Toespraak van minister Harbers bij de Greater North Sea Basin initiative conferentie


oespraak van minister Harbers (IenW) op 21 november 2023 tijdens de Greater North Sea Basin initiative conferentie in Den Haag. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Verantwoordelijke Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat
  • Water
  • Natuur- en landschapsbeheer
  • Energie
Documentsoort Toespraak
Publicatiedatum 21-11-2023
Documentdatum 21-11-2023
  • Natuur en biodiversiteit
  • Duurzame energie

Colleagues, North Sea friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for coming to The Hague. We are in Villa Ockenburgh.

This is a country estate built in 1654 by the poet and physician Jacob Westerbaen. Just behind the dunes that separate us from the North Sea. Our North Sea: 575 square kilometres of water. Historically, it is the cradle of our shared culture, and of our collective wealth through trade and exploration.

Today, the North Sea is still a shared space where we harvest energy and fish. It’s also a valuable nature area, a fishing ground and one of the busiest marine traffic areas in the world.

The sea holds complex networks of shipping lanes and underwater cables. And at the same time it is a unique ecosystem, rich in biodiversity.

We have a lot to take care of, to build, to maintain. So we have a lot to discuss today.

By 2050, there will be more than 25,000 offshore wind turbines generating renewable energy. The interests of fisheries and marine ecosystems will be balanced. And shipping will have intensified and become greener.

To get there, however, we must overcome a spatial and ecological squeeze. We’re ambitious, and we will need every cubic metre of the North Sea to meet our goals.

The OSPAR quality status report has warned us about the ecological condition of the North Sea. I’m keen to hear more about this  today. Because, whatever maritime activities we undertake, we also have to safeguard the vitality of the sea itself. That is the basis for everything.

So, the main question is: how do we combine all our activities with the conservation of the ecological system? How do we harvest what we need and at the same time protect sea life? How do we link our specific national needs to the shared use of and care for the sea that connects us?

A wicked problem indeed. And the very reason the Greater North Sea Basin Initiative was founded. So here we are today.

We’re already working together closely on offshore wind in the North Sea Energy Cooperation. Our energy colleagues met yesterday evening.

We’re also working together in OSPAR on the protection of the marine environment. These are just two examples of collaboration.

These organisations are delivering important results on various themes and different areas of activity. Of course, these are not really distinct in the sense that they are separate from each other. They exist in relation to one another and in constant interaction.

And this means we need an integrated approach to the North Sea, one that includes all sectors and perspectives. And this is what brings us here now. After our shared problem analysis in Paris, and the technical session in Hamburg, the first contours of the initiative are now  becoming clearly visible.

Yesterday evening several of you had dinner together. You were also joined by members of the energy and maritime spatial planning groups.

My colleague, Director-General for Water and Soil Jaap Slootmaker, told me that our community is already starting to take shape. The level of international cooperation we are aiming for could mean a paradigm shift.

This may sound a bit disruptive. But I see a highly motivated North Sea community, eager to think out of the box. To share energy and ideas that will make the North Sea one the healthiest and most fertile seas in the world.

I wish you all a very fruitful and pleasant day!

Thank you.