European Commission enhances cooperation for sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean. The sea’s biodiversity is under severe pressure with a recent report 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.
These, among others, are the reasons why the European Commission launched a new initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean region. The initiative will increase maritime safety and security, promote sustainable blue growth and jobs, and preserve ecosystems and biodiversity.
It is an example of EU’s successful 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.
The initiative will be funded by existing international, EU, national and regional funds and financial instruments, which will be coordinated and complementary. This should create leverage and attract funding from other public and private investors. This enhanced cooperation is particularly timely as just on 30th March the Commission secured a 10-year pledge to save Mediterranean fish stocks in the Ministerial MedFish4Ever Declaration. Among others, the initiative’s targeted actions include cooperation between coast guards, response to accidents and oil spills, habitat conservation, biotechnology, data sharing, marine knowledge and coastal tourism.
The Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration, a practical example of EU’s successful neighbourhood policy, sets out a detailed work programme for the next 10 years, based on ambitious but realistic targets. Over 300 thousand persons are directly employed on fishing vessels in the Mediterranean, whilst many more indirect jobs depend on the sector. The Declaration was signed by Mediterranean ministerial representatives from both northern and southern coastlines, a signature that gives political ownership to an issue that was up to now managed at technical level. It is the result of a European Commission-led process that started in Catania, Sicily in February 2016.
Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “Today we are making history. In signing the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration, we are affirming our political will to deliver tangible action: on fisheries and other activities that have an impact on fisheries resources, on the blue economy, on social inclusion, and on solidarity between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. I hope that this declaration will come to be seen as a turning point – for a bright future for fishermen, coastal communities and fishing resources alike.”
by Henry McWolf