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Local and regional leaders call for EU agenda for the future of our oceans  
"The Maltese presidency and this conference provide a unique occasion to give new impetus to the Blue Growth Policy in Europe. When it comes to "blue growth", the key priority for cities and regions is the creation of sustainable, high-quality jobs. To achieve this, research is essential. We argue that 10% of the research policy budget should be allocated to blue growth," Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council, said at an Informal Ministerial Conference on Blue Growth and Ocean Governance in the EU held on 20 April in Malta.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss the future direction of the EU's Blue-Growth Initiative and the development of the implementation of ocean governance in the EU and the Mediterranean. The meeting also revolves around the importance of innovation for the sector’s competitiveness.

"The European Committee of the Regions feels that the sea should no longer be merely the subject of projects; rather, it should form the subject of policy. Our discussions and today’s declaration will be meaningless unless the Council establishes a new governance framework or provide the Commission with a clear mandate to embark quickly upon new projects. We propose that: a Commission vice-president should be involved; an annual "sea council" should take place; and a white paper should be drafted on "the sea at the heart of Europe". This will ensure a cross-cutting approach and will develop and set the course for the kind of roadmap we need," Mr Clergeau urged.

At their meeting, ministers adopted a declaration focusing on the role of the circular economy, clean technologies and renewable energy in spurring sustainable economic growth linked to Europe’s oceans and seas and also on supporting industries – such as maritime shipping, fisheries and nautical tourism – by developing skills and creating jobs. The declaration also stressed that climate change is exerting increasing pressure on the oceans and marine ecosystems, and emphasised the oceans’ role in combatting rising temperatures.

The European Committee of the Regions considers that, if the maritime strategy is to deliver results, cross-border regional cooperation will be an important tool, a broader approach will be essential, and adequate funding will be necessary. It also stresses the need for European coastal and maritime regions to develop local strategies that aim to promote distinctive local features. The CoR notes that an enhanced policy framework for the inclusion of private business in the blue economy is necessary.

The CoR has drafted an opinion on a New stage in the European policy on blue growth , which is due for adoption in May CoR plenary session after having already secured unanimous support from the CoR's Commission for Natural Resources. The opinion, which has been drafted by Mr Clergeau, calls for a White Paper on "The sea at the heart of Europe", recommends the creation of a specific investment fund for the "blue economy", and proposes reinforced support for research, development and innovation, including a target of 10% of projects of the EU's Research Framework Programme to be dedicated to marine and maritime research and stresses the need to protect the interests of the EU's economy and maritime areas. The opinion encourages strategic investments into key sectors of the blue economy, such as maritime industries and marine biotechnologies, as well as need to move beyond the 27% by 2030 EU target on renewable energy production. It stresses the need of a citizens-based strategy, which would foster a common awareness for maritime issues.

Notes for editors:

1/ The European Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives from all 28 Member States. Created in 1994, its mission is to involve regional and local authorities in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. Its 350 members and 350 alternates either hold an electoral mandate or are politically accountable to an elected assembly in their home regions and cities. Click here for more details on your national delegation.

2/ Blue Growth is the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Seas and oceans are drivers for the European economy and have great potential for innovation and growth. It is the maritime contribution to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The 'blue' economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year. However, further growth is possible in a number of areas which are highlighted within the strategy. Promoting the blue economy is one of Malta’s priorities during its Council presidency.

3/ Other documents:

Report on the Blue Growth Strategy: Towards more sustainable growth and jobs in the blue economy

Draft declaration of the European Ministers responsible for the Integrated Maritime Policy on Blue Growth

CoR opinion on innovation in the blue economy : Innovation in the Blue Economy: Realising the potential of our seas and oceans for jobs and growth , Adam Banaszak (PL/ECR)

CoR opinion on blue growth: BLUE GROWTH - Opportunities for marine and maritime sustainable growth , Adam Banaszak (PL/ECR)

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