BRUSSELS, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- The oceans are fragile and vulnerable. No one can tackle such challenges alone as climate change, overfishing, illegal fishing and marine litter. The European Union (EU)-China Blue Partnership for the Oceans is key in creating international cooperation, strong partnerships and a rules-based global order, Karmenu Vella, European commissioner for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, has told Xinhua.
"We must focus on improving the ocean governance framework, reducing pressures, facilitating sustainable use and strengthening ocean research and data," he said in an exclusive written interview with Xinhua prior to the First China-EU Blue Partnership Forum for the Oceans on Thursday.
The forum brought together EU and Chinese stakeholders to help shape future actions under the areas covered by the Ocean Partnership, including ocean governance, a thriving blue economy and sustainable fisheries, among others.
COMPREHENSIVE, HOLISTIC FRAMEWORK
"The Blue Partnership for the Oceans marked the beginning of a new phase in our bilateral ocean relations. It set out a comprehensive and holistic framework for cooperation in the area of oceans. Our shared objective is to ensure effective governance for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, including sustainable fisheries and a thriving maritime economy," said the commissioner.
China and the EU established their Blue Partnership last year during the 20th China-EU summit in Beijing.
Since its establishment, the two sides have achieved early results, which include a project on marine data launched in September 2018, an EU-China IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing) Working Group, and a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy with the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission, among others, said Vella.
On IUU fishing, EU-China cooperation led to illegal fishing activities being investigated and sanctioned, said Vella, adding that the two sides are willing to "further strengthen our actions in fighting IUU fishing."
"This is essential. Not only to protect marine biodiversity, but also to act in the interests of consumers and safeguard the future of honest businesses in the EU, China and beyond," said the commissioner.
Meanwhile, the two sides have agreed to conserve, by 2020, at least 10 percent of their coastal and marine areas. "But currently, only 3.4 percent of seas and oceans are covered by marine protected areas," said the commissioner.
"It is clear that actions under the Ocean Partnership can play an important role in achieving the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," he said.
MORE INVESTMENT IN CROSS-BORDER INFRASTRUCTURE
Recalling that the economic prosperity of Europe and Asia is deeply interdependent, Vella told Xinhua that the EU supports initiatives aimed at upgrading infrastructure, which contribute to sustainable growth in the Euro-Asian region through all modes of transport: maritime, land and air. "Done in the right way and carefully evaluated, more investment in cross-border infrastructure links will unleash growth potential with benefits for all."
In 2013, China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, which consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, in a bid to promote trade, economic cooperation and infrastructure links among economies along the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
In its "Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative" released in 2017, China showed its willingness to engage in multidimensional and broad maritime cooperation and build open, inclusive cooperation platforms with countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, promoting mutually beneficial "blue partnerships" and forging a "blue engine" for sustainable development.
As for the future of EU-China blue partnership, Vella said the "EU wants our Ocean Partnership with China to lead to tangible results. Both China and the EU are major ocean players. We should use our joint influence to take the lead globally and ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans."