Ukraine war, pandemic won’t derail EU vow to protect oceans

RAVENNA, ITALY—The war between Russia and Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic still dominate the concerns in Europe as member states are still reeling from the impact of these twin economic storms.

But the European Union (EU) said they are still focused on protecting the oceans and seas with the commitment for a “blue economy” —the term the EU is using to ensure developments and resources in the oceans, seas and coasts will be sustainable for the next generations to come.

“The ocean and the sustainable blue economy are part and parcel of our DNA. It is who we are and if we fail to protect our ocean, we fail in protecting our identity. If we are indifferent, we become guilty of inaction,” Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said during the opening of EU Maritime Day Thursday.

The EU, which resumed the annual EU Maritime Day here in the port city of Ravenna and Sinkevičius, said this is one of the first face-to-face major meetings held by the European Commission (EC) since the pandemic halted in-person meetings in 2020.

“It showed that our work is extremely important and what is made it more important is the fact that we are doing it together,” he added. “The post-pandemic recovery has not been easy. But I think we are determined to make the blue economy part of our green recovery because we cannot have green without blue. ”

In a 2021 report by the EC Directorate-General Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the sectors in the European maritime industry mostly affected by the Covid-19 economic crisis were coastal tourism, marine living and non-living resources, port activities, shipbuilding and repair, and maritime transport.

The EU commissioner said the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine made European countries realized how independent they are from Russia for energy sources.

“Russia’s war against Ukraine has only strengthened our determination to speed up this energy transition to make our energy supplies strategically independent. And with offshore energy and blue economy playing a crucial role,” Sinkevičius said.

“By developing the offshore renewable energy sources, not only they will use clean, cheap, reliable, but more importantly ours,” he stressed.

“There were some concerns that what is happening in Ukraine will divert us from our mission. Quite contrary. Our mission is more urgent,” he added.

As soon as the Ukraine war started, the EU has activated a number of measures to help fisheries and aquaculture industries cope with economic losses and raising operational costs.

“Let me reassure you that these [are] challenges—they are not setbacks. We are still 100 percent committed to the European green deal and the sustainable blue economy. If anything, it made us realize now more than ever that we don’t have time to waste and we must go faster ahead , ”He stressed.

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