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The 'Maritime issues and strategies' major makes a stopover at the heart of the European institutions

Listeners to channel 2 receive their second set of hearing aids outside Francee The national session of the 'Maritime Issues and Strategies' major took them to Brussels from 27 to 29 March. Between two days of reflection at the heart of the European institutions, a trip on Tuesday 28th took them to the Netherlands, a maritime Member State of the European Union (EU) par excellence, which has built its prosperity on maritime trade.

The auditors discovered the major maritime challenges facing the European Union and the policies and strategies implemented to address them. Thanks to the high-level interlocutors, the auditors became aware of how France cooperates with its European allies, particularly in the maritime field, to build a strong and prosperous Europe.

In the early hours of Monday 28 March, the Permanent Representation of France to the European Union (EUPR) welcomed listeners to an introductory talk by Air Force Brigadier General Nicolas CHAMBAZDeputy Military Representative to the EU Military Committee, and Benoît CORMIERFrance's Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC).

Le GBA Chambaz et Benoit Cormier
GBA Chambaz and Benoit Cormier

The audience then had the opportunity to debate the major challenges facing EU naval operations in the presence of the Chairman of the European Commission's Maritime Affairs Council. Vice-Wing Admiral Hervé BLÉJEANDirector General of the EU Military Staff.

Olivier de Saint-Julien et Hugues Martel présentant le PANG
Olivier de Saint-Julien and Hugues Martel presenting PANG

The mission continued with a visit to the European Parliament. Olivier LE SAECDirector, introduced listeners to this institution representing the 450 million citizens of the 27 EU Member States. This position at the heart of European citizenship requires the acquisition of a culture based on consultation and consensus that is far from innate in the parliamentarians of certain countries.

Arrivée des auditeurs au parlement européen
Auditors arrive at the European Parliament
Olivier Le Saëc en plein débat avec les auditeurs
Olivier Le Saëc in debate with listeners

The visit to the hemicycle was a highlight for the listeners, who got a real feel for the complexity of a 27-state system. There are 705 parliamentarians debating together, with simultaneous translation, each in their own mother tongue.

At the crack of dawn on Tuesday 28 March, the auditors set sail for a day below sea level to study the politics of a maritime country par excellence: the Netherlands. Welcomed to The Hague by H.E. Mr François ALABRUNEIn the presence of the French ambassador and his main advisors, the audience was able to gain an insight into the often little-known bilateral relations between France and the Netherlands.

Intervention de S.E.M. François ALABRUNE
Speech by H.E. Mr François ALABRUNE

Although in the past these relations were mainly economic, they are now rapidly strengthening in the fields of defence and security. The two countries share common interests and approaches. They also have excellent military forces capable of conducting high-intensity operations together. The two round-table discussions organised by the embassy gave rise to rich debates. The first, on the Netherlands' integrated maritime policy, was structured around two particularly rich presentations by Mr Lodewijk ABSPOEL of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, a security advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Infrastructure and Water, a security advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Infrastructure and Water and a security advisor to the Minister of Infrastructure and Water. Captain Ivo MOERMANDirector of Strategy for the Dutch Navy.

Table ronde sur la politique maritime intégrée des Pays Bas
Round table on the Netherlands' integrated maritime policy

The second round table focused on port safety, with contributions from Mr Tom SCHOENport security advisor at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, and Mrs Kimini DELFOSHe also spoke about the consequences of the war in Ukraine. The audience was thus able to discuss the major issues involved in the fight against the various forms of crime, and to better appreciate the extent to which terrorism, cybersecurity and the fight against drug trafficking in particular are at the heart of the Dutch government's concerns.

Table ronde sur la sécurité portuaire
Round table on port security

Listeners were able to discover the many points of convergence between the two countries. But above all they discovered a very strong culture of negotiation, compromise and consensus, symbolised by the traditional "polder model", which the French could learn from more often.

Devant l’ambassade de France autour de S.E.M. François ALABRUNE
In front of the French Embassy around H.E. Mr François ALABRUNE

The long day ended with a presentation on the port of Rotterdam, Europe's leading port in terms of traffic. Mr Mark DIJKDirector of External Relations at the Port of Rotterdam Authority. With a very economic approach and a perfect knowledge of the maritime world, he presented the challenges faced by the port of Rotterdam, and the development of this impressive hub which alone represents more than 8.5 % of the country's GDP. After this high point of the mission, the audience returned to Brussels for a well-deserved rest.

