The next conference for European and Mediterranean transport ministers will take place in Barcelona in November 2013. It should apply FEMIP’s (Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership) recommendations, that in Athens on 18th and 19th April 2013, held its 12th conference on the theme “A Mediterranean blue economy: Enhancing marine and maritime cooperation”.
“We are today giving food for thought to ministers. We are laying the groundwork for them to invest in the maritime economy” underlines Philippe de Fontaine-Vive, European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President and co-organiser with Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Andrew Winbow, Assistant Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
The three partners will encourage policy "to maximise cooperation in the region among all riparian countries."
The possibilities are as important as they are varied. Launch and cooperation between maritime clusters, pushing training institutes into a network, eliminating discrepancies to ensure effective safety and monitoring, exploitation of synergies between projects, these were the topics discussed in the Greek capital as ideas to develop the blue economy.
Encouraging shared projects
At the heart of debate - as it is highly symbolic within the spirit of cooperation - is the project for a Mediterranean centre for maritime knowledge. As Maria Damanaki explains, “we need to create a database that is accessible for all, in order to promote transparency in the activities we undertake. Everyone needs to feel ownership of the information”
This virtual centre would amass all available data on the region so that it can be shared better. “The European Commission is preparing a Directive on maritime spatial planning in the Mediterranean. This will help stimulate the development and use of resources” says Maria Damanaki. Better knowledge of activities in the Mediterranean and better identification of needs will allow the growth of shared projects.
“The maritime economy, a source of hope for Mediterraneans, needs to be given a positive image” comments Philippe de Fontaine-Vive, who says he is ready to fund projects. “The EIB has worked a great deal on ports. It needs to go further” he insists. The EIB Vice-President uses the automotive sector as an analogy. “We financed motorways, but at the same time, road transport, automotive research, and particularly around engines and fuel efficiency… In the maritime sector, funding is in its infancy, with two years of finance for shipping. We need to use the same logic as we did for the automotive sector.