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European Green Deal: Developing a sustainable blue economy in the European Union

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The European Commission is proposing a new approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU for the industries and sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts.  A sustainable blue economy is essential to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal and ensuring a green and inclusive recovery from the pandemic.

Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “Healthy oceans are a precondition for a thriving blue economy. Pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction, coupled with the effects of the climate crisis, all threaten the rich marine biodiversity that the blue economy depends on. We must change tack and develop a sustainable blue economy where environmental protection and economic activities go hand in hand.”   

Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “The pandemic has hit the marine economy sectors in different, but profound ways. We have an opportunity to start afresh, and we want to make sure that the recovery shifts the focus from mere exploitation to sustainability and resilience. Thus to be truly green, we must also think blue.”

All blue economy sectors including fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism, maritime transport, port activities and shipbuilding will have to reduce their environmental and climate impact. Tackling the climate and biodiversity crises requires healthy seas and a sustainable use of their resources to create alternatives to fossil fuels and traditional food production.

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Transitioning to a sustainable blue economy requires investing in innovative technologies. Wave- and tidal energy, algae production, development of innovative fishing gear or restoration of marine ecosystems will create new green jobs and businesses in the blue economy.

The Communication sets out a detailed agenda for the blue economy to:

  • Achieve the objectives of climate neutrality and zero pollution notably by developing offshore renewable energy, by decarbonising maritime transport and by greening ports. A sustainable ocean energy mix including floating wind, thermal, wave and tidal energy could generate a quarter of the EU's electricity in 2050. Ports are crucial to the connectivity and the economy of Europe's regions and countries and could be used as energy hubs.
  • Switch to a circular economy and reduce pollution – including through renewed standards for fishing gear design, for ship recycling, and for decommissioning of offshore platforms and action to reduce plastics and microplastics pollution.
  • Preserve biodiversity and invest in nature - protecting 30% of the EU's sea area will reverse biodiversity loss, increase fish stocks, contribute to climate mitigation and resilience, and generate significant financial and social benefits. Environmental impacts of fishing on marine habitats will be further minimised.
  • Support climate adaptation and coastal resilience – adaptation activities, such as developing green infrastructure in coastal areas and protecting coastlines from the risk of erosion and flooding will help preserve biodiversity and landscapes, while benefitting tourism and the coastal economy.
  • Ensure sustainable food production - sustainable production of and new marketing standards for seafood, use of algae and seagrass, stronger fisheries control as well as research and innovation in cell-based seafood will help to preserve Europe's seas. With the EU sustainable aquaculture strategic guidelines now also adopted, the Commission has also committed to growing sustainable aquaculture in the EU.
  • Improve management of space at sea – the new Blue Forum for users of the sea to coordinate a dialogue between offshore operators, stakeholders and scientists engaged in fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, renewable energy and other activities will stimulate cooperative exchange for the sustainable use of marine environment. A report on the implementation of the EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning will be issued in 2022, following the adoption of national maritime spatial plans in March 2021.

The Commission will also continue creating the conditions for a sustainable blue economy internationally following the international ocean governance agenda.

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Financing the sustainable blue economy

The European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group, composed of the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund (EIF) will increase their cooperation on a sustainable blue economy. The institutions will work jointly with Member States to meet existing financing needs to reduce pollution in European seas and support investment for blue innovation and blue bioeconomy.

The new European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund - especially with its BlueInvest' platform and the new BlueInvest Fund - will support the transition towards more sustainable value chains based on the oceans, seas and coastal activities. To further finance the transformation, the Commission has urged Member States to include investments for a sustainable blue economy in their national resilience and recovery plans as well as their national operational programmes for various EU-funds from now to 2027.  Other EU programmes such as the research programme Horizon Europe will also contribute and a dedicated Mission on Oceans and Waters will be set up.

As regards private investments, agreed ocean-specific sustainability principles and standards such as the EU-sponsored Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative should be used in relevant investment decisions.

Background

The European Union's blue economy encompasses all industries and sectors related to oceans, seas and coasts, whether they are based directly in the marine environment (e.g. shipping, seafood, energy generation) or on land (e.g. ports, shipyards, coastal infrastructures). According to the most recent Blue economy report, the traditional sectors of blue economy provide 4.5 million direct jobs and generate over €650 billion in turnover.

