European Union External Action

Remarks by EU HR/VP Mogherini at press conference during Our Ocean 2017 conference

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Thank you.
 
As you know well, this Our Ocean conference is the fourth of its kind, but it is the first time that we, as the European Union, proudly host, as we mentioned in the backdrop. And this is because our commitment to our oceans has been there from the very start - for sure from the very start of our mandate.
 
We have here today 90 delegations, 5 Heads of State and Government, 17 Foreign Ministers, 25 other ministers, 8 heads of international organisations and, as you have seen, many representatives from the business community, the civil society organisations and citizens of this world that care about our oceans. Because, we know very well that this is a global common and we all feel and have a better responsibility to preserve what is common, because we know that it is the biggest treasure we have. But if we do not take care of it, it can turn into a threat.
 
The oceans today are probably one of the greatest resources we have, millions of jobs and livelihoods that depend on our oceans. But we also know very well that they are fragile and we heard clear words in the opening remarks and the session about the risks that we are running as human beings and as a planet.
 
I said myself a number that was striking to me when I was reading my files to prepare this conference: by 2050 the oceans could contain more plastics than fish. And 2050 is around the corner. It is not that far away. And, already now, already today, we see the different aspects of the risks we run, if we do not take care of our oceans. You see the effects of climate change, you see the hurricanes, you see the sea level forcing already millions of people to leave their homes and migrate.
 
So, the thing we need to realise all together - and the European Union definitely does so and builds partnership on it - is that this is a man-made problem that needs man-made solutions, as climate change is man-made and needs man-made commitments. This is also for us an opportunity to highlight the fact that the European Union, all its Member States, the European Commission, all its institutions are, and will stay committed to be the global point of reference for the international community - when it comes to the protection of our oceans, when it comes to climate change action, when it comes to sustainable development goals, when it comes to the global agenda we need to develop.
 
The 36 commitments of the European Union as it was just mentioned can be found in detail. I would just like to highlight two of them that relate to maritime security, because I know that you will have plenty of documents and information to digest, so I facilitate a bit the job. I would just mention two, that I believe from a maritime security point of view are quite interesting and innovative. One is a €4 million euro project on satellite monitoring programme Copernicus in 2017 to support EU agencies and Member States in monitoring oil pollution and large scale commercial fisheries in the North-West Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the North Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and around the Canaries Islands. This to say how big projects, that sometimes are not immediately related one to another, our work on the space and our work on the oceans, actually serve a common purpose, when we connect the dots and we are doing that more and more.
 
The other one I would like to mention is related to ensure maritime security and countering piracy along the South-Eastern African coastline in the Indian Ocean: €37.5 million euros supporting alternative livelihood initiatives on the coastal pirate areas of Somalia. This to say something we do for our oceans, something we do for maritime security, also helps our African partners. And again, here, it is about connecting the dots and seeing what the European Union is mobilising in terms of collective efforts.
 
I stop here, saying that - as I said already but I repeat it: we, as the European Union, committed €560 million euros. I am sure that at a press conference that would be held tomorrow we will announce the final figures of the total commitments of this conference. But I personally expect that we will be able to go well beyond - and I stress and underline well beyond - the target of one billion euros.
 
Thank you. 
 
Q. The discussion at the Our Ocean conference on blue economy has been very global. How does this relate and how does it impact the fishermen who live in the communities in Africa, for instances in Senegal, in Liberia, in Guinea Bissau? How does this impact their lives?
And maybe I can add one word? On specifically the region - as I mentioned also during my opening speech -, among the 36 commitments of the European Union, there is also one related to the Gulf of Guinea and West Arica, in particular. We are committing almost €40 million, new resources on the top of what is there already to support maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including through the Gulf of Guinea into regional network. And the launch of these two programmes looking at improving port security in Western, Central Africa - this is obviously linked to the daily life of those who are living off fishing because the more the waters are secure, the more is safe and possible for the fishermen to go out, said in very simple words. Also the work we are doing on security is something that benefits positively on the livelihood of the fishermen communities in particular because the security of the seas is the precondition for the fishing activities that are healthy and profitable.
 
Q. About the Chilean policy which is in the course of the time: the Chilean government is working on a new policy that is trying to avoid the use of plastics in all the coast of the country. Do you think that these measures and policies can help to change the mind of people and the impacts on the sea as well?
I just met bilaterally, again, my good friend, the foreign minister of Chile [Heraldo Muñoz Valenzuela]. Just a couple of weeks ago we were together in New York and I had the chance of meeting again my good friend President [of Chile] Michelle Bachelet. We discussed these policies but also the overall the Chilean approach to oceans which I have to say is an example for all and it is remarkable. We discussed also this measure. It is not for the European Union to say if a national legislation is good or bad. I understand this is the first time in the Americas that a measure like this is introduced. I personally believe that this can show the way to responsible attitude of all our citizens towards our environment and our oceans and it links the personal responsibilities to the collective commitments.
 
Here, we have a big conference, pledging money, committing to actions from the private and the public sphere. But I think it is also an important message to pass to our citizens, be it in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia, in Pacific, everywhere in the world, that every single gesture that we do in everyday life, from a plastic bag to our cars, has an impact equal to the big national policies or the big national conventions. At the end of the day, our oceans suffer or prosper also for individual commitments and behaviour. So I believe that Chile is showing the way, especially with the last measures adopted, and I think we have to be grateful for their commitments, their engagement, their responsibility and also for travelling so far to be present at this corner of the world and sharing with us all the good practices that Chile is putting in place in this field.
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