In an opinion adopted during its plenary session on 31 January, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) agreed on the need for a territorial vision for the western Mediterranean that goes beyond borders, as part of the development of a “global approach”. The EU's assembly of local and regional leaders broadly welcomed the European Commission’s communication on the same theme and the measures the Commission proposed to ensure a better governance of the sea and sustainably managed oceans. The communication outlines the major goals, the challenges, and attributes specific priorities to each objective, identifying possible funding sources.
The rapporteur of the " Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean" , Samuel Azzopardi (MT/EPP), Mayor of Rabat, Gozo, also highlighted the pressing need to strengthen cooperation in many areas including culture, fisheries, trade, migration, and the protection of biodiversity .
Mr Azzopardi said: "We support the WestMed initiative, which aims to increase safety and security, promote sustainable blue growth and jobs while preserving the ecosystem and biodiversity of the western Mediterranean. There is a significant role for local and regional authorities in this".
On 30 November 2017, national ministers from Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia adopted the "Declaration on the Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean" in which they endorsed the goals of the communication and laid the foundation for the extension of cross-border cooperation in the region. The region offers considerable economic opportunities, and is well-known for its active ports and numerous tourists.
In its opinion, the European Committee of the Regions set out three goals: a safer and more secure maritime space, a smart and resilient blue economy, and better governance of the sea. More specifically, local leaders called for cross-border cooperation between authorities and coast guards, the exchange of data, capacity-building and a closing of the skills gap. It supported the BLUEMED initiative, and called for the promotion of a competitive blue economy through investments in innovative technologies and maritime clusters as well as in sectors – such as fisheries and tourism – that are the traditional sources of income in the region. The opinion underlines the need to promote education and retraining projects and the importance of measures directed at lowering youth unemployment, calling for cooperation with local and regional authorities in these efforts. Financing for economically sustainable projects on a local and regional level should be provided through the pooling of regional, national and European funds within a simplified framework, the opinion recommends.
The recommendation also stresses that the region is consistently subject to humanitarian challenges due to the influx of irregular migrants crossing from Africa to southern European countries, which is directly affecting maritime border regions. The opinion argues that, unless safety and security measures are in place and duly enforced in the region, the blue economy cannot operate sustainably and effectively.
Emphasising the potential for a revitalisation of coastal regions, the opinion approves efforts to promote the development of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture and to disseminate best practice in order to enhance the fishing and aquaculture industry. It also emphasises the importance of collecting data from across the region and of more scientific studies.
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