Today's Communicaton replaces the Blue Growth communication of 2012. The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive calls on all Member States to formally plan their maritime space by 2021.

More information

Communication on a new approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU

Q&A on Sustainable Blue Economy

Factsheet

Blue economy

Blue economy indicators

EU aquaculture strategic guidelines

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Competition: EU and China meet during 22nd Competition Week to discuss competition policy priorities

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Officials and experts from the EU and China will meet online from 29 November to 2 December 2021 to discuss about their co-operation on competition law and enforcement. The discussions will focus on the green transition and how China's Fair Competition Review System and the EU's State Aid framework can contribute to it. Participants will also discuss mechanisms to control potentially anti-competitive acquisitions in the digital sector and the practical challenges of investigating digital markets. In addition, there will be updates on the proposed revisions to China's Anti-Monopoly Law and recent regulatory and competition policy developments in the EU.

The 22nd EU-China Competition Week follows the longstanding tradition of biannual competition dialogue between the EU and the anti-monopoly enforcement agencies in China. It is part of the Competition Co-operation project, a five-year EU funded programme offering technical co-operation to competition authorities in Asia. It also provides a platform for exchanges on competition policy between the European Commission Directorate-General for Competition (DG Competition) and the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR). The objective is to exchange experiences and strengthen convergence in competition policy, to the benefit of citizens and businesses in both the EU and in Asia. More information about the European Commission's bilateral dialogue with China in the field of competition policy is available on the Commission's website.

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Commission hosts second matchmaking event to speed up the development and production of COVID-19 medicines

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Today (30 November), the Commission is hosting a pan-European matchmaking event to accelerate and upscale the development and production of COVID-19 medicines in Europe, as part of the actions under the EU Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics. Following a first matchmaking event on COVID-19 medicines in July 2021 and a previous matchmaking event on COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021, this event aims at strengthening the participation of EU companies in value chains for COVID-19 therapeutics and speeding up connections among the participants. It also broadens the focus: from therapeutics specifically used to treat COVID-19, to also including those used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, as well the production of disposable materials, such as syringes, and ingredients needed for making such medicines.

The event gathers companies from the European Economic Area as well as other businesses and organisations included in the portfolio of 10 most promising treatments, presented by the Commission in the follow-up to the COVID-19 Therapeutics strategy. In order to facilitate matchmaking events, the Commission issued a comfort letter in March 2021 (based on the Antitrust Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 8 April 2020) providing guidance, relevant also for this event, on how the matchmaking and exchanges between participating companies, including direct competitors, can take place in compliance with EU competition rules. The matchmaking event is organised by the Commission's Task Force for industrial scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, in close co-operation with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. The event is also hosted in partnership with the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR) and the European Cluster Alliance (ECA), which are supporting the Commission in running an EU survey to assess EU capacities for COVID-19 therapeutics production. More information about the event is available here.

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European Commission

President von der Leyen addresses the special session of the World Health Assembly of the WHO

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On 29 November, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) addressedthe World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO), which gathers between 29 November and 1 December for its second-ever special session. The President welcomed the Assembly's decision to start negotiations towards an international instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, President von der Leyen commended the leadership of South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, underlining that South Africa's analytical work and transparency have allowed a swift global response to save lives. She praised South Africa as an example of international cooperation in times of cross-border health threats.

Building on the Global Health Summit of May and on the G20 Summit last month, President von der Leyen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to uphold equity, good governance, multilateral cooperation and solidarity as the only ways out of the current health crisis. The European Union and its Member States will continue working to help achieve the global vaccination target of 70% in 2022 and will support capacity building for sequencing, testing, treatments and vaccination. In this sense, the President confirmed that the EU aims at sharing at least 700 million vaccine doses by mid-2022 with low and middle-income countries. That is on top of the €3 billion in financing that the EU provided to help create the ACT-Accelerator for global vaccination through COVAX and the ongoing efforts to develop vaccine manufacturing in Africa and in South America. The full speech is available here and can be re-watched here.

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