Distinguished Ceasing-Chairman of the European Coast Guard Functions Forum, Dear Richard Parkes
Distinguished high representatives from Member States,
Distinguished representatives from the European Commission and European Agencies,
Dear colleagues from coast guard functions agencies and bodies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
All entities represented in this room have a decisive influence and responsibility on the setting of a vision for the genetic, structural and operational strategies concerning the near future of coast guard functions in Europe.
This gathering represents - by itself - an enormous achievement, as there are few opportunities to join so many decision makers and experts, which embrace such a large spectrum and different levels of action on maritime safety and security.
For this reason, for the results that were achieved by the ECGFF last year, and for the outstanding efforts to mount this apparatus, I ask you a sound applause to the elements of the British chairmanship and for those that made it possible.
Europe faces nowadays very serious challenges in the maritime domain, being the Mediterranean migratory crisis one of the most significant [as we had the chance to see in the compelling presentations by our Greek and Italian colleagues]. Nationalist feelings are growing in consequence, which threaten the cohesion of the European countries. Cooperation, collaboration and coordination amongst the national and European agencies not only foster efficiency, but will also avoid the opening of breaches.
The very recent changes in the regulations of the three European Agencies concerned with maritime issues are a move in this direction, targeting - undoubtedly - the strengthening of a comprehensive approach, which encompasses:
- informational resources – required for the consolidation of necessary shared situational understanding, namely in terms of the operational challenges and emerging risks in the maritime domain;
- technological resources – required to compile information, to support the decision-making process and to coordinate operations;
- capacity building – required to reach a higher level of maturity; based, for instance, on the adoption of common procedures, shared training and exchange of personnel;
- capacity sharing (in multipurpose multiagency operations) – aimed at ensuring an effective and swift response that the Member State populations expect from their Institutions in a variety of very complex and demanding domains such as maritime safety, security, search and rescue, border control, fisheries control, customs control, general law enforcement and environmental protection.
In fact, these legal changes cannot be seen as an end but rather as a way; a way to ensure better crises response, and to build a safer and more secure European environment without further humanitarian disasters.
Completely conscious of the current context and great challenges we are facing, I am very proud to announce the acceptance of Portugal to chair the European Coast Guard Functions Forum for a year. The three Portuguese agencies represented in the forum – National Maritime Authority, National Republican Guard and Portuguese Navy - will join efforts to keep the ECGFF as an important contributor to the promotion of a stronger cooperation, collaboration and coordination amongst the entities of the European Union and Schengen associated countries with coast guard functions, and also with the 3 European agencies (EFCA, EMSA and FRONTEX).
These goals demand our strong commitment to maintain the momentum of the works under development, and to promote the launching of new initiatives that bring added value to the well-established objectives of the Forum, which, I must refer, are very much aligned with the motto of the ECGFF.
Considering the recent challenges on real world operations and the way ahead previewed by the European Union, the Portuguese chairmanship proposes the organization of a series of 3 thematic workshops addressing “safety at sea”, “fisheries enforcement” and “border control”. These events will be followed by an exercise in the Portuguese coast - which we anticipate that will take place in late May/beginning of June 2017 -, whose aim is to bring together European experts from different coast guard functions to test and to maximize multiagency and multipurpose operations.
As I previously mentioned, it is our intent to continue to consolidate and reinforce the support provided to the EU Commission and the EU Agencies by the Forum – benefitting from the diverse and extensive expertise available in this group -, and whenever possible to increase the level of engagement, responding to common needs and also exploiting emerging opportunities.
In terms of opportunities we identify some gaps that need bridging, in domains such as capacity building, capability characterization, or lessons learned and best practices.
Picking the example of capabilities, we believe that it is of great interest to create a catalogue, which collects knowledge on the coast guard functions capabilities available among Member States - knowledge that is required, namely for planning and operational purposes.
The Portuguese Chairmanship looks forward to meet with the Agencies and to jointly assess if there is a general agreement and opportunity for launching an initiative in one of the aforementioned domains.
I am hereby pleased to announce that alongside with the workshop on “safety at sea” - which we are planning to held in Lisbon on 23-25 November this year – we will have the first secretariat meeting, which will be the opportunity to announce - and to discuss in further detail - the schedule for the whole year of activity under the Portuguese Chairmanship.
Furthermore, please mark your calendars and save the dates of 20-22 September 2017, for the next plenary meeting, in Lisbon.
I would like to conclude:
- Reiterating our congratulations to Mr. Richard Parkes and his team for the British Chairmanship and thanking their proficiency and hospitality; and
- Ensuring the Forum of the Portuguese Chairmanship commitment to develop all the good endeavoured work already achieved by all of us, adding steps to a journey destined to strengthening the European Coast Guard Functions Forum.
Thank you very much.
Mário Simões Marques, Commodore
Chairman of the ECGFF