The European Commission has launched a new initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean region. The region covers economic hubs like Barcelona, Naples, Tunis as well as tourist resort destinations like the Balearic Islands, Sicily, and Corsica. In addition to this, there are security and safety concerns from the increase in migration from the South to the North. This initiative will allow the EU and the neighboring countries to work together to boost maritime safety and security, promote sustainable blue growth and jobs, and preserve biodiversity and ecosystems.
The goals of the initiative are mainly a safer and more secure maritime space, a smart and resilient blue economy and better governance of the sea. Priorities include cooperation between national coast guards and the response to accidents and oil spills. Other priorities include new data sourcing, biotechnology, coastal tourism as well as special planning, marine knowledge, habitat conservation and sustainable fisheries. The program will be financed by existing international, EU, national and regional funds, and financial instruments, which will be coordinated.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries commented that “millions of holiday makers have a happy association with the Western Mediterranean. Like the millions more who live across the region, they understand the fragile link between conserving national habitats and traditions and ensuring economic viability. Blue economy is important for each of the countries involved and they have recognized the strength of working together.”
The initiative is the result of many years of dialogue between ten countries of the Western Mediterranean region that are ready and willing to work together: five EU member states, namely France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Malta, and five Southern partner countries, namely Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. It follows up on the Ministerial Declaration on Blue Economy endorsed by the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) on 17 November 2015.