The European Commission has adopted a maritime strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas that will boost smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the region. The strategy rests on 4 pillars: a stronger blue economy, a healthier marine environment, a safer maritime space, and responsible fishing activities. It builds on the Commission's Blue Growth initiative and on the "Limassol Declaration on a marine and maritime agenda for growth and jobs", recently adopted by EU Ministers. The vision behind the initiative: making the sea a central space of innovation, economic opportunities and prosperity for all the countries around it.
Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki comments: "Given the European perspective of Western Balkan countries, the movement of people, goods and services through the Adriatic and Ionian Seas is bound to increase. Preserving the marine habitats and ensuring the sustainable development of the region will be challenging – and it is a challenge that we need to prepare for. I look forward to the input of all interested parties on this and to developing together a detailed plan for future action".
While recognizing the work already carried out by various organisations in the area, the new strategy underlines the need to step up cooperation. It will use existing resources, structures and regulations to foster cross-border partnerships and mobilize local, regional and national actors towards common objectives. The first initiative of this kind in the Mediterranean sea basin, the strategy will help develop the sea basin´s blue economy by coordinating financing and delivery mechanisms.
Some priority areas have been identified, for example:
Stimulating the creation of maritime clusters and research networks as well as formulating a research strategy to spur innovation;
Increasing skills and mobility of the workforce, with greater transparency of qualifications;
Optimising transport links by developing an integrated, demand-based, low-carbon maritime transportation network across the region, with special attention to island connectivity;
Supporting the sustainable development of coastal and maritime tourism, with emphasis on innovation and common marketing strategies and products;
Creating new jobs and business opportunities in aquaculture through research and innovation;
Reducing marine litter and improving waste management in coastal areas;
Modernising fishing activities through better compliance, conservation, transfer of information and cooperation on enforcement and control;
The strategy will be implemented in 2013 through an Action Plan to be jointly developed with the region's stakeholders. The Commission therefore calls on all equity parties – at national, regional, and local level – to propose concrete actions. This follows a series of workshops for a wide array of participants which were hosted by Greece, Italy and Slovenia in the course 2012.
The new strategy is part of the overall Integrated Maritime Policy of the EU, which already includes maritime strategies for the Baltic and the Atlantic Seas. It could be the first building block of a wider macro-regional strategy that the Adriatic and Ionian countries are willing to develop.
The Adriatic Sea and the contiguous Ionian Sea are an important maritime and marine area in Europe, though quite diverse in economic, environmental and cultural terms. Economic and social interactions between countries and regions have been historically dense, and are now made even stronger by the EU accession process of Western Balkan countries. The existing maritime links, however, do not fulfil the mobility needs of citizens, businesses and tourists. And despite the rich maritime tradition and knowledge, innovation is driving the maritime economy only slowly forward. Furthermore, marine and coastal ecosystems face numerous environmental challenges as well as increasing urbanisation and traffic. Climate change and its impacts pose mounting threats to coastal areas.
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