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BB200606, News in Brief

Green Paper on Maritime policy, a new European vision for the oceans and the seas?

30.01.2007

In one week’s time, the European Commission will issue a green paper on EU Maritime Policy. The Commission hopes that a re-invigorated maritime policy could maximize the benefits that could be yielded from the sea, and boost job creation in line with the Lisbon Strategy. Due to be published on June 7, this Green Paper could potentially affect the lives of many millions of Europeans, from fishermen, yacht owners, tourists to offshore wind industrialists.

Energy should be an important pillar of the EU’s maritime strategy. Therefore, during the preparatory work, the wind industry took the opportunity to remind that drilling for oil and gas under water is not the only way Europe can draw energy out of the sea area. Offshore wind has an infinite energy potential if it is recognised as such within the Maritime Policy and if the appropriate space is given for its development.

The EU has twice as much coastline than Russia and more than three times that of the United States. Nearly half of all Europeans live less than 50 km from the sea. Today, around 4% of the EU GDP is coming from maritime industries and services. Several maritime industries generate billions of euros of turnover (Offshore oil and gas, the cruise industry, marine equipment, EU shipping and transport). The commission is hoping, by launching a public consultation, that interest groups will consider that their interest are better served by a pan European strategy than existing policies.

The green paper will ask governments and interest groups to think of future ways of making a relatively successful EU maritime sector even more profitable. In this consultation process, the European Commission will seek to get interest groups thinking along the same lines. According to EC officials the new maritime policy should erase old distinctions between necessary economic development and required protection of the environment. In this aspect, the EC’s objective is far from being a reality. Ahead of the publication, several conservation groups are claiming that the new policy will make no difference to already endangered oceans. Stakeholders will have time to respond to the consultation until July 2007. The length of the consultation is unusually long and reflects, according to the European Commission, the complexity and importance of defining the best way ahead.

The Green Paper on Maritime Policy could affect energy policy. After the publication of the green paper on security of supply (see Brussels Briefing 06/4), this document should clarify that oil and gas drilling is not the only way Europe can extract energy from the sea. Offshore wind energy, in particular in the North Sea, can provide significant amounts of indigenous electricity. Currently installed offshore wind represents nearly 700 MW, only 2% of the EU total wind capacity – but the potential is almost endless.“

Offshore power is not big now but it will be in the future. It has a great potential to contribute clean, indigenous large-scale energy to the European energy mix”, said EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer. The debate on the future EU Maritime Policy is coming at the right time in the framework of the current energy debate. EWEA sees the evolving Maritime Policy as an incredible opportunity for Europe to do a necessary U turn on its energy policy by putting greater emphasis on energy efficiency and large scale renewables. EWEA has asked the European Commission to take offshore wind energy into account in its forthcoming Green paper on Maritime Policy. Offshore wind is at a crucial junction in its development.

Early results from the first offshore wind projects have been promising. But it is clear that there remain barriers in the way of its fuller development. The Copenhagen Strategy (see Brussels Briefing 05/11) adopted in October presents an agreed way forward to tackling a number of those challenges. As you may know, the Copenhagen Strategy calls on the Council of Ministers to ask the European Commission to initiate a European policy for offshore wind power, in the form of an Action Plan for offshore wind power deployment. EWEA is strongly supporting such an action plan.

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