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Listening to EFTA--the view from the EU.

The EU has started implementing a new Integrated Maritime Policy as proposed by the Commission in the Blue Paper of 10 October 2007 and endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council. The EU Maritime Policy requires a coordinated implementation so as to protect in a better way the ecological balance of our oceans as a sustainable source of wealth and well-being for future generations.

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Since seas and oceans are common spaces that are shared, the EU alone cannot achieve these objectives without the participation of its neighbours. EFTA and EU Member States enjoy a common marine environment and face common threats and challenges together with the EU. The prospects for increased shipping, the exploitation of fishing resources, the opening of new navigation routes, the impacts of climate change, the protection of the marine environment and the expanded exploitation of oil and gas and mineral resources are new challenging developments that need to be addressed.

The EU continues to seek close collaboration within EFTA States (most importantly Norway and Iceland) in the implementation of the EU Maritime Policy. This close collaboration in the preparation of the EU Maritime Policy has been put in place in different ways from the beginning of the process back in 2005, and is still very constructive and valuable. Norway and Iceland have taken an active part in the High Level Focal Points Group for Maritime Policy and have participated in the meetings of the Experts Group on Maritime Policy together with Member States and the European Commission.

Both have contributed to the consultation process launched by the Green Paper of 2006, which started our reflections on this new concept, and their responses, posted on our website, were fully taken into consideration and analysed at the end of the consultation process. The experience of Norway and Iceland on maritime affairs and the constructive proposals and practical information provided in their contributions fed our reflections on the whole subject. Norway prepared a contribution prior to the adoption of the Green Paper and another one during the consultation process launched after the publication of the Green Paper. Both welcomed the initiative for an EU maritime policy based on holistic and integrated management of the seas that includes all relevant sectors and rests on the Lisbon Strategy and the improvement of the status of the ocean itself.

Similarly, Iceland participated in the consultation process through a contribution that welcomed the proposals on an EU maritime policy and its integrated approach. The contribution answered all the questions of the Green Paper and provided very comprehensive information and examples on the functioning of the relevant structures in Iceland. Furthermore, EFTA States have participated in other events that were held during the period when the concept of an Integrated Maritime Policy was being developed. Contacts have been held on a regular basis and at different levels, including several major events:

* A first exchange of views in which I took part was held in Strasbourg on the occasion of the 27th meeting of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee held on 10 October 2006.

* At the 28th meeting of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee, held in Vaduz on 28 June 2007 the resolution "The EU Future Maritime Policy: Implications for the EEA" was adopted. Director-General Fokion Fotiadis represented the Commission in the meeting.

* On 22 October 2007, for the first time, EU ministers coordinating maritime matters (including from Norway and Iceland) gathered for a joint discussion during the informal Ministerial meeting on Maritime Policy, held in Lisbon.

* President Barroso visited Norway on 25 February 2008 and met the Icelandic Prime Minister on 27 February and on both occasions he declared that he wanted to keep Iceland and Norway involved in the development of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy.

* On 20 May 2008 Norway and Iceland participated in the first European Maritime Day conference that took place in Brussels.

* On 27 May 2008 the EEA Council held an orientation debate on the Integrated Maritime Policy, with particular focus on the next steps to be taken in implementing Maritime Policy and on cooperation with EEA States. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner attended the meeting on behalf of the Commission.

Since 2005 Norway has also seconded a national expert to the Directorate-General in charge of developing the EU Integrated Maritime Policy. Iceland has also been invited to second one of its experts to DG MARE to take part in the implementation of our Arctic Communication.

As to the future, the EU would like to ensure the continued involvement of Iceland and Norway in the development of the Integrated Maritime Policy and would like to invite them to participate actively in new maritime policy issues. Five of these issues are particularly promising in this respect:

* The European Commission adopted on 20 November 2008 a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on the Arctic Region. This Communication forms the first layer of an EU Arctic policy and is also an important contribution to implementing the EU Integrated Maritime Policy.

The European Union will continue to address Arctic challenges in a systematic and coordinated manner in areas such as the environment, climate change, maritime affairs, energy, research, fisheries and transport. As proposed in the Communication, protecting the environment and ensuring sustainability should be the European Union's priority goals in the Arctic. Equally, the EU should help to protect the livelihood of indigenous populations and develop a dialogue with them. These goals can only be achieved in close cooperation with all Arctic states and communities.

The European Union is willing to strengthen its contribution to multilateral cooperation in the Arctic, recognising the role of the Arctic Ocean coastal states and its own responsibilities under UNCLOS. In this context the Commission intends to apply for permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. The support of Norway and Iceland on this issue would contribute to enhancing the governance structure for the High North.

* The Commission has just adopted the Communication "Roadmap for maritime spatial planning: achieving common principles in the EU" which aims to encourage a broad debate on how a common approach to maritime spatial planning can be achieved in the EU. Norway's Integrated Management Plan for the Barents Sea and the sea area off the Lofoten Islands is one of the best practices that we looked into while preparing the Communication.

We have planned to set up preparatory or pilot actions to follow up on the road map in 2009. They will most likely be developed in the North and Baltic Sea areas, where the participation of Norway will be of extreme importance.

* Shipping is a thriving sector and, although in general it is very efficient, it still has an important environmental footprint. The development of maritime transport policy is of interest not only to the sector itself but also for the entire European maritime economy. The EU seeks to reinforce the sector within the EFTA States by ensuring the appropriate development of important initiatives such as the Maritime Space without Barriers, the Motorways of the Sea or the forthcoming Strategy for Maritime Transport.

Scientific research is another area with a very high potential for cooperation. As full members of the 7th Framework Programme (FP7), the EFTA States have an important role to play in the development of the Marine and Maritime Research Strategy, underpinning key topics like the development of the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODNET), ecosystem-based fisheries management, sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sector, greener maritime transport, climate change monitoring and mitigation (e.g. Carbon Capture and Storage) renewable energy as well as capacity-building of human resources and infrastructures.

An obvious area of scientific cooperation could be the Arctic region, in which our Communication calls for the creation of new research infrastructures and for enhancing monitoring and surveillance capabilities in the Arctic. Furthermore, Norway has contributed valuably to developing the marine and maritime research communication through its participation in a number of key stakeholder activities. It is also worth noting that Norway and Iceland are actively participating in the development of a knowledge base for a sustainable thriving marine and maritime economy and in formulating policy advice for the future.

* There is already substantial cooperation taking place between EU and EFTA States on specific maritime surveillance matters (e.g. implementation of Directive 2002/59/BC on the exchange of information between Member States' maritime authorities to help prevent pollution and accidents at sea). Further collaboration between the EU, Norway and Iceland can be envisaged in order to achieve even greater integration of maritime surveillance systems and the establishment of an integrated EU maritime surveillance network.

This list is not comprehensive and the Commission is also looking into new maritime policy areas where cooperation with EFTA Member States can be further enhanced. One reflection that EFTA partners may find of interest is whether it could be of use to launch an OECD group on integrated maritime policy which would subscribe to a regular and structured exchange of best practices, as well as bring together some conceptual work of common interest.

Joe Borg

European Commissioner Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
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Title Annotation:European Free Trade Agreement
Author:Borg, Joe
Publication:EFTA Bulletin (Switzerland)
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Words:1517
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