What can Europe do for a better international ocean governance?

ENMC Chairman answered during SEARICA intergroup conference


On December 2nd 2015, European Parliament’s Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas Intergroup organized a conference on the means to ensure a better international ocean governance. The event was chaired by MEP Gesine Meissner and welcomed numerous other MEPs both as speakers and attendees as well as a UN representative and the new Director-General at DG MARE, Mr. João Machado.

The floor was also given to ENMC Chairman Francis Vallat, as representative of the European maritime economy, who stressed the numerous opportunities and possibilities the oceans will offer to mankind, but warned that the increased use of oceans resources has to be sustainable, i.e. allowing the necessary economic growth without compromising the well/being of the next generations. In that spirit ENMC Chairman echoed the feedback given by our Clusters network  as reply to the consultation recently launched y Commissioner Vella on the same issue. He recalled his attachment to the freedom of the sea but worried about some states which hide themselves behind the absolute concept of sovereignty to escape their responsibility when it comes to international governance. He also mentioned the excellent work done by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) whilst criticizing the way the rules are sometimes applied eventually, especially by some convenience states. He then observed that here are a plethora of official bodies involved in international ocean governance,  most of them being related to the United Nations. He concluded that the work of these organizations should be better coordinated under the umbrella of the IMO which should itself have reinforced means in many respects.

Finally Chairman Vallat elaborated on the role the European Union (EU) should play. Maritime professionals expect the EU (all institutions together with one voice) to push towards universal measures (at IMO level) instead of setting up regional solutions. He recalled that in the recent past the EU has proven to be very efficient to obtain universal positive rules (e.g. the third level of compensation by the FIPOL Fund).

When it comes to the ratification of international conventions, the European Union should push more efficiently the states to ratify quickly, thereby paving the way for a quicker entry into force. Furthermore, the European Union should continue to seek an observatory status at IMO, also in order to better coordinate Member States positions. Chairman Vallat remembered that the European Union has a huge responsibility induced by the size of its European Economic Zone which ranks first worldwide. The EU could also provide foreign aid to enable poorer countries to manage and protect their territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, and to have qualified human means to control the respect of international conventions in their territorial waters. Chairman concluded with areas where the EU should raise its voice / act:  a.o governance for deep sea mining, the support of maritime clusters and last but not least the use of a common maritime economic database to assess maritime policy.


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