The Mediterranean Sea accounts for over 70% of the world's nautical tourism, which creates very significant spillover benefits for its coastal countries. This form of tourism is hampered by differing national laws in areas such as the registration of recreational craft, navigation licences and safety and tax measures, to mention the most important.
The EESC, while aware of the various sensitivities of the traditional maritime countries, advises the Commission to find shared solutions and argues that it is very much in the sector's interest to begin to see the direct and indirect non-discrimination principle, which governs the internal market, applied to the free movement of services and people.
Whereas safety and environmental requirements for the construction of recreational craft have been harmonised across Europe, the regulatory framework in Europe concerning the conditions for their recreational use (navigation licences, registration, safety rules and equipment, taxation, etc.) varies significantly from country to country.
The nautical industry, unlike many other sectors, is not asking for extraordinary measures or financial assistance, but simply for initiatives and actions that will make a European single market a reality in this sector.
The EESC shares the nautical industry's concerns and calls on the Commission to combine the revision of Directive 94/25/EC on recreational craft of a maximum length of 24 metres with additional initiatives to be incorporated in a specific action plan. It would be very useful to draw up a Green Paper on the measures to be adopted for the nautical industry.
More specifically, the EESC points to some issues that must be addressed and resolved.
• Harmonised continuing vocational training needs to be promoted. The social stakeholders want a European skills passport for the industry.
• A European databank needs to be set up on boating and nautical accidents.
• Harmonised safety regulations applicable throughout the EU should be adopted.
• A technical study should be commissioned to review the current system of boat design categories.
• The adoption of international standards that are actually respected needs to be promoted.
• New rules on the reciprocated market access of EU products to their markets need to be negotiated with third countries.
• Tax treatment in the area of nautical tourism needs to be harmonised within the internal market.
• The nautical sector needs to be made more attractive to the younger generations as an employment prospect, as well as for leisure and sport.