The socially and environmentally sustainable evolution of sea basins and coastal areas, counteracting the existing disparities and ensuring the conservation of cultural and bio-diversity, is of paramount importance. The EESC fully supports the specific initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean and calls on the European institutions to conclude the consultation cycle and to set up the relevant Task Force.
The EESC considers that the success of this initiative requires good communication and an appropriate climate of cooperation between the States involved in it and, secondly, the European institutions. The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is invited to play an important role in efficiently linking all the parties involved.
The EESC recognises the need to expand the initiative in the following three ways: besides the chosen areas of action in the specific initiative – (1) a safer and more secure maritime space, (2) a smart and resilient blue economy and the focus on skills development, research and innovation, (3) better governance of the sea – the EESC suggests a further thematic broadening of the initiative in biodiversity and conservation and intercultural communication, as well as a more concrete strategy for supporting small and very small (-scale) productive activities.
Moreover, the EESC thinks that it will be of great importance to include the progressive evolution of, and trans-national cooperation between, vocational and academic education systems as a horizontal area of intervention, enhancing the effectiveness of the other areas of the blue economy.
Maritime (transport) safety, security issues, sustainable economic growth and cultural and environmental conservation will not be handled efficiently in the long run, if we overlook the fact that the Mediterranean is a historical, economic and environmental unity. Therefore, even though the heightened geopolitical tensions and exacerbation of conflicts in the eastern part of the sea basin explain why the initiative is starting in the western Mediterranean, this should be understood as a pilot application that can provide useful experiences and best practices, to be extended into a holistic Mediterranean approach.
The EESC anticipates that the success of the initiative will require a high degree of trans-national and cross-sectional coordination. This implies the need for a technical assistance sub-project covering the following issues: 1) a thorough comparative analysis that will pinpoint the overlapping areas in the existing plethora of initiatives of similar (if not identical) focus, in order to save resources and enhance the final outcomes; 2) an operational master plan, which will define the competences of the Task Force for the blue economy, the specific organisational / administrative instruments, distinct roles for the regional, national and international institutions involved, in addition to a well-specified time schedule; 3) planning and implementation of a sufficiently far-reaching communication strategy that will publicise the content of the Initiative for the blue economy and the resulting opportunities and prospects.
Furthermore, the Committee agrees that, in order to succeed in the struggle against crime and terrorism, there is a need for more effective networking of the land and sea border authorities on both shores, as well as the systematic exchange and analysis of data, in close collaboration with Frontex and other global, transnational institutions like the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Lastly, the Committee is of the opinion that in order for spatial planning and coastal management to be efficient, the quadruple helix approach should be adopted, at trans-national and especially regional / local level. Strengthened involvement of local authorities (municipalities and regions), as well as social partners and civil society organisations, within their respective areas of activity, is required. To that end, the Commission should invite local public and private-sector stakeholders to the consultation on the Communication and on the specific areas of action – transport safety and security, fisheries, tourism and energy, social cohesion and environmental sustainability.