Blue economy at the heart of the Euro-Mediterranean regional cooperation and EMUNI’s activities

By: Dr. Jerneja Penca

“Blue economy” or “blue growth” is the most recent approach to shape marine and maritime spaces of both the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the European Union (EU). For the EU, blue growth represents the maritime dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. For the UfM, blue economy is a tool “to promote growth, jobs and investments and reduce poverty, whilst safeguarding healthy seas and developing a clear vision for the sustainable and integrated development of marine and maritime sectors at national and sea basin level”.

The significance of the concept (blue economy or blue growth) is not so much in inventing any new thinking but in extending the understanding of existing priorities to the seas and oceans. In the context of the region, this has had an important impact. Not only has the paradigm effectively raised the profile of the sustainable development process and the seas, which represent the material structure for cooperation. The paradigm has assumed a particularly strong potential for furthering cooperation and cohesion of the region, apart from sustainable development of individual states. Here, blue economy is developing with an explicit ambition to have a positive distributional effect and reduce disparities between the North and the South. It was envisaged as an integrative tool for the region, increasing both the inter-connectedness among industries, human activities and the ecosystems, and the cooperation between countries.

The EMUNI university is uniquely positioned to support this trend and respond to the opportunities presented by it. The idea of blue economy is directly supporting our mission of fostering the integration of the higher education and research area in the Euro-Mediterranean. This is why we have included its promotion among our strategic priorities. And it is why we address that priority through various activities.

First, we organise and support capacity building in the field. Since 2017 we have conducted 3 trainings in the area of blue economy, in form of a summer school, short training or supporting other’s trainings. Apart from planning on continuing these efforts, we are also contributing to the development of new and missing master programmes in the region, such environmental and climate change management, fisheries and aquaculture, and sustainable development.

Second, we contribute to research in the field by the support of various funding sources, from the EU and national. At this moment, we are amidst the running of a Bluemed-supported Start-up-Action LabMAF, co-organising the symposium Ocean Governance for Sustainability – Challenges, Options and the Role of Science to be held in Piran at the end of November 2019 and contributing with panels to the European Science Open Forum to be held in Trieste in July 2020.

Third, we participate in the science-policy dialogue in the field of blue economy. Our input into the UfM-led process on advancing blue skills, careers and jobs, the Group of Senior Officials in the BLUEMED Working Group and the Macroregional strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Sea are but some examples.

The growing global emphasis on blue economy has resulted in increased political will and resources devoted to the marine and maritime fields also in the Euro-Mediterranean. We seek to benefit from that focus by drawing on the capacities of the students, teachers and researchers in the region. We are committed to further strengthening our contribution in the preparations for the upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development!

Read more in the article in the International Journal of Euro-Mediterranean studiesClick here