Europe agrees maritime security strategy

The main objective of the strategy document approved by EU governments on 24 June is to have a framework to deal efficiently with the maritime security challenges facing the 28 Member States.

This security strategy should be seen in the context that 90% of the EU’s external trade and 40% of its internal trade is transported by sea.

In December 2013, during the Summit on Security and Defence Policy, the need for a maritime security strategy was made clear in order to prevent conflicts, protect critical infrastructure, effectively control external borders, protect the global trade support chain and prevent illegal fishing.

Subsequently, in March 2014, a joint communication was presented by the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The aim of the text adopted is, therefore, to ensure the EU’s maritime security interests in the face of risks and threats such as cross-border and organised crime, threats to freedom of navigation, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and environmental risks.

The strategy aims to cover both internal and external aspects of the EU’s maritime security in a cross-sectorial and comprehensive approach. Moreover, it will be applicable in EU waters and to all vessels that sail under the flag of any member state.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, indicated that growth in the maritime economy goes “hand in hand” with security because “no businessman will invest in a maritime activity if off-shore installations are not safe or trade routes are not secure.”

For all the foregoing reasons, the document makes the case for the need to reinforce cooperation between civil and military authorities, at the same time as it takes into account the interests of all sectors in the maritime arena: border control and environmental agencies, customs, fisheries inspection and maritime administrations, among others.

In line with the fundamental principles and values of the EU, including respect for international law, and in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the strategy is focused on five areas:

– increased external action for more efficient use of all the tools available to the EU, including political dialogue and development aid to create capacity

– Information sharing framework

– Maritime capability development and capacity building

– Risk management, protection of critical maritime infrastructure and crisis response

– Maritime security research and innovation

The member states have committed to drawing up an action plan to implement the strategy by the end of 2014, with the 28 states needing to identify ‘strategic zones’ where the ‘global’ strategy will be implemented, for example the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Guinea and other zones considered to be of ‘strategic interest’ for the EU.

Spain’s National Security Council, aware of the economic and social consequences of maritime security for the country, approved a National Maritime Security Strategy on 5 October 2013.