How can the EU lead the way in “Blue” governance?

Blue Growth is a concept that is consensual and well understood by most people in Europe. We all feel we know what it means. However there is no universal definition of blue economy and sometimes we may be talking about different things, and the results of policies adopted at Member State or EU may not be directly comparable. Nevertheless, most decision makers in the EU agree that there is a great potential in terms of wealth and jobs, and a recent OECD study predicts that the output of the global ocean economy could more than double by 2030. Another important element of blue growth that became apparent in a study developed in Portugal is the resilience of these sectors of the economy. In the depths of the international financial crisis that hit Portugal, between 2010 and 2013, this study showed that in a crisis context the blue economy sectors perform much better that the Portuguese economy as a whole.

Europe should not miss this opportunity and therefore the Integrated Maritime Policy is a crucial instrument to promote integrated views and push efforts towards this objective. In 2012 the focus was in five promising sectors: Blue energy, aquaculture, coastal and maritime tourism, blue biotechnology and sea-bed mining. Along with these, we know innovation is a key element for all sectors, especially when we target overarching objectives like the reduction greenhouse gas emissions, the increase of resource use efficiency and the reduction of our overall environmental footprint.

Ocean knowledge is also key in this equation and research and innovation are important drivers to achieve a smart blue economy. It is often said that we know more about the Moon, or Mars, than about the Ocean. Although this is difficult to quantify, it is unquestionable that we just recently have developed technology that allows us to reach greater depths. Also, only recently we started to better understand the strong links between the oceanic and the atmospheric systems. One thing is certain, we still have a lot to learn about both these dimensions, which are key to develop a truly sustainable blue economy.

Besides ensuring environmental sustain- ability, in the process of building a blue economy, the EU should ensure it is socially inclusive. Stakeholder’s engagement in the cycle of public policy design, implementation and evaluation and multisectorial policy coop- eration and coordination are key elements. In this sense the European Integrated Maritime Policy has a major role. Much has been done but there is still a long way to go.

There are two main challenges that I would like to point out. As the EU is now looking at the multiannual financial framework for the period beyond 2020, it is time to think about how to guarantee a robust level of investment in blue economy and governance. Should we have general programmes with few specific funds for ocean related issues, besides fisheries? Should we earmark projects in the context of maritime basins or not?

Secondly, another challenge to ensure the EU keeps a leading role in ocean governance matters is how to strongly engage the Agenda 2030 process in the United Nations, in particular the Goal 14 dedicated to the Ocean.

To address the blue economy we also need to guarantee a good status for the marine biodiversity and in more general terms for the marine environment. Portugal has been very involved in this process as co-facilitator of the “Call for Action” document, that was discussed in the UN Ocean Conference in June in New York.

We are planning a follow-up ministerial meeting in Lisbon on 7 and 8 September

(Oceans Meeting 2017), where high level representatives from governments across the world will discuss the state of the Ocean’s health and its impacts on human health.

In terms of ocean governance and integrated policy making at national level, Portugal is also trying to set an example. We stablished a Ministry of the Sea dedicated to both the sectoral and crosscutting issues related with the Ocean and the blue economy.

Our National Ocean Strategy, which has been updated since its inception in 2006, is much in line with the European Integrated Maritime Policy and the European Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Area, highlighting the areas where Portugal has competitive advantages and are of strategic interest to the EU. Renewable energies are an example of one of these areas, and we recently approved a national Roadmap for the Industrial Strategy of Oceanic Renewable Energies.

Both through national and international initiatives, Portugal is keen to spearhead the EU efforts to maintain its current leadership in the blue economy sectors, and its intellectual leadership in engaging the challenges of international ocean governance