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WestMED Steering Committee meeting in Brussels with representatives sitting at a round table on June 26 2024

Members and observers of the WestMED Steering Committee gather in Brussels to discuss latest developments

The primary objective of this WestMED Steering Committee meeting that took place on June 26 in Brussels, was to assemble the representatives of the 10 WestMED countries and observers in-person to provide them with an overview of the latest advancements on the implementation of the WestMED Initiative, the latest funding opportunities, and to approve the establishment of the new Technical Group on Sustainable Tourism.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Portuguese and Mauritanian Co-Presidencies, with the support from DG MARE and the UfM (Union for the Mediterranean).

Significant visibility of the Initiative
In recent months, the WestMED Initiative has achieved significant visibility and dissemination, as highlighted by Iglika Yakova (DG MARE). The WestMED Initiative has actively participated in various events, including the UfM Stakeholders Conference (19-20 February), the WestMED side event at the Our Ocean Conference (15-17 April), Deportibus (11 May) the European Maritime Day (30-31 May), Posidonia (7 June), the Macro-Region and Sea Basins Strategies Days (12-13 June).

National events, such as the national Dialogue in Morocco, the involvement of Libyan representatives in various Technical Groups (TGs), and the consolidation of the Mauritanian maritime cluster, further underscore the Initiative’s visiblity and success.

Another significant step to establish synergies was the participation of WestMED as Observers in the MedLab Annual event organized by Interact, held back-to-back with the WestMED Steering Committee meeting. The MedLab Annual event focused on the Post-2027 debate and regional cooperation.

Establishment of a new WestMED Technical Group on Tourism
Tourism in the Mediterranean region is expanding, making the industry a crucial employment sector. The WestMED Initiative aims to enhance the coastal tourism sector’s competitiveness and sustainability while protecting the environment through eco-tourism, digitalization, and cross-border cooperation.

The establishment of a new Technical Group (TG) by the WestMED Assistance Mechanism addresses a priority identified by the WestMED Initiative and will serve as an informal forum for discussing sustainable tourism needs, focusing on green transition, digitalization, governance, and skills. The TG will comprise a core group, an advisory body, and a technical group. The Steering Committee is currently in the process of approving the Terms of Reference for this new Technical Group

Overview of Funding opportunities
Several funding opportunities were highlighted:

  • EU Mission Ocean, Seas, and Waters: The Work Programme 2024 includes two call topics. Call 1 covers thematic topics aligned with Mission objectives such as restoration and a sustainable blue economy, while Call 2 targets support for actor communities like waterfront cities and islands. The overview also includes several Horizon calls within these Mission calls, focusing on topics like Blue Parks and MPAs, reducing fisheries’ impact in EU sea basins, and community-led ocean and water restoration. Additionally, it highlights opportunities for third parties to join ongoing projects, particularly Calls for Associated Regions, aiming to enhance capacity for implementing innovative solutions in neighboring regions.
  • Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership: Four priority areas have been identified for the transnational call launched in February 2024: regional sea-use management, multi-use marine infrastructures, blue bioresources, and regional-scale Digital Twins of the Ocean (DTOs). To enhance global visibility and foster new collaborations, the call is co-branded by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, coordinated by UNESCO. All Mediterranean countries are eligible for EU contributions, whether they are EU Member States, Associated countries, or low-to-medium-income countries.
  • Interreg NEXTMED: The first call for proposals, closed in May 2024, was divided into nine Specific Objectives. Among 631 proposals, most projects targeted “Growth and competitiveness of SMEs,” “Education and training,” and “Climate Change adaptation.” Projects were categorized into three clusters: Thematic, Youth-oriented, and Governance, with 90% falling under the Thematic cluster. Most participating organizations were from Italy, Greece, and Spain within the EU, and from Turkey and Tunisia outside the EU. Participants included public legal bodies (30%), NGOs (27%), private companies (13%), and regional/local public administrations (10%). A second call for proposals, focusing on Green Transition, is set to launch in November 2024.
  • Interreg EURO-MED: The 1st and 3rd calls focused on Governance projects, selecting 8 projects that began in January 2023. The 2nd call targeted Thematic projects, resulting in 56 projects that started in January 2024. The 4th call, which closed in June 2024, will see 20 Thematic projects begin in spring 2025, addressing the four main thematic areas: sustainable economy, environmental protection, green living, and sustainable tourism. The upcoming 5th call will focus on Thematic Strategic Territorial projects for rural, mountain areas, and islands, emphasizing innovative solutions for waste reduction and water scarcity. The presentation concludes with an overview of the 1st call’s Governance projects in the field of the Sustainable Blue Economy.


Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Regional Platform meeting on Blue Economy

Back-to-back to the WestMED Steering committee this UfM Regional Platform Meeting on Blue Economy took place on June 27, with many of the key players from the day before.

The UfM Secretariat introduced the most recent advancements on the update of the Blue Economy Roadmap and the activation of the SBE (Sustainable Blue Economy) Monitoring, Reporting, and Evaluation Mechanism; highlighted progress on the multi-partner and multi-donor investment fund ‘Blue Mediterranean Partnership’; and recalled the series of two webinars held during the first semester of 2024 on blue food and sustainable tourism, as well as the  third webinar (July 1 2024) on MRE (Marine Renewable Energy)/licensing/MSP (Maritime Spatial Planning).

The UfM shared an update on the harmonization exercise of UfM Regional Platforms. The UfM operates under a consolidated action-driven methodology creating links between political mandate, multi-stakeholder dialogue, and tangible projects and initiatives. This methodology comprises three pillars: Policies, Platforms, and Projects – the so-called ‘3 Ps’. As part of the ongoing UfM reform efforts to enhance efficiency and in an effort to harmonize the relevant terminology, the ‘UfM Working Group on Blue Economy’ is henceforth renamed as the ‘UfM Regional Platform on Sustainable Blue Economy’.

UfM Blue Economy platform meeting in Brussels-June 27 with a group of people discussiong at a round table

Visit the UfM website for more information on the UfM Regional Platform on Blue Economy

Next meeting
The 16th meeting of the UfM Regional Platform on Sustainable Blue Economy will take place in Algarve, Portugal, in October 2024, back-to-back with the next WestMED Steering Committee and the 3rd WestMED Hackathon.

 

 

screenshot efishmed website

e-FishMed engaged in the Blue Economy and the fight against IUU fishing

The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) supports and implements the project Mediterranean virtual regional training academy on fisheries control and inspection (e-FishMed), initiated by the European Commission and financed by the European Union under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

This project was launched in 2022 and is a follow-up to the “FIUUFRA” project which was supported by the WestMED Assistance Mechanism

Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia are beneficiary countries of the project, and the initiative is supported by France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

The virtual academy is pivotal to harmonise fisheries control and inspection activities and foster cooperation and exchange of best practices between northern and southern Mediterranean countries.

Since February 2022, EFCA and the participating countries worked hard together to make the project successful.

Common Curriculum
As a first tangible result, a common training curriculum for fisheries inspectors and Fisheries Monitoring Centres (FMCs) operators was defined by EFCA and agreed by participants countries. The goal is to improve monitoring, control, and surveillance activities in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic through a better common understanding of the rules to be applied to fisheries control and inspection activities.

E-learning platform
In parallel, to achieve the second result, EFCA designed an e-learning platform, targeted to officials involved in fisheries control and inspection from e-FishMed beneficiary countries. The platform hosts e-learning modules and other training materials such as video tutorials, manuals, and international, regional, and national legislation. Through this tool, fisheries inspectors and FMC operators can train themselves anytime from anywhere! Currently, 159 officials from beneficiary countries are already using the platform and the ambition is to continue to grow.

In-person training
Starting from September 2023, the project complemented the online learning experience with presential training sessions. A regional “train-the-trainers” course was organised by EFCA, with the support of Malta and France. The course aimed to reinforce capacities, skills and competences of fishery inspectors involved in training activities for their peers.

Two national training sessions on risk management methodology were also organised: one in Morocco jointly with the Moroccan Maritime Fisheries Department and another one in Tunisia together with the General Directorate of Fishery and Aquaculture. This latter counted with France support.

In July 2024 another regional training for FMC operators took place in EFCA premises in Vigo. During this training, participants had the opportunity to share experiences and best practices and to visit the EFCA Coordination Centre.

Exchange programme for fisheries officials
As a third result, the project achieved to set up an exchange programme for fisheries officials, sharing of expertise, and networking between northern and southern Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic countries. A first edition of the exchange programme, counting with Spain support, took place in Madrid and Malaga in April 2024 and the second edition, supported by France, will take place in Etel and Lorient in September 2024.

Regardless of the outcomes required and achieved by the project, the added value of the e-FishMed project lies in its capacity to further promote stronger cooperation on fisheries control in the Mediterranean Sea basin, creating networks, reinforcing trust, and being a forum for the exchange of experiences and best practices.

