Cyprus-Ireland Blue Growth Initiative takes its first steps

cyprus-ireland blue growth initiative
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Despite distance, Cyprus and Ireland can work together to exchange knowledge and information to help drive their blue growth initiative.

The blue economy is becoming an ever more important industry for Europe. The EU’s long term strategy for blue growth aims to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors, in a bid to reach the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Sectors with a high potential for sustainable jobs and growth include aquaculture, coastal tourism, marine biotechnology, ocean energy and seabed mining.

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella opened the 2019 European Maritime Day conference in Lisbon earlier this year. The main focus for the event was on boosting a blue economy, the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, through entrepreneurship, investment, research and innovation. Speaking at the event, Commissioner Vella said: “Coastal regions are home to 214 million people and generate 43% of EU GDP. Today’s report confirms the blue economy’s role as an exciting growth sector, with opportunities both in established sectors like tourism and shipbuilding, and in emerging areas like ocean energy or the blue bioeconomy. Yet we also know that blue economy startups and small companies often struggle to get their good ideas off the ground. That is why the European Commission is currently developing an investment readiness support tool to help them mature and eventually access the funding they need to scale up.”

In early July this year, the Embassy of Ireland in Cyprus announced the successful conclusion of one such initiative, the first ‘Cyprus-Ireland Blue Growth Initiative’. Following the visit of Ireland’s Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to Cyprus in June 2018, it was agreed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, that co-operation should be enhanced between Ireland and Cyprus, as two EU island nations, in the marine and maritime sectors.

This first year of the Cyprus-Ireland Blue Growth Initiative has involved an academic, educational exchange between University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland and AKTI Project and Research Centre, based in Cyprus. The themes explored this year have included microplastics and marine litter; blue growth; marine renewable energy; entrepreneurship within the blue economy; and other marine and maritime related issues. Following the exchanges, discussions have now commenced on ways to enhance the collaboration between the two EU island nations through the development of Memoranda of Understanding for academic, research, civil society and industry collaboration.

Cyprus’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides met with the Ambassador of Ireland Deirdre Ní Fhallúin, students from University of Cork in Cyprus and the team from AKTi Project and Research Centre. The minister said: “Despite the geographic distance between us, Cyprus and Ireland have a lot in common and enjoy excellent ties at various levels. Together with our Irish partners we are determined to expand and broaden our co-operation further, in innovative ways that will benefit our peoples, our economies and the environment we live in, an important part of which are the seas that surround our islands. The Cyprus-Ireland Blue Growth Initiative is a prime example of the innovative co-operation we are looking for and that we are therefore happy to encourage and support.”

Ireland’s ambassador to Cyprus, Deirdre Ní Fhallúin, said: “The aim of this project is to develop bilateral relations between Ireland and Cyprus in two key respects – marine and maritime and higher education. As two islands at the opposite sides of Europe, Ireland and Cyprus have much to learn from each other through sharing expertise and learning. The project complements the role being played as consortium members by the Irish Marine Institute and SmartBay Ireland in the development of the Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (CMMI) in Larnaca.”

Head of AKTI Xenia Loizidou said: “Our island countries, Ireland and Cyprus, have so many in common: limited natural resources and a fragile environment. Sustainability is the only way forward. Co-operation and networking make us stronger and resilient, to protect our islands, to protect our seas, to develop within the Blue framework of growth.”

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