Speech by Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, at the opening of the G7 High-level Meeting “Enhancing Maritime Security - Connecting Regions - Governing the Commons”

14.12.2015 - Speech

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State Secretaries,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Imagine a huge container vessel peacefully crossing the ocean. Fully loaded with cars or machines it represents the steady exchange of goods in our increasingly inter-connected world. It not only navigates from port A to B. Without those ships our global markets would not be the same. That is particularly important for countries like Germany which depend on international trade.
Suddenly, pirates approach with several high-speed boats. They are heavily armed with automatic weapons and grenades and attack the ship. The vessel is hijacked, the crew taken for ransom, their future uncertain. This scenario or similar breaches of the freedom of navigation have happened several times in one of the many piracy hotspots.

Now imagine a different scene: The Mediterranean in September 2015, mild weather conditions. A number of overcrowded rubber boats filled with desperate refugees are floating in the water. In a joint effort the Italian coast guard, Doctors Without Borders, a merchant ship, a Croatian ship under the EU’s Triton mission, naval ships from Germany and Britain under the EU’s NAVFOR Med mission saved as many as 4700 refugees on that very day. The very same sea which a holiday cruiser might have passed the day before turns into a high-risk-zone for people fleeing from war and terror. The Mediterranean as other oceans, thus, is an area where human security is at stake.

Third and final scene: 200 kilometres off the coast of West Africa, in the exclusive economic zone of Sao Tomé and Principe: A fish trawler named Thunder sinks under suspicious circumstances. It had a long history of fishing illegally and had changed its name several times. From December 2014 on, the ship received international publicity as it was chased by the NGO Sea Shepherd for 110 days all the way from Antarctica to Africa – where it sank. Three officers of the crew were sentenced to jail in a Sao Tomé court.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These three scenarios are very different in quality. However, each of these scenarios stands for the different dimensions of maritime security.

It becomes evident: maritime security matters! As G7 Foreign Ministers put it in the Lübeck Declaration on Maritime Security of April 2015: “The free and unimpeded use of the world’s oceans undergirds every nation’s journey into the future”.

This is why Germany has decided to make maritime security a priority in the Foreign Ministers’ Track of its G7 Presidency. Due to the numerous threats to international peace and stability, the role of the G7 as a community of values has become ever more important. The G7 has continuously proven its value in addressing challenges of global scope and setting processes of international relevance into motion. But we also need partners to successfully accomplish our goals; goals which require the engagement of the world community as a whole.

In this spirit G7 Foreign Ministers took a comprehensive stance on the matter for the first time during the German Presidency. They passed the Lübeck Declaration, which outlines the most vital current and future fields of action for safeguarding maritime security.

It starts from the G7’s long-standing civil and military engagement for maritime security in various fora, picks up on essential legal frameworks, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, builds upon crucial strategies, including the EU Maritime Security Strategy and NATO’s Alliance Maritime Strategy, and advances ongoing international processes aimed at strengthening maritime governance. Thus, the Lübeck Declaration serves as the G7’s guidepost in maritime security.

As Minister Steinmeier declared in Lübeck, Germany wishes to translate this Declaration into action. We are gathered here today in order to give new impetus and to discuss options for joint action. Therefore, I am very pleased that you, distinguished and eminent experts on maritime security, have accepted our invitation to this G7 High-level Meeting on Maritime Security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

“Enhancing Maritime Security – Connecting Regions – Governing the Commons” is the headline of this high-Level meeting. The three catchwords are interdependent and condition each other. They represent our joint challenges: Strong maritime governance is a basic precondition for maritime security. Maritime security and, more precisely, the rules-based and sustainable use of the global common maritime domain, can only be achieved cooperatively.

Let me elaborate these three elements:
First, how can we strengthen maritime security? First and foremost we need a proper and adequate policy approach. In addition, we can only succeed if this approach is substantiated by hands-on technical elements.

Germany seeks to tackle challenges to maritime security comprehensively.

More precisely: we are committed to effective multilateralism – regionally – in Germany’s case within the EU and NATO – and at global level, where we have the G7 as a point of departure. We must not stop here. We must explore how to take forward this process at global level.

