Mitropoulos and EC Commissioner Barrot in agreement across wide-ranging agenda

Sectretary-General Mitropoulos (right) meets EC Commissioner BarrotIMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos and M. Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of transport policy, concluded a satisfactory meeting at IMO Headquarters on Wednesday, 9th February.

The meeting took place following an invitation by Mr. Mitropoulos, soon after the appointment of the new European Commission, that the two men should get together to establish a good working relationship, reflect on recent developments and others anticipated in the future and to foster a better understanding of the relationship between IMO and the European Commission in order that the already existing co-operation between the two bodies may be further enhanced, so that maritime safety and security as well as environmental protection are better served in the future. Mr. Barrot responded positively to Mr. Mitropoulos' invitation for a strengthening of the relationship between the IMO and the European Union.

The two sides agreed to IMO's leading role worldwide in the development and adoption of global standards for shipping engaged in international trade, whilst recognizing the European Union's efforts aiming at ensuring a harmonized and controlled implementation of IMO rules in Europe. In this context, Mr. Barrot recalled the recent European legislation implementing, in a mandatory way, important IMO decisions. He stressed that the European Union not only strives to implement IMO decisions but also to complement them when necessary. He added that, under the European Treaty rules, the European Union had been granted the power to act on behalf of its 25 Member States on specific issues, which provided additional support to the efforts undertaken within IMO to safeguard and improve the safety and security of shipping and to better protect the environment.

Mr. Mitropoulos and Mr. Barrot discussed the importance of establishing, implementing and maintaining a comprehensive global regulatory framework for the safety and security of international shipping and the protection of the marine environment. Mr. Mitropoulos welcomed the important contribution that had been made, and continues to be made, by the Member States of the European Union to the work of IMO in this respect.

With many of the most significant IMO treaties, such as the SOLAS and MARPOL Conventions, now applying to more than 90 per cent of global merchant tonnage, the Secretary-General spoke of the desirability of bringing other IMO instruments, such as those dealing with ballast water management and hazardous and noxious substances, into force at the earliest possible date. He stressed the significant part that EU members could play through their early ratification of such measures and the example they could show to others by so doing.

M. Barrot drew attention to the desire of the EU that the highest possible standards should be attained and of its determination to lead the way in this. Mr Mitropoulos welcomed this ambition and urged that the pursuit of the highest practicable standards should always be endeavoured through IMO, so that all of international shipping might benefit.

M. Barrot informed Mr. Mitropoulos that he had stressed the importance of EU Member States ratifying IMO instruments at the most recent meeting of the Council of Ministers and hoped that significant progress would be made in this respect.

Mr Mitropoulos and M. Barrot identified several areas of mutual concern, such as the international manpower shortage that currently threatens the shipping industry. They agreed that opportunities should be grasped wherever possible to improve the image of shipping and its attractiveness as a career option; and that general public awareness of the benefits brought by shipping should be enhanced.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr Mitropoulos and M. Barrot agreed to maintain a line of communication to foster further co-operation on all issues of common interest. The meeting confirmed the desire on both sides to continue and enhance the existing co-operation between IMO and the European Commission so that maritime safety, security and environmental protection are well served in pursuit of common goals.

The meeting is one of a series being organized following an invitation by Mr Mitropoulos to those EC Commissioners whose portfolios include matters of interest to IMO. The initiative is aimed at establishing good working relationships, reflecting on recent developments and others anticipated in the future and setting a course to better serve the maritime community from the IMO's and EC's particular perspectives. Last month, Mr Mitropoulos met Mr. Joe Borg, European Commissioner responsible for fisheries and maritime affairs. A meeting with Mr. Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner responsible for the environment is currently being arranged for early next month.

11 February 2005


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A photograph from the meeting is available on request