Présentation du port de Rotterdam, premier port européen par M. Mark DIJK, directeur des relations extérieures de l’Autorité portuaire de Rotterdam
Presentation of the Port of Rotterdam, Europe's leading port, by Mr Mark DIJK, Director of External Relations, Rotterdam Port Authority

The third day of the mission provided an opportunity to delve deeper into several strategic areas of the European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP).

An initial round table on permanent structured cooperation (PSC) brought together Engineer General of Armaments Raymond LEVETEU/NATO Armaments Adviser to the EUPR and François DUPONTthe Brussels representative of Naval Group. Without ignoring the excessive fragmentation of the defence industry in Europe and the difficulties associated with the length of the call for projects process, they underlined the significant progress made in recent years in the area of capabilities, notably with the European Defence Fund (EDF) and above all the war in Ukraine, which has given a new dynamic to the European Peace Facility (EPF), an instrument that has enabled the EU to provide military aid to this country with remarkable responsiveness.

Table ronde sur la coopération structurée permanente
Round table on permanent structured cooperation

The second round table on the EU maritime security strategy (EUMS) and its action plan, which have just been updated, was attended by Jérôme Montagu the European External Action Service (EEAS) and Christos THEOPHILOU from DG Mare. The debates highlighted the global nature of the growing risks in the maritime field (piracy, illegal fishing, etc.) and the need for the EU to have a maritime security policy that includes areas as far-flung as the Indo-Pacific. To achieve this, joint action by Member States inspired by the strategic compass has given new impetus to the PSC, but above all to the coordinated maritime presence which, having been very effective in the Gulf of Guinea, has been extended to the Mediterranean and the northern Indian Ocean. This PMC will soon benefit from the completion, by 2025 at the latest, of the CISE project (common information sharing environment), which must be the keystone.

Jérôme Montagu et Christos THEOPHILOU répondant aux questions des auditeurs
Jérôme Montagu and Christos THEOPHILOU answer listeners' questions

After lunch, the discussion focused on the EU's action in strategic maritime areas around the world, from the Gulf of Guinea to Asia, including Captain Rémy GOARDOU and Pierre FERMIGIERboth from the EEAS and responsible for Africa and the Indo-Pacific respectively. The auditors were able to see for themselves the EU's determination to position itself as a global player in the maritime field, and to discover the details of the implementation of the PMC steered by the Maritime Spaces Coordination Cell (MAIC).[1]). 

[1] Maritime areas coordination cell.

Rémy GOARDOU et Pierre FERMIGIER expliquant le positionnement maritime de l’UE dans le monde
Rémy GOARDOU and Pierre FERMIGIER explaining the EU's maritime positioning in the world

Félix LEINEMANNThe EU's new approach for a sustainable blue economy, which goes beyond the previous blue growth limited to a few sectors to address all areas of the maritime economy, was then presented by DG MARE, a great friend of the IHEDN. This new approach is based on the transformation of value chains along four pillars: decarbonisation, protection of biodiversity, responsible food supply and water distribution, and the promotion of a circular economy aimed in particular at significantly reducing the production of plastics.

Felix LEINEMANN exposant l’approche de l’UE pour une économie bleue
Felix LEINEMANN outlining the EU's approach to a blue economy

The afternoon continued with Théo BARBE and Paul AVRILLIERThe latter gave listeners an insight into how well these issues are managed by the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy. They gave listeners an insight into how well the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy is managing these issues, and in particular how the Common Fisheries Policy has enabled certain fish stocks to recover, and how the EU is implementing IMO recommendations within its own borders.

Paul AVRILLIER et Théo BARBE en plein débat
Paul AVRILLIER and Théo BARBE in debate

And finally.., Geneviève PONSThe Director General of Europe at the Institut Europe Jacques Delors closed the seminar by presenting the Starfish 2030 mission for a fair, safe and healthy ocean. She stressed the importance of greening the food chain and maritime transport, as well as the strategic importance of the Antarctic continent. She welcomed the results of the World Maritime Forum held last September in Bizerte, which are essential contributions to the 3e oceans conference to be held in Nice in 2025.

Geneviève PONS expliquant le projet Starfish 2050

These three intense days of immersion in Brussels and the Netherlands will have given the listeners a better understanding of the major European maritime issues. With the prospect of returning to their day-to-day professional activities, but not without a brief stop to buy some of the chocolates for which our Belgian friends are famous, the participants boarded the Thalys on their way back to France.