Endorsing the new European Strategy, the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik said, 'When it comes to major challenges such as reconciling maritime economic activities with the preservation of marine ecosystems, science and technology can play a major role. The Strategy for marine and maritime research should therefore be seen as one of pioneer actions for the implementation of the European Research Area, which promotes scientific excellence and development of cutting-edge innovations in Europe through better integration of existing research efforts and development of new capacities'.
Reinforcing this message, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Joe Borg said, 'This strategy is an essential pillar of the EU Maritime Policy. It is indispensable to allow us to realise the full potential of sea-based activities in an environmentally sustainable manner.'
The EU's maritime regions, leading economic activity in areas like maritime transport, tourism, coastal development, fisheries and aquaculture, accounts for around 40% of its GDP and the maritime economy for 3 to 5%. In the EU for example, 90% of external trade and 40% of internal trade is seaborne, the shipbuilding industry has an annual turnover of over €90 billion and fisheries and aquaculture of around €20 billion. But these activities can be a threat to the marine environment. It is also recognized that complexity of ocean systems and the role of oceans on climate change still require more research to be better understood.
The Commission's Strategy therefore sets out two streams of action. One concerns the integration of research efforts across traditional disciplines and domains of marine and maritime research, which is needed to address the complexity of marine and maritime issues, whilst the other proposes new forms of governance to make this possible. The Strategy proposes a number of concrete actions including:
- developing capacity building in terms of new infrastructures (such as ocean observatories or specialised research vessels), innovation and education;
- enhanced integration through promoting inter-disciplinary research on cross-cutting issues (such as the impact of human activities on coastal and marine ecosystems, or the protection and exploitation of marine biodiversity) and combining funding schemes;
- promoting synergies between Member States, Regional and Community Research and better access to research infrastructure. It will also promote international cooperation since oceans' challenges are global and EU seas are shared with third countries.
Proposals on new forms of governance include creating a stable partnership of all stakeholders - scientists, policy-makers, industry and civil society - to agree on research priorities and improve research cooperation, for instance through joint programming in priority areas. It will also look into ways of providing better scientific evidence to policy makers. The Commission's role will be that of a facilitator. In the first stage, the European Commission will continue to support its objectives thorough implementation of the existing programmes, but the Strategy also foresees identifying more efficient use of existing and new financial resources at European, national and regional level.
The Strategy will now be transmitted to Member States and to the European Parliament. The Commission is expected to present the first implementation report no later than 2012.
In its October 2007 Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU, the Commission outlined its central goal of realising the full potential of maritime activities whilst protecting marine eco-systems and asked for the development of the maritime research strategy adopted today.
The European marine and maritime scientific community has been a strong advocate of the EU Strategy for Marine and Maritime research as stated in the Aberdeen Declaration, concluding the EurOcean 2007 conference held in June last year.