Blue economy in European regions: a gateway to sustainable growth and jobs  
​​ President of the Republic of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella join the European Committee of the Regions in Gozo (Malta) 
 
Members of the Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) of the European Committee of the Regions met in Gozo with the blue economy on top of the agenda. With a turnover of €566 billion, EU's blue economy generates 1.3% of total EU GDP and employs 3.5 million people ( EC 2018 ). Additional main points discussed in Gozo include cross-border cooperation in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and a new European agenda for the development of maritime industries. Attended by over 100 delegates, the NAT conference and meeting has been organised by Samuel Azzopardi (MT/EPP), President of the Gozo region and Mayor of its capital, Victoria. 
 

Opening the conference “ Sustainable Development of the Blue Economy ” in Gozo, the Chair of the NAT Commission Ossi Martikainen (FI/ALDE) said: “ The blue economy is one of the priority areas for the Commission for Natural Resources of the European Committee of the Regions. It has a great socio-economical impact potential, not only for coastal and maritime regions, but also for the whole European Union. From traditional sectors such as maritime transport to more innovative ones such as blue biotechnology and ocean energy, we believe that a joint European agenda is crucial to roll out the full potential of the blue economy and convert it into growth and jobs that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

The conference host Samuel Azzopardi (MT/EPP), President of the Gozo region and Mayor of Victoria said: “ The blue economy is the way forward to reconcile the use of maritime resources with economic growth and jobs for our communities. We support the CoR’s vision to place the blue economy as an integral part – rather that peripheral, of the EU’s economic policy. Sustainable growth is at the heart of Gozo political priorities. The island is already a clean energy net contributor to the Maltese grid and we are well on track to become an eco-island by 2020 .” Gozo’s eco-strategy was launched in 2009.

The President of the Republic of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said: “Long-term sustainable investments must drive our policies in order to protect the great biodiversity of the Mediterranean while providing our citizens with new income opportunities . On average, the blue economy has grown more than national economies in all EU Member States. It has been growing steadily in recent years and I am confident we can duplicate its volume by 2030.”

Malta is amongst the top five EU Member states in which the blue economy most contributes to its GDP (4.7%). The Maltese blue economy employs around 10 400 people and generates €406 million in Gross Value Added (GVA).

The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: “ There is still a big investment hole that only dedicated blue economy funding can plug. That is why we are working very hard to attract investors. We are preparing a Blue Economy Investment Platform that already assembles 600 bankable pre-commercial ventures. Next, we will use the European Maritime Day in Lisbon in May to launch a service providing investment-readiness support to start-ups and SMEs operating in blue economy sectors.

Blue Economy refers to all economic activities related to oceans, seas and coastal areas and includes sectors such as fisheries, shipbuilding and 'coastal' tourism as well as blue biotechnology and off shore renewable energy production. The development of a sustainable blue economy is key to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #14 .

During the 23rd NAT Commission meeting, members adopted a draft opinion by rapporteur Roberto Ciambetti (IT/ECR) on “ Cross-border dimension in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) ”. The President of the Regional Council of Veneto said: “ We need to ensure increased resilience to natural disasters to show responsibility vis-a-vis our citizens. We must develop mapping risks and assessing them as well as to invest in expert groups, university courses and training of local administrators. ” The opinion is to be adopted at the CoR’s plenary session on 26-27 June 2019.

Members adopted a draft opinion on “ A new European agenda to speed up the development of maritime industries ”. Rapporteur Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council, said: “ The blue economy must be at the heart of the priorities of the next European Commission. Many sustainable jobs can be created in the maritime industries if European policies combine maritime ambition, industrial policy, and commitment to ecological transition. To succeed, it is necessary to rely on the ecosystems of Europe's major maritime regions, to finance innovation and the development of new products, and to support traditional fishing and shipbuilding activities, as well as new technologies such as renewable marine energy or bio-based blue economy businesses. ” The opinion is to be adopted at the CoR’s plenary session on 26-27 June 2019.

Members also adopted a draft opinion by rapporteur Uno Silberg (EE/EA) entitled “ Towards a comprehensive European Union framework on endocrine disruptors ”. The Member of the Kose Municipality Council said: “ Endocrine disruptors have devastating long-term effects not only on human health but also on fauna and flora. While their presence is widespread there is very little public awareness on the dangers they pose. We need public awareness actions and coordinated measures at all levels to prioritise citizens' health while also considering the interests of consumers and industry .” The opinion is to be adopted at the CoR’s plenary session on 26-27 June 2019.

Members had exchange of views on the following opinions:

  • Progress in the implementation of the EU Forest Strategy by rapporteur Ossi Martikainen (FI/ALDE), NAT Chair and Lapinlahti Local Councilor.
  • Active and Healthy Ageing by rapporteur Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP), Member of Dalarna County Council.
  • Agropastoralism by rapporteur Jacques Blanc (FR/EPP), Mayor of La Canourgue.

The photos of the 23rd NAT Commission Meeting and Conference are available here .

Background: 2018 annual economic report on the EU blue economy click here .

Contact: David Crous | david.crous@cor.europa.eu | +32 (0) 470 88 10 37