An EU agenda for ‘blue growth’
From a Maltese business perspective, further EU support targeting coastal tourism, the aquaculture industry and off-shore winding farming are bound to generate significant commercial interest for the local private sector.
Maritime policy is once again back in the EU headlines as a result of a new policy paper adopted by the European Commission in mid-September, whereby a number of new initiatives are being proposed to unleash new business opportunities through what is being termed the “Blue Growth Agenda”. There are already several ongoing EU initiatives furthering the integrated maritime policy, which was originally launched in early 2008, by former Maltese European Commissioner Joe Borg.
The “Blue Growth Agenda” is intended to deliver practical initiatives within the ambit of five distinct areas where additional effort at EU level could stimulate long-term growth and jobs in the blue economy. The shortlisted areas are blue energy, aquaculture, marine and coastal tourism, marine mineral mining and marine biotechnology. These areas constitute important economic sectors and from a Maltese business perspective, further EU support targeting coastal tourism, the aquaculture industry and off-shore winding farming are bound to generate significant commercial interest for the local private sector.
The EU’s “Blue Growth” agenda can therefore serve as a blueprint for the development of a Maltese marine strategy linking the various segments of the so-called blue economy while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the marine and coastal resources which have, over the past decades, successfully underpinned a thriving tourism industry. Several European countries are investing in the “blue economy”, often addressing structural bottlenecks such as lack of access to finance and a shortage of suitably skilled workers.
Developing maritime clusters is the preferred way to counter these challenges. Clusters are groupings of larger industries, smaller suppliers and educational establishments that reinforce each other through their close operational proximity.
A Maltese maritime strategy could easily build on the success of several other business models.
The European Commission’s identification of the five value chains could deliver sustainable growth and jobs in the blue economy, if a similar integrated policy approach is rolled-out across the member states.
Undoubtedly, the Maltese private sector could play a leading role in unleashing the potential of the blue economy locally, as long as the right mix of predictable and sound policymaking is complemented by the right fiscal and programming incentives, particularly in the less “familiar” sectors of off-shore energy, biotechnology and marine resource management.