Blue economy boost for Western Mediterranean
(BRUSSELS) - An EU initiative launched Wednesday aims to promote sustainable blue growth and jobs, preserve ecosystems and biodiversity and boost maritime safety in the Western Mediterranean region.
The initiative forms part of the EU's 'neighbourhood policy' as five EU Member States (France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Malta) and five Southern partner countries (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) will work jointly on their shared interests in the region.
Goals of the initiative include a safer and more secure maritime space; a smart and resilient blue economy; and better governance of the sea.
The enhanced cooperation comes three weeks after the Commission secured a 10-year pledge to save Mediterranean fish stocks in the Ministerial 'MedFish4Ever Declaration'.
It also comes as the sea's biodiversity is under severe pressure with a recent report by scientists from the EU's Joint Research Centre indicating that 50% has been lost in the last 50 years. In addition to this are recent security and safety concerns from the increase in migration from the South to the North.
Targeted actions for the region - which covers economic hubs like Barcelona, Marseille, Naples and Tunis, as well as tourist destinations such as the Balearic Islands, Sicily and Corsica - include cooperation between coast guards, response to accidents and oil spills, habitat conservation, biotechnology, data sharing, marine knowledge and coastal tourism.
"Millions of holiday makers have a happy association with the Western Mediterranean," said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: " Like the millions more who live across the region, they understand the fragile link between conserving national habitats and traditions and ensuring economic viability. Blue economy is important for each of the countries involved and they have recognised the strength of working together."
The initiative is the fruit of years' of dialogue between ten countries of the Western Mediterranean region who are ready and willing to work together on these shared interests for the region. It follows up on the Ministerial Declaration on Blue Economy endorsed by the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) on 17 November 2015.
The initiative is presented in two documents. A Communication outlines the main challenges, shortcomings and the possible solutions. A Framework for Action presents the identified priorities, actions and projects in detail, with quantitative targets and deadlines to monitor progress over time. Some of the actions could extend well beyond the countries in question and even beyond the sub-basin.