Successful examples of fighting piracy, such as the one in the Western Indian Ocean, prove that new forms of cross-sector, local, regional and, where needed even global civilian and military cooperation and information-sharing should be developed or strengthened.

This holds true for immediate crisis management, such as our response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, as well as for the long-term shaping of order in the global maritime domain.

Germany as well as its G7 partners recognise the importance of taking factors ashore into account. This is demonstrated by our commitment to the rule of law, good governance and economic development on the one hand.

On the other hand we have to take concrete measures in order to support maritime capability development and capacity building in areas prone to crime in the maritime domain.

To name one recent example: last month Germany granted more than 1 Million euros to better implement maritime security architecture in the Gulf of Guinea. The money will be used to purchase and install office and communication equipment for three maritime surveillance centres, thus closing the last gaps in a surveillance chain that will reach from Senegal to Angola.

At the same time, it is crucial that seafarers assume greater responsibility for their safety in piracy-infested waters by learning from established best management practises.

Second, why is “connecting regions” central? As human beings whose centre of activity lies ashore, we tend to understand the world’s oceans as gaps between continents. If we change our perspective we see our oceans in a different way: The world’s oceans are “connecting spaces” that make distant nations neighbours.

I am convinced that we have to strengthen our cooperation in order to effectively and efficiently manage these connecting spaces. At the same time, we have to distinguish between problems which can best be solved locally and regionally, and those challenges which require global engagement.

Local and regional ownership and responsibility should always be our priority. The capabilities and capacities of regional organisations are therefore highly relevant. Moreover, it is central to successfully fighting piracy and other forms of maritime crime that lessons learned in one part of the world are transferred to other regions facing similar challenges.

Finally, what lies behind the term “governing the commons”? Effective maritime governance is the basis of any effort to strengthen maritime security. Germany’s highest priority in this context is to preserve and – where required – expand the maritime order based upon the principles of international law, such as peaceful dispute settlement and the freedom of navigation.

Threats to maritime security undermine this order, whether it is piracy and armed robbery at sea, illegal fishing, off-shore organised crime, or the unilateral assertion of territorial claims and provocative acts.

The biggest challenge to maritime security is not the absence of rules. Rather, we need to step up efforts to better implement existing rules. At the same time, we have to identify and work towards better enforcement as well as confidence building and dialogue mechanisms.

This might require a discussion on whether our current institutional structures dealing with the various aspects of maritime security are fit for purpose. Let´s take a critical look and ask ourselves whether existing structures and mechanism effectively guarantee the rules-based, sustainable use of the world’s oceans which we need and which we would like to see.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

G7 Foreign Ministers have chosen to take on maritime security, because it is a challenge of a global dimension. Yet, effective multilateralism can only be achieved if a broad group of relevant stakeholders works together. In this light, I am extremely pleased we are coming together in today’s outreach format, which includes representatives from countries with outstanding experiences in addressing maritime security as well as experts from organizations dedicated to the very same objective.

Minister Oegroseno,
Admiral Küster,
Mr Rivasseau,
The countries and regions you represent are challenged by different threats to maritime security. I am very much looking forward to your input on how to strengthen maritime security based on your experience. Your outlook on how we could improve cooperation and governance will be of great interest.

The four dedicated roundtables during today’s conference offer the opportunity to propose options for joint action on how to enhance maritime security, strengthen maritime governance and increase interregional cooperation.

We aim to achieve progress in four selected and highly relevant subject areas, namely maritime domain awareness and surveillance, peaceful dispute settlement, preventing IUU fishing and networking maritime security.

I would like to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to all of today’s panellists and chairs, whose many years of experience in advancing maritime security in its various aspects are true treasures which this meeting is privileged to benefit from.

I hope you share our proposition to keep maritime security as a permanent item on the G7’s agenda.

I am therefore extremely grateful to Japan for its dedication to follow up on maritime security during its G7 Presidency in 2016. Let me explicitly welcome Ambassador Toshiro Iijima of Japan at this point, who at the end of today’s meeting will outline Japan’s plans in this regard.

I wish you fruitful discussions, constructive controversies, and perhaps even ground-breaking visions for enhancing maritime security at today’s meeting. Thank you.

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