The added value of e-FishMed was also recently recognised in the WestMed Ministerial Declaration dated 23 June 2023 that welcomed the share of expertise and best practices within the e-FishMed project.

Furthermore, until its end, foreseen in January 2025, the project will continue to deliver and achieve results contributing to a sustainable blue economy and the fight against IUU fishing.

For more information you can contact efishmed@efca.europa.eu

 

efishmed-group picture - train the trainers in Malta

e-FishMed regional train-the-trainer workshop in Malta | 26-28 September 2023

e-FishMed regional train-the-trainer workshop in Malta | 26-28 September 2023

Efishmed National training morocco

e-FishMed national training in Morocco | 12-14 December 2023

Efishmed exchange programme Spain

e-FishMed exchange programme in Spain | 15-19 April 2024

Efishmed National training morocco

e-FishMed national training in Tunisia | 7-9 May 2024

screenshot from the explainer video on EU sea basin strategies with a geograhical map showing the logos of all three initiatives

Explainer video Sea Basins Strategies and the Assistance Mechanism

This video showcases how the European Commission is propelling the blue economy forward through targeted Sea Basin Strategies in the Atlantic, Black Sea, and Western Mediterranean.

Witness how these strategies foster innovation, competitiveness, and inclusivity within the sector, supported by essential enablers like blue skills and sustainable investments.

people sitting at tables listeing to a speaker during the WestMED national blue economy dialogue event on june 5 2024 in Morocco

National stakeholder dialogue in Morocco paves the way towards a national sustainable blue economy strategy

In the framework of the WestMED Initiative, the Moroccan focal point and the national hub organized the first High-level national dialogue on “The challenges of integrated governance and the roadmap for implementing blue economy in Morocco” in Rabat, June 5, 2024.

Chaired by the Department of Maritime Fisheries, focal point for the WestMED Initiative, the event drew over 50 participants from the main national institutions with a focus on the maritime sector or an interest in blue economy.

Mr. Matteo Bocci (representative of the WestMed Initiative’s Assistance Mechanism) and Mr. Leonardo Manzari (WestMED National Hub Italy) were also present and provided valuable insights into WestMED Initiative and the Blue Mediterranean Partnership in general, and in particular concerning maritime clusters, green-shipping and the newly created technical group for sustainable tourism that will be launched at the Sun&Blue Congress in November 2024 (in Almería, Spain)

In its opening address, the Department of Maritime Fisheries underlined Morocco’s commitment to the sustainable development of its maritime resources as well as its wish to play a leading role in preserving and enhancing marine ecosystems, and thanked WestMED for making the event possible and allowing the discussion of key issues for the future of blue economy in Morocco, ranging from integrated institutional governance, the Energy-Saltwater-Green Hydrogen-Biodiversity Nexus, the climate resilience of the national coastline and the fight against marine pollution, to approaches for a national blue tourism strategy.

One of the speakers was Paul Henri-Presset, Head of the Trade Section of the European Union Delegation in Rabat, who provided an overview of EU relevant policy in the support of a sustainable blue economy across EU seabasins

The results of the day’s discussions will be used contribute to strategic guidelines allowing the development of a coherent and ambitious national strategy.

The opening words also outlined the Moroccan potential for the blue economy and the importance of collaboration was stressed to maximize the impacts in favor of a prosperous and sustainable blue economy.

Four sessions were organized with a focus on integrated institutional governance:

  • Energy, Seawater Desalination
  • Green Hydrogen and Biodiversity Nexus
  • the need for climate resilience of the national coastline and the fight against marine pollution
  • approaches for a national blue tourism strategy in Morocco

Each session was followed by very constructive discussions

Conclusions and Recommendations:

  • Blue economy governance in Morocco should be supported by a robust national mechanism responsible for co-designing and monitoring the implementation of the national blue economy strategy. This mechanism should be supported at territorial level by the deployment of regional coastal maritime clusters. The deployment of two pilot maritime clusters in the regions of Tanger-Tétouan-Al Hoceima and Souss-Massa should contribute to this objective.
  • The alliance of Mediterranean clusters is an opportunity for Morocco’s coastal regions to share their experiences and create networking and knowledge-sharing connections between peers.
  • It is proposed to organize a second high-level event dedicated to regional maritime clusters with the Association of Moroccan Regions which could be scheduled for October 2024.
  • Participants stressed the need to build capacities of institutional and private stakeholders in the various areas of blue economy. They also wished for their enhanced representation in the thematic WGs of the WestMED initiative, in particular concerning Green shipping, maritime spatial planning, and sustainable tourism.
  • The Ministry of the Economy and Finance stressed the need to map existing blue financing and its eligibility criteria, to be shared with public and private institutions and local authorities in Morocco.
  • Finally, in terms of research and innovation, the participants proposed the creation of a national cross-cutting cluster on the issues and challenges of scientific knowledge of maritime and marine capital and new green technologies linked to blue economy.

