to EU waters and internationally. For this reason, the work of the European Commission on a "Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment" will constitute one of the major building blocks of the Green Paper.
The Green Paper will also address options to make maritime professions more attractive and to strengthen education and training for these professions, given that, in certain sectors of maritime activities, the demand for qualified personnel cannot be satisfied.
Leadership in scientific research and development relating to both the natural conditions of the oceans and seas as well as technologies to be used in relation to them, is crucial to strengthen the knowledge base of Europe and its competitiveness. Building on existing policies of the Union, the Green Paper will explore options for the future.
We are conscious of the fact that Europe's relation with the oceans and seas has a number of very particular characteristics. One example is the strength of the European fleet and its global importance as a backbone for international trade. Another example is the major variation of hydrological, biological, geological, political and legal realities in the marine regions surrounding Europe, which must be taken into account in the formulation of a future maritime policy.
For example, the Baltic Sea is now almost entirely an EEZ of EU Member States with the exception of the areas falling under the jurisdiction of Russia. As a result of this, the Council of Ministers has decided that the EU should withdraw from the International Baltic Sea Fisheries Commission and turn to regulating fisheries either autonomously or in bilateral agreement with Russia. The Community will seek to build on IBSFC's efforts in ensuring the efficient governance of the Baltic Sea waters now under our jurisdiction. But let me also note that the dissolution of an international organisation - these days a rare event - is itself a contribution to good governance, if it is replaced by more efficient structures.
On the other hand, in the Mediterranean, EU Member States have not declared EEZs and the EU works with a large number of third countries. Given the different realities of the littorals of these two seas, it is only natural that the approach in these two situations must be different.
An added, significant dimension to relations within the Mediterranean, has been the recent declarations on extensions of Fisheries Protection Zones. The unilateral declaration of an FPZ by Libya, and the preparations of others like Tunisia and Malta who have so far enacted the enabling legislation, point to the need to establish more efficient means of consultation and co-ordination in the establishment of such zones. In the absence of such consultation, the unilateral extension of FPZs may have unforeseen impacts on the fishing patterns of other States and could jeopardize other states' traditional practices.
In order to mitigate these effects, in cases where such zones are aimed purely at enhancing the management of fisheries resources, a mechanism of prior consultation could be envisaged to ensure that the extension of such zones is not a source of tension or conflict.
The Commission has also intensified its dialogue with relevant bodies within the United Nations and other international organisations, as well as with third countries, in order to identify best practices relating to integrated ocean policies. These contacts are instrumental in discovering new possibilities to strengthen international cooperation and good governance of the oceans.
In the Green Paper, we hope not only to look at the European scenario but also at the contributions the EU can make towards strengthening the good governance of the oceans globally. Some of the issues to be raised will necessarily relate to law of the sea considerations and some may be of interest to this Tribunal.
Hence, while the economic, environmental and demographic pressures on the oceans and their resources are increasing, also the number of multilateral and bilateral agreements relating to ocean issues such as fisheries, environmental protection, or shipping is ever increasing; confirming the trend towards "Treaty congestion" as already identified in the 1998 report of the Independent World Commission on Oceans, entitled " The Oceans … our Future".
Many of these Treaties, however, either do not contain rules on a binding settlement of disputes, thus lacking enforcement, or they install special dispute settlement mechanisms, thus increasing fragmentation rather than coherence.
In this situation, we believe it is necessary that coherence and the rule of law are strengthened through an increased effort on behalf of the parties to UNCLOS to make good use of the existing institutions available for dispute settlement. We understand that parties may wish to bring cases before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in areas relating to the Law of the Sea in which the ICJ itself has set a precedent. But we also believe that for cases which cannot be brought before the ICJ or for cases where ITLOS has a specific competence, that ITLOS should be the institution of choice.
This will necessarily be so for a number of the Community's cases given that the EC is not a state and as such may not be a party before the International Court of Justice in cases relating to the Law of the Sea. On the other hand, the EC can be a party before ITLOS, a fact which renders ITLOS the preferred choice for the European Community when it comes to disputes relating to the Law of the Sea. In order to strengthen this even further, the EU, where appropriate, could also offer to include a provision in the agreements relating to the Law of the Sea which it concludes with third countries binding the parties to refer the settlement of any disputes to ITLOS.
This will not necessarily significantly increase the number of cases before ITLOS. Rules on binding dispute settlement actually increase the incentive of parties to find mutual agreeable solutions - a fact which is in itself positive. Yet nevertheless, we do believe that taking a step such as that outlined above, could be an important contribution by the European Union to the strengthening of the rule of law in international relations.
Allow me, by way of conclusion, to come back to the fact that the EU comprises 24 Member States which may themselves be party to disputes that come before ITLOS, and that such cases could concern rules emanating from EU law or indeed concern the Community as party to UNCLOS. Given this, I would like to suggest that an exchange of letters between ITLOS and the European Commission on the swapping of information could be a useful step towards added coherence between EU law and the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.
The Green Paper on a Maritime Policy for Europe will provide ample opportunity to discuss these and any other proposals which may be brought forward by stakeholders or the academic community. In this regard, as the Chairman of the Steering Group of European Commissioners discussing the Green Paper, I am looking forward to any contributions you may have in the months ahead and of course, to having a frank and open discussion here with you this evening.
· Ref: SP05-281EN
· EU source: European Commission
· UN forum:
· Date: 2/9/2005