Maritime themes to 'underpin' Greek presidency

The Greek presidency aims to 'exploit the potential' of Europe's maritime sectors to contribute to growth, development and security, explains Koumoutsakos.

[pullquote]Greece, being a maritime nation by tradition itself, recognises that Europe is bound with, and dependent on, the sea[/pullquote]. As such, EU maritime policies constitute one of the key issues on which the Greek presidency will focus, a horizontal theme that will underpin all the priorities of the presidency.

The goal of the upcoming Greek presidency's efforts in the field of maritime policies is twofold: first, to promote actions that will allow us to fully exploit the potential of the marine and maritime sectors and second, to safeguard and further our interests in the maritime commons. In tandem with this, the main idea is to redefine and restart EU's maritime policy in all its aspects, in a way that the maritime policy is not confined solely to issues of growth and development but takes into account Europe's overall strategic interests at sea.

As far as our first goal is concerned, the maritime and marine sectors offer areas for sustainable growth and employment, and Athens will focus on the following to capitalise on the opportunities which the two sectors offer: Within the framework of the integrated maritime policy, Athens will place particular focus on intersectional and trans-border cooperation. Emphasis will also be placed on "blue growth" to further develop the growth potential of Europe's blue economy. The Greek presidency is expected to play a decisive role in the adoption of a European commission directive on maritime spatial planning. Furthermore, Greece will also play its role in updating the EU maritime strategy to cover the period up to 2018. What is more, the Greek presidency will make an important effort to create jobs and promote growth in the Adriatic and Ionian regions within the context of the EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian seas. It will also promote initiatives in the fields of nautical and coastal tourism. Finally, Greece is prepared to help strengthen Europe's approach to addressing irregular immigration by sea which has skyrocketed over the past few years.

Europe's security is also linked to the seas. As such, Europe cannot afford to ignore the ongoing changes to the maritime environment and its security challenges, including maritime piracy, overexploitation of resources, and the geopolitical turbulence in the eastern Mediterranean, Europe's southern flank. Developing a strategy for ensuring the security and openness of the global maritime commons is therefore not so much a matter of choice and a signal of growing European ambitions, but a prerequisite for protecting Europe's vital sea lines of communication. At present, an EU maritime security strategy is being formulated and the European commission and the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy are expected to soon present its elements. The Greek presidency will aim to secure agreement on such a strategy which should be formulated in accordance with the United Nations convention on the law of the sea.

It goes without saying that in the course of its presidency, Greece aims to closely cooperate with its fellow member states. Athens has been already coordinating with Rome which will take over the rotating EU presidency from Greece in an effort to work towards a common policy agenda for 2014 with some focus on sensitive issues for the European northern Mediterranean countries, the 'year of the Mediterranean'.

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