Contact the National Hub Morocco for more information: morocco@westmed-initiative.ec.europa.eu

 

people shaking hands Hassan Agouzoul blue economy westmed national event in Rabat June 2024

Speaker presenting during blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

Speaker presenting during blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

Speaker presenting during blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

Speaker presenting during blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

Speaker presenting during blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

Speaker presenting during blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

Speaker presenting during blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

 

Group photo of speakers and organisers of the blue economy westmed national event in Morocco June 2024

Poster announcing EU sea basins strategies presence at EMD 2024

EU Sea Basins Strategies featured at the European Maritime Day 2024

Set against the picturesque backdrop of Svendborg, Denmark, this annual event, hosted at the International Maritime Academy (SIMAC), promises to be enlighting for the maritime world.

On May 30-31, EMD 2024 will attract Ocean Leaders from across Europe to converge, deliberate, and establish collaborations focused on addressing pressing challenges and promising opportunities within the blue economy and marine ecosystem.

Kickstarting the festivities on May 30, the High-Level event on the main stage will feature prominent policymakers, including Charlina Vitcheva, Director General at DG MARE, along with representatives from Denmark, France, Portugal, and Moldova. This session, scheduled from 10:30 to 11:45, will spotlight the remarkable success of the EU Sea Basin Strategies as pivotal drivers of the Blue Economy, offering valuable insights into fostering sustainable maritime growth.

Later that day, from 15:00 to 16:15, a workshop led by the Sea Basins Assistance Mechanism (that includes the WestMED, Atlantic and Black Sea) will disclose synergies amongst EU “blue” initiatives. Expert speakers from EU4OCEAN, Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership, and the Energy Transition Partnership for EU fisheries and aquaculture will shed light on collaborative pathways for sustainable marine development.

EMD 2024 serves as an interactive in-person conference and exhibition. A place where businesses, governments, NGOs, academia, and EU citizens connect and discover. Through engaging discussions, workshops, and pitch sessions, stakeholders actively help shape the maritime agenda, tackle current challenges, and chart a course for future opportunities.

 

EU Sea Basin Synergies Workshop info and registration  (Registration for the conference required)

EMD2024 info and registration

Leonardo Manzari and Irene Alonso at UfM Stakeholder Conference 2024

WestMED goes full Mediterranean at the UfM stakeholder conference 2024

The WestMED Initiative actively participated in the 2nd UfM Blue Economy Stakeholder Conference, which took place in Athens on February 19 and 20, 2024.

Background
The WestMED Initiative follows up on the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Declaration on the Blue Economy endorsed by the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) which took place on the 17 November 2015, inviting the participating countries to explore the added value and feasibility of appropriate maritime strategies at sub-regional level, and build on the experience of the 5+5 Dialogue.

In October 2016, Foreign Affairs Ministers from Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia encouraged further work on an initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy, alongside the UfM Secretariat.

In the UfM Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Blue Economy (2021), Ministers “welcome the successful completion of the launch of the ‘Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean’ (WestMED)”, and “recognise both the WestMED initiative as successful examples of cooperation, focused on clear goals, priorities and measurable targets and as a catalyst for the development of sustainable blue economy projects in the region”.

The endorsing countries pursue the same priorities under the UfM Working Group and the WestMED Steering Committee: fostering the promotion of the blue economy, achieving a safer maritime space and improving the maritime governance.

Conference involvement
On the occasion of the 2nd UfM Blue Economy Stakeholder Conference, the WestMED Initiative assisted the UfM both in terms of organization and participation.

At  institutional level, the new WestMED Portuguese Co-Presidency represented by Ms. Marisa Lameiras da Silva, Director General for Maritime Policy in Portugal participated as one of the key speakers in the session of marine renewable energy, providing the success case of Portugal developing offshore energy and its potential replicability in the Mediterranean.

