The Committee of the Regions (CoR) – the EU’s assembly of local and regional governments – stress, however, there must be a greater focus on supporting public-private partnerships. Its success also hinges on taking a cross-policy approach coordinating research, economic, transport and fisheries policy to create jobs and ensure the launch of a long-term sustainable strategy.
The position was outlined in an opinion - adopted by the CoR - reacting to European Commission plans to digitally map Europe’s seabed by 2020, further develop marine knowledge and launch a Blue Economy Business and Science Forum, alongside measures to secure highly skilled workforce.
The EU has long acknowledged the economic benefits of the marine and maritime sector.
"It represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates almost €500 billion a year so the 'blue economy' plays a crucial role in kick-starting Europe’s ailing economy, especially for those coastal regions so reliant on the sector,” remarked Adam Banaszak (PL/ECR), Member of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie, who led the CoRs’ opinion.
Mr Banaszak further stressed how “blue growth" can help create smart, sustainable and inclusive local economies. He also underlined the need to bolster knowledge and entrepreneurship locally.
Mr Banaszak said: “We welcome the Commission’s commitment to improving our knowledge of our oceans but this information must be shared. 90 per cent of the sector consists of micro-businesses so the results must be made available locally benefitting both the public and private sectors. Entrepreneurship, innovation and supporting public-private partnerships go hand-in-hand and must be the focus of the plans.”
The CoR believes that developing the "blue economy" through public-private partnerships can benefit the job market, improve health and the quality of food production. Greater support for companies and research institutions that develop new technologies to improve ocean knowledge is needed and, as well as helping protect Europe’s marine environment, can contribute to the gathering of vital data.
To achieve this, the CoR proposes creating a Knowledge and Innovation Community for the Blue Economy which will serve to develop skills and encourage the transfer of ideas from marine research to the private sector.
In line with previous opinions, the CoR also calls for the Commission to focus on aquaculture – the farming of fish and shellfish - which, it argues, can protect marine life whilst stimulating growth. The CoR has previously pointed out that the sector produces 60 per cent of fishing stocks yet in the EU only contributes to 2.3 per cent of the industry.
Cutting red-tape and stirring knowledge and innovation can give local economies a much needed boost. Referring to the recent EU investment plan, Mr Banaszak concluded: "For smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, we need to unlock the potential of our different sectors including our marine and maritime sectors. The Commission's recently announced investment plan to get Europe growing again needs to target this sector. To effectively target and identify projects, local and regional authorities should be invited to provide input."