The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) calls for more joint actions on EU Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan which aim at preserving EU sovereignty, security and competitiveness. The Committee supports the EU-NATO cooperation on maritime security and signals the importance of firm engagement with international partners to collectively tackle people smuggling and human trafficking.

At its September plenary session the EESC adopted an opinion on the Commission’s joint communication on the EU Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan, highlighting the importance of multilateralism as a key policy for the EU’s external action in the area of maritime security.

The EESC believes that EU-NATO cooperation should be further enhanced to deliver more effective coordination in different areas of common interest, including critical infrastructure. The expansion of China’s activities to ports in several European countries, as some of them are already under Chinese ownership, is an example of such coordination.

Anastasis Yiapanis, EESC member and rapporteur for the opinion, said: “The Maritime Security Strategy is in line with the EU Strategic Compass. The maritime sector should be prioritised and understood broadly, especially in the context of the increasing hybrid threats.”

Moreover, the EESC calls on the EU to step up engagement with international partners to tackle issues of mutual concern, such as people smuggling and human trafficking. Proactive measures are needed to manage such risks as close to their source as is feasible.

The opinion also highlights the need to protect seafarers during operations to search for and rescue illegal migrants at sea, and underlines the need for professional training programmes to build crews’ capacity to combat cyber threats and address security incidents such as piracy, armed robbery, smuggling, arms and narcotics.

Mateusz Szymański, EESC member and co-rapporteur for the opinion, said: “Our goal is to make sure that maritime safety and security are addressed. The security of the crews should be a priority for the EU”.

Regrettably, the proposal for an EU maritime strategy makes no mention of the role of civil society. The EESC stresses that continuous collaboration and constructive discussions are needed with EU civil society, in order to ensure public support for the Commission’s proposal and future action.

The Committee also notes that the joint communication fails to provide a governance framework for establishing a coordinating role for the various maritime security and safety initiatives. It therefore proposes that a centralised surveillance hub be set up at EU level that can meet the requirements of both civil and military players.

Source: EESC