New approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU

EESC opinion: New approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU

Key points

  • The blue economy plays a considerable role and has ever-increasing potential in the EU and global economy, job creation and people's welfare. The EESC believes it to be extremely important to seize these opportunities to the maximum extent, while at the same time minimising the adverse impact on the climate, biodiversity and the environment. Good water quality and healthy aquatic ecosystems are a prerequisite for a flourishing sustainable blue economy.
  • Besides environmental challenges, those active in the blue economy face challenges such as unfair global competition and rapid technological development. Many activities, especially tourism, have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Smooth and successful recovery is thus crucial for the blue economy.
  • The blue economy covers a wide range of sectors and operations, both traditional and emerging ones. The increasing diversity of blue economy activities has posed challenges in terms of their compatibility with each other, and competition for marine space and resources. The EESC emphasises the important role of maritime spatial planning both in enabling the co-existence of various activities and in preparing for climate adaptation.
  • The EESC calls on the EU to actively support the development and introduction of digital and green technologies and solutions for marine activities, with the aim of generating both economic, social and environmental benefits. The EESC also points out the importance of oceanographic research, accompanied by research into the socio-economic and environmental impacts of blue economy activities.
  • The EESC urges the EU to provide a favourable and predictable innovation and investment environment, with streamlined administrative procedures and certainty in regulatory and financial conditions. The Committee welcomes the substantial EU funding available for supporting the sustainable blue economy and points out the need to make financing easily accessible for operators at national and local levels.
  • The EESC emphasises the need to consider the EU blue economy and its potential in a global context, including external and trade relations. The Committee calls on the EU to provide EU enterprises with a level playing field vis-à-vis their international competitors and to enhance global implementation of international conventions and agreements regarding economic cooperation, working conditions and the environment.
  • The EESC underlines the central role of the social partners in anticipating the changes in work, supporting the development of skills and enhancing the employability of workers in the blue economy. Moreover, social dialogue at sectoral, national and workplace levels is key in ensuring proper working conditions.
  • Due to its horizontal nature, the blue economy must be considered in a comprehensive and consistent way in policymaking. This requires seamless cooperation between policymakers at all levels: between the EU and Member States, between Member States in various regions, and between different policy fields such as industry, fisheries, trade, transport, energy, employment and the environment. 
  • The EESC highlights the need for blue economy policies to rely on sound scientific knowledge and a solid data basis and to fully take account of the needs and views of blue economy actors and stakeholders. The Committee calls for close involvement of employers, workers and other civil society parties in shaping, implementing and monitoring EU and national blue economy policies.
  • While it is relevant and necessary to consider the blue economy in a holistic and horizontal way, it is also important to look at different sectors and activities from the point of view of their specific opportunities and challenges, which makes it possible to provide a bottom-up contribution to blue economy policies.
  • Moreover, the EESC stresses the need for education and public measures to raise awareness of the significance of the blue economy in providing opportunities for healthy diets, mobility and recreation, on top of jobs and prosperity, and the importance of protecting the marine environment, for example against plastic litter.