Meeting the maritime challenge: a key role for the Mediterranean partners

The semi-enclosed nature of the Mediterranean and the common impact of maritime activities call for increased co-operation with the EU’s southern partners, the European Commission has said, announcing a set of actions to involve them in its new Mediterranean maritime governance strategy. These include technical assistance, exchange of best practices, and capacity-building.
In its Communication to the Council and the European Parliament, published on September 11, the European Commission outlined the urgent problems posed by the very high pressure of economic activity on the Mediterranean ecosystem, compounded by the further challenges of climate change and illegal immigration.
“The reality is one of over twenty coastal States with uneven levels of economic development and administrative capacities and important political disagreements,” the Communication said, adding that, “a large part of the Mediterranean Sea remains High Seas waters, thereby raising specific governance issues.”
The policy aims to meet these challenges by developing “a strategic and integrated approach” towards integrated maritime policy-making. While it is mainly directed at EU Member States, the Commission underlines the need to involve partner countries on the Mediterranean’s southern shores: “The semi-enclosed nature of the Mediterranean Sea and the trans-boundary impacts of maritime activities call for increased co-operation with non-EU Mediterranean partners.”
In order to do this, the Commission has decided to:
  • Set up a working group dedicated to Integrated Maritime Policy, with a view to initiate dialogue and exchange best practices with non-EU Mediterranean coastal States.
  • Provide technical assistance, under the ENP and the ENPI, for Mediterranean partners that express an interest in an integrated approach to maritime affairs, thereby raising awareness and assisting in setting objectives and implementation mechanisms.
  • Encourage the ratification and concerted implementation of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which provides the main framework for most maritime activities, but has not been ratified by Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Libya, with the persistence of contested areas hampering the development of an integrated policy approach.
  • Explore further cooperation for the collection of basic data with partner countries, through joint programmes and capacity-building.
  • Underline the importance of capacity-building in Mediterranean partner countries' maritime administrations and port authorities, as essential in preventing accidents and pollution by ships, including illegal oil discharges. The EU-funded regional SAFEMED project in the area of maritime safety, security and the protection of the marine environment, already contributes to closing the regulatory and structural gaps between Mediterranean Member States and partner countries, the Communication points out.
  • Propose that the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) starts technical co-operation with Mediterranean partners, including in case of pollution accidents, by providing antipollution vessels.
  • Promote, through dialogue and financial assistance to Mediterranean partner countries, the involvement of the latter in the Mediterranean activities coordinated by Frontex – the EU agency responsible for operational cooperation in the field of border security.
  • Consider the inclusion of Mediterranean partner countries in the integration of maritime surveillance for drug enforcement.
Calling on the Council and the European Parliament to endorse its objectives, the Communication concludes that: “The challenges affecting the Mediterranean Sea call for shared and, above all, integrated responses, rooted in improved maritime governance. This is particularly relevant when considering the ever-increasing demands for natural resources and pressures on the marine environment, as well as the continued need for growth and jobs in maritime sectors and regions.”
  • The Mediterranean bears 30% of global sea-borne trade in volume from or into its more than 450 ports and terminals, and a quarter of worldwide sea-borne oil traffic.
  • Its coasts are home to more than 150 million inhabitants, a figure which doubles during the tourist season.
  • Half of the EU’s fishing fleet is active in the Mediterranean, mostly small sized and artisanal, together with an increasing marine aquaculture production.
  • Pressure on fish stocks is also exerted by vessels from the Southern Mediterranean and non-EU countries.
Useful links
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament ‘Towards an Integrated Maritime Policy for better governance in the Mediterranean’
ENPI Info Centre – EU unveils strategy for maritime governance in Mediterranean
European Commission background memo
SAFEMED II – fiche and news
European Commission - Integrated Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean 

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