Untapping the potential of the blue economy in the Mediterranean region
Barcelona, 24 May 2016. The Mediterranean Sea has been called the superhighway of transport, trade and cultural exchange. The region boasts 450 ports and terminals. Thirty per cent of the global seaborne trade by volume goes through these terminals, as does a quarter of worldwide seaborne oil traffic. The Mediterranean region is the world’s second-largest destination for cruise-ship tourism, and the coastal population of 150 million people more than doubles during the tourist season. Beyond economics, Mediterranean people can also take pride in their environmental and cultural heritage, which is safeguarded in the form of more than 1000 marine protected areas  and 400 UNESCO world heritage sites.
The assets are impressive, as are the contributions of the maritime sectors to the economy, but there is still potential for more. In the EU alone, the blue economy could unlock an additional two million jobs by 2020 and many more jobs could be created throughout the region, thus giving our young people real prospects for the future.
The blue economy needs the better coordination of maritime affairs among all Euro-Mediterranean countries and a stable governance framework in order to ensure business certainty for investors.
Euro-Mediterranean experts on the blue economy met for the first time after the Ministerial Meeting of last November to discuss the state of play of UfM regional cooperation, including recently labelled projects, and to prepare for the launch of the UfM Forum on the Blue Economy. The meeting was held in Turku, Finland on 17 May, just prior to the European Maritime Day (18-19 May).
On 17 November 2015, the 43 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) adopted a Ministerial Declaration on the Blue Economy. They endorsed the creation of the UfM Forum on the Blue Economy as part of a structured and integrated process to bring together the Mediterranean countries in order to exchange information and best practices, create synergies among current initiatives and provide input on future actions and maritime strategies. Ministers emphasised the need to strengthen the potential of the blue economy in the Mediterranean region, improve maritime governance and achieve an environment conducive to promoting jobs, innovation and knowledge-based business opportunities through the development of key maritime sectors.
The UfM Secretariat is currently promoting the two labelled projects endorsed by the UfM Member States right after the Ministerial Meeting: Plastic Busters for a Mediterranean free from litter; and the Motorway of the Sea (MoS) Turkey-Italy-Tunisia project.
UfM initiatives on the blue economy directly contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.
 MAPAMED, the database on Sites of interest for the conservation of marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea. MedPAN, UNEP/MAP/RAC-SPA. April 2016 release. Available on http://www.mapamed.org.