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Maritime Forum

Atlantic forum - summary of Lisbon meeting of 13 March 2012

The Lisbon meeting was third in the series of meetings set up to encourage Member States to deliver key investment and research priorities as well as projects for consideration in our Atlantic Action Plan by 15 May 2012. As well as Matthew and myself there were representatives from DG-REGIO (Vicente Rodriguez Saez and José Antonio Ruiz de Casas) and DG-RTD (Maria Teresa Caetano). The Portuguese side was chaired by João Ribeiro, Director-General of Maritime Affairs, and included about 30 others from State Secretariats (Entrepreneurship, Competitiveness and Innovation, Science, Economic Affairs and Regional Development, the Sea), Directorates General (Maritime Affairs, Natural Resources, Maritime Safety and Services), Offices (international Relations). Ministries (Agriculture, Sea. Foreign Affairs, Environment and Spatial Planning), Regional Development Coordination Commissions (North, Centre, Lisbon , Alentejo, Algarve), Regional Secretariats of Environment and Natural Resources (Madeira) and the Regional Director for Maritime Affairs of the Azores. The regional representation included Presidents and Vice-Presidents.

After presentations by MARE, REGIO and RTD the following points were made:

  1. Why do we concentrate on short-sea shipping? Portugal could be developed as a gateway to the Atlantic for "high seas" shipping. Rail-sea connections are crucial.
  2. Cross border cooporation between countries (Spain and Portugal) can help to define a network to connect different harbour areas to be a unique offer to transatlantic and inter-continental navigation. Importance of projects involving coastal regions and land-locked regions.
  3. The Azores could be equipped as a refuelling port for ships that need to comply with EU rules on fuel.
  4. The Portuguese see many opportunities for research – deep-sea, robotics, bioengineering, observation, surveillance, space. Horizon 2020 may be a better source of funding for wealthy regions that do not get much money from Cohesion (we are still doing the sums to check the relative size of the various funding mechanisms)
  5. The Atlantic strategy can encourage investment by raising the political profile. The Portuguese believe that the Baltic and the Danube are benefitting from their recognition as macroregions.
  6. The Common Strategic Framework allows projects to be funded from more than one source. This is new. It can help Atlantic projects escape from the limitations of the territorial cooperation budget. It implies first that the issue should be included in the political agenda of different national, regional and local-stakeholders and second that there is a need for a bottom-up coordination -in formal or informal- multi-governance networks or mechanisms to complement the top down approach of mentioning the Atlantic strategy in the national Partnership Agreements. The Alpine initiative on adaptation to climate change is a good example of how to involve and coordinate a variety of stakeholders implementing very diverse actions, on a different scale and with a number of funds of different sources. The Strategy for the Atlantic will not bring new funds or new structures, but will allow for the possibility to redirect and make better use of funds.
  7. Territorial cooperation funding is awarded to Member States on a basis of population. The Portuguese think this puts them at a disadvantage when joining collaborative projects with larger countries and argued for a different funding distribution key. In this context, solution should be found that allows to allocate by funds based on coastal regions and not by MS as a whole, once this Strategy is aimed to address a sea-basin. Additionally, if we consider the dimension of Portuguese EEZ as one of the biggest within the European MS, there is no reflection of this reality on the criteria for allocation of cohesion/structural funds. It must be found a way to consider the size of the maritime zones in the allocation of funds related to the sea-basin.
  8. Specific zones should be set aside for testing renewable energy devices. The renewables should involve national projects and integrate the submarine cables (a national grid ) The world's first wave energy device was installed in the Azores 30 years ago.
  9. Could we not include fossil energy fuels as an opportunity? We are not sure about this. Home-produced gas and oil does improve energy security and reduces external dependency but doesn't do much for reducing carbon emissions, unless we are able to associate research and innovation on fuel efficient technologies and carbon capture and storage.
  10. Shipyards are in crisis. Could the Atlantic strategy consider state aid issues as well as funding? The present regime is very restrictive. The Commission thought that the action plan could include policy actions as well as funding ones
  11. The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund does not say much about maritime issues. The Commision replied that, in addition to the 6% earmarked for maritime policy, there is some emphasis on aquaculture.
  12. The national budget is very tight so any projects proposed for the action plan will need to have solid prospects of funding from sources other than the EU.
  13. It is important to find some projects that can sustain a blue economy such as projects involving living resources and their genetic make-up.
  14. Maritime spatial planning, surveillance and knowledge are areas that should be consider as maritime functions, providing covering aspects such as alert, decision making, comprehension and collaborative planning synchronization, for a broader set of tasks (ex. Climate change adaptation) than those proposed on the theme “responding to threats and emergencies”. The Portuguese propose "ocean management and cooperation” as a target-area.
  15. Marine and leisure is a very important economic sector. It will be interesting to have some integrated projects based on different geographical areas.