In September 2012, the European Commission (EC) adopted a Communication on blue growth which aims to develop the potential of the EU’s seas, oceans and coasts to create employment and promote innovation and sustainable growth. A wide variety of marine and maritime economic activities fall within the sphere of this initiative, with five specific sectors identified by the EC as potential drivers of blue growth and, as such, future targets for particular support measures.
The blue economy
The ‘blue economy’ covers marine and maritime activities including deep-sea and short-sea shipping, fisheries, offshore oil and gas production and coastal tourism. In the EU, these sectors currently account for gross added value of almost €500 billion per year and for 5.4 million jobs. The EC suggests that with suitable support measures and better-integrated management of the blue economy and its resources, these figures could rise to almost €600 billion and 7 million jobs by 2030.
The policy framework
The initiative on blue growth has been developed in the framework of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), which aims to promote an integrated approach for all EU policies relating to the marine and maritime sectors. Various policy initiatives and legislative instruments fall within its framework, including strategies specific to the EU’s individual sea-basin areas, the EU’s maritime surveillance policy, the Single European Transport Area initiative and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. A recently proposed Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management is currently under consideration in the EP. Its objective is to promote more efficient use of maritime space, which is seen as an essential pre-condition for managing and developing the blue economy.
Blue growth – EC proposals
The EC’s blue growth strategy aims to harness the potential of the blue economy to create new jobs, foster innovation and contribute to sustainable economic recovery in the EU. It underlines the importance of coordinated efforts from EU, national and regional authorities, business and civil society on horizontal issues such as financing, access to research, and promotion of education and training. It recognises, however, that customised regional or local approaches which are tailored to the EU’s individual sea-basins will be essential.
Drawing on an external study, it focuses upon five specific sectors as potential drivers of blue growth: aquaculture, marine and coastal tourism, marine renewable energy, marine mineral mining and marine biotechnology (fisheries and offshore oil and gas production are not included in the scope of the initiative). All five are to be the subject of further individual initiatives during 2013-14, with proposed strategic guidelines on aquaculture having already been published in April.
EU institutions and stakeholders
The objectives of the blue growth strategy were endorsed by Council in the ‘Limassol Declaration of October 2012.
In the EP, an initiative report on blue growth was adopted by the Committee on Transport and Tourism on 30 May. It calls for utmost priority to be given to two key objectives: high-employment growth and integrated sustainability. To these ends, many other issues such as promotion of research, education and skills, assistance to SMEs, development of appropriate sea-basin strategies, support for outermost and island regions and the protection of biodiversity and the marine environment are also highlighted.
Blue growth was the selected theme for this year’s European Maritime Day conference, which took place in Malta on 21-22 May and featured, in particular, participation of stakeholders (their contributions are available on the conference website) from the marine and coastal tourism sector.