Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you today.
The Varna Forum's motto is 'Thinking Together'.
To that, I would like to add the European Union's philosophy of 'working together'.
In the European Union, we believe that challenges are best overcome by working with, not against each other. This spirit is encoded in the very DNA of our common European project.
And one area where we need to work together more is the ocean-based, 'blue' economy.
Our seas and oceans can provide people good jobs and stable incomes. Blue growth can put food on the table and money in the bank.
In traditional sectors like shipbuilding, aquaculture or coastal tourism. And in exciting new sectors like marine biotech.
But only if we work together:
- To boost investment and remove bottlenecks to growth.
- To plan the use of our maritime space.
- And – crucially – to keep our seas and oceans healthy.
That is why the European Union is encouraging cooperation at all levels: from town halls to ministries to regional organisations.
And we have the Black Sea region firmly in our sights.
We have provided 1.5 million euros to help our two Black Sea Member States – Bulgaria and Romania – join forces on maritime spatial planning.
We are also funding, með 1 million euros, work by the Bulgarian Institute of Oceanology and its Romanian partners. Together they are carrying out a joint stress test of marine observation systems.
But in the Black Sea region especially, working together also means reaching out to our neighbours.
Take fisheries. For years now, fish stocks in the region are in an alarming state of decline.
But stocks in the Black Sea are shared between countries. So the only effective action is collective action.
The GFCM Bucharest Declaration, signed by all Black Sea countries in October, shows that progress is possible wherever there is real political will.
And looking ahead, the European Union wants to work with our neighbours to develop a shared vision of the region's maritime future. We will be supporting this work with 1 million euros from our soon-to-be-launched Facility for Blue Economy Development.
I am convinced that a shared, regional blue economy strategy will send a strong message to investors. It will show them that the Black Sea region is open for business.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our success – in fisheries and other sectors of the blue economy – will depend above all on you.
Your ideas, your commitment, your action.
So please, use today to share your thoughts. How do we make sustainable blue growth in the Black Sea region happen? What else can the European Union do to support you?
I am very much looking forward to the outcome of the Varna Forum.
I would also like to encourage you to continue the conversation in September, at the next Black Sea stakeholder meeting the European Commission is organising in Batumi, Georgia. You are all kindly invited.