From the Commission side, Ms. Delilah Al Khudhairy, Director for Maritime Policy and Blue Economy, Mr. Christos Economou, Head of Unit for Maritime Regional Cooperation and Mr. Manuel Pleguezuelo, policy officer and WestMED coordinator from DG MARE, participated in numerous sessions showing a strong commitment to the sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean. The same for Ms. Anja Detant (CINEA), as project manager of the WestMED Assistance Mechanism contract, who highlighted the WestMED Initiative and the award winning projects during the ‘Spotlights on Projects’ session.

At operational level, the WestMED Assistance Mechanism participated in different workshops as experts, moderators and rapporteurs, providing technical expertise. They also supported the UfM Secretariat behind-the-scenes in the development of the Conference.

The conference served as a crucial milestone to assess progress, discuss challenges, and engage the entire Mediterranean Sustainable Blue Economy Community in shaping further deliberations at political and practical level.

A concrete example of succesful cooperation beyond the western Mediterranean was the MoU signed during the conference among the Tunisian and Greek Maritime Clusters  (with groundwork through the WestMED Cluster Alliance) to further boost the blue economy between the western and eastern Mediterranean.

 

Anja Detant at UfM conference 2024

Samir Bachouche-and Manuel Pleguezuelo at UfM Conference 2024

Manuel Pleguezuelo at UfM Conference 2024

Thanos Smanis, Isabelle Perret, Christos Economou at the UfM Stakeholder Conference 2024

UfM stakeholder Conference - speakers with thumbs up

Photos: copyright UfM secretariat

European Blue Announcement with  2 cover pages of eu blue forum position papares 2024

The European Blue Forum Stakeholder Position Papers are out!

The European Blue Forum consisting of stakeholders from all 5  EU sea basins has published its first 2 Position papers related to key issues concerning the European Seas

Paper 1: What do we need from European Seas by 2030, and are we asking too much?
Paper 2: What does a fossil fuel free sustainable blue economy look like? How can we as a community support this transition?

These 2 papers, crafted collaboratively by European Blue Forum members through insightful discussions over the past 10 months are now accessible.

The documents are set to serve as a significant statement on maritime and coastal stakeholders’ common issues, challenges and future expectations for our European Seas. They gather the needs of the European Blue Forum members and provides the main axes of action for the years to come.

The papers will be presented during a public meeting of the inter-parliamentary group SEARICA in Brussels on 7th March 2024.

Download the papers

report cover

Report: A sustainable blue economy for the Mediterranean: challenges, opportunities and policy pathways

A new policy report, commissioned by the European Commission (DG Near) to the EuroMeSCo network, and developed by eco-union under the supervision of the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed), aims to assess the status and potential of the sustainable Blue Economy in the Mediterranean region, including an analysis of socioeconomic benefits and impacts in relevant Blue Economy activities.

This report not only encapsulates the current state of the Blue Economy in the Mediterranean but also serves as a guide for policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders, pointing towards a future where sustainable practices drive economic growth while safeguarding the invaluable marine ecosystems of the region.

Download the report

Source: Eco-Union website

 

announcement poster for the WestMED 2023 factsheet

WestMED 2023 factsheet is out now!

The WestMED 2023 factsheet is out listing its major achievements.

Goals, priorities, governance, stories, number of projects supported and much more in one quick overview

Download your copy from the publications page

Positano,italy.coastline

MED MSP Community of Practice: experts from across the Mediterranean unite to share experiences and align perspectives

On 26 On January 2023, CINEA together with DG MARE, launched the ‘Community of Practice on Maritime Spatial Planning for the Mediterranean’, with the support of the WestMED Initiative, the MSP Assistance Mechanism and Union for Mediterranean.

This is a voluntary, enthusiastic group of experts from EU and non-EU countries working on MSP in the Mediterranean.

It was established based on a growing need from the MSP Community for a continuous and structured dialogue at sea basin and sub-sea basin level.

The main objective of this MED-MSP-CoP is to establish a permanent exchange between MSP practitioners across borders (i.e. planners, technical experts, researchers), to share knowledge and relevant experiences in the region, reach a shared perspective on MSP topics of common interest and enhance the cooperation between the north and the south shore of the Mediterranean.

In its first year, 3 workshops and 4 thematic webinars have been organised – mostly online. Participants indicated the added value of this platform and plans are underway to continue with these meetings in the years ahead.

If you want learn more and/ or join this Community of Practice, all information can be be found on the MED-MSP-COP webpage