Admiral, General, presidents of the European Coast Guard Functions Forum,
Directors and Heads of European Agencies,
Representatives of the Directorates-General of the European Commission,
Directors and representatives of administrations in charge of coastguard functions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to warmly thank the Italian Presidency for the perfect organization of this closing seminar in Venice, and for its great investment throughout the year in the dynamic animation of the 2019 edition of the Forum, which has proved to be a success.
This forum is a powerful platform for discussions and exchanges, which are the cornerstone of any cooperation. The discussions I shared my counterparts from the Coastguards of EU Member States make me realize the full extent of the challenges that France will face during the coming year.
The Secretariat general for the sea, coordinating body for all the various French administrations involved in the Coast Guard Function, will assume this presidency, and I am very honored to be able to implement this project on behalf of France.
As you know, and this Assembly is an illustration of this, the missions of the Coast Guard Function are the responsibility of multiple administrations, who have very different means and legal powers at their disposal.
These missions have also evolved considerably, under the positive influence of public opinion becoming more and more sensitive to the major challenges of our century, such as environmental protection, fight against illegal trafficking at sea and the rescue of people at sea.
This multiplicity of missions makes it necessary for each administration to know and rely on its partners at both national and European levels.
Under the impetus of the European Commission, the ECGFF has been since 2009 a European laboratory for increased cooperation and coordination in the field of action of States at sea.
In addition to the interpersonal exchanges it promotes, the forum enables administrations to identify best professional practices, to promote original national thinking in the legal, operational or training fields, to analyze technical subjects, or to project themselves on innovative projects of all kinds.
Thanks to the strong involvement of the Member States, of the Commission's Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and of the EU maritime agencies, this forum has been playing the role of link-makers between States themselves, as well as between EU bodies and States, for 10 years, making it a cornerstone a of the construction of a European maritime policy.
The transfer of the Presidency from Italy to France takes place at a time when the new FRONTEX Agency Regulation will soon be published in the Official Journal of the European Union, announcing major changes in the European Coastguard’s landscape. This Regulation, which offers new and very encouraging prospects, is intended to offer new capacities to the Member States and to give them the benefit of the Agency's increased expertise.
In this context, the reflection on the place of the European agencies (EMSA, EFCA and FRONTEX) and the articulation of their operational capacities with those of the various Member States’s Coastguard administrations is more central than ever.
In this context of the evolution of the European Coastguard paradigm, 2020 will be an important year for the ECGFF. More than ever, this forum will be an incubator of ideas for an improved coordination of the action of Member States and agencies at sea, but also for exchanges between Member States and the European Commission.
France's ambition for the coming year is thus structured around the following priorities:
1/ First of all, we will continue the actions of previous presidencies ("Workshop 2", EFCA, March 2020 in Paris)
In the maritime field, it is essential to know how to give way to continuity, so that the actions we carry out find the impact we expect. To do so, and above all, I wish to perpetuate the action of the previous presidencies, by extending the work carried out, and by ensuring the dissemination of the knowledge and good practices of the community of European Coastguard administrations.
This long-term work requires continuous action, to ensure that its effects are visible.
This will include extending the actions undertaken for the development and dissemination of a European Coastguard’s handbook, and continuing the remarkable work of this forum about training. After having identified the existing training courses in the Member States, and the standardization efforts made for these courses, we now need to make it possible for Coastguard staff to receive cross-training within the EU.
A workshop will be dedicated to the issue of training and will aim in particular to identify what the Member States do expect from an European training network, and to assess the capacity of this network to support the increase in FRONTEX's workforce.
2/ In a further step, we will endeavour to establishing European convergences for information sharing and data security in the maritime domain ("Workshop 1", EMSA, February 2020, Lisbon)
Considering the multiplicity of information systems and initiatives in use in the EU, the challenges in terms of information sharing between administrations, States and Agencies, the human and financial investment required for these systems, it is necessary to have a clear vision of what we want to achieve on this matter.
We are collectively responsible for building useful, complementary and therefore non-redundant tools, with a clear vision of their usefulness, their objectives, their compliance with personal data protection laws, and of their resilience to cyber attacks. The joint reflection we will carry out on this subject will continue the work that has already started about “maritime cyber-security” but also about the integration of new means, such as drones.
A general review and a summary of the progress made on the various systems implemented, or under development, will shed light on our attempt to achieve European convergence. This question will be the subject of a specific workshop and should lead to a rational and complete mapping of our tools.
3/ Finally, the third aspect will be the complementarity between operational resources of the States’ administrations and the agencies (Workshop 3 / MMO + juridical conference, June 2020)
This aspect will be an opportunity to test the integration of agencies’ resources into Member-States' maritime operations, and to continue examining the validity of the concept of Multipurpose Maritime Operations (MMO), in other words to test the interoperability of national Coastguard resources and European Coastguard resources.
This experimentation will be initiated on the basis of the feedback from a maritime exercise, which will be conducted during the third workshop of the forum, COASTEX 2020, which should take place in Toulon.
In parallel with this exercise, an international cooperation seminar will be held on the judicial process to handling maritime pollution infractions. This conference will be an opportunity to examine the European and international legal means that States can implement, and their limits. It will also be an opportunity to learn from the latest major marine events in Europe - some of which took place in the French approaches, as you might remember : the collision of Motor Vessels ULYSSE and VIRGINIA next to Cap Corse ; the Cargo ship RHODANUS running aground in Corsican nature reserve ; as well as the sinking of the GRANDE-AMERICA in Biscay Bay.
Such a seminar will be an opportunity to highlight the importance of environmental issues in Coast Guard missions.
The maritime domain, for every coastal state, is a source of opportunities of development, an area of exchange and freedom, as well as an area of threats and challenges, that are evolving very fast, and that we must control the best we can.
ECGFF members share the same threats and risks, but also the same goals, wishing all to contribute together to enhance maritime safety. To do so, we have been engaged together for ten year in dialogue, demonstrating our shared commitment to strengthen, in concrete terms, cooperation for the maritime governance of an internationally shared space.
Having been able to observe, with great pleasure, the spirit of cohesion that units us in this forum, I do not hope, but I am sure, that this new ECGFF will be like the previous ones, an excellent vintage.
I reiterate my thanks to the Italian organizers for 2019 and am already looking forward to seeing you again in November 2020 in Paris for the next plenary session.
Denis Robin, Secretray general for the sea
Chairman of the ECGFF