“No Green without Blue": SwitchMed, BLUEfasma and Blue Growth Community join forces to promote the Blue Circular Economy in the Mediterranean

Working together to co-organise a hybrid event in Barcelona, three cooperation projects from the Mediterranean area promoted the importance of the emerging field of Circular Blue Economy to address cross-border environmental and social challenges related to the maritime sectors.

Published on Thursday 19 May 2022· POLICY

On May 10, 2022, the SwitchMed programme, the Interreg MED Blue Growth Community and the Interreg MED BLUEfasma modular project co-organised a hybrid capitalisation event entitled “Fostering Circular Blue Economy in the Mediterranean” in Barcelona and online. The event was the occasion to launch a report on the integration of Circular Economy in the Blue Economy sectors in the Mediterranean. It was co-developed by MedWaves (former SCP/RAC) and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), with the support of Plan Bleu, as part of the above-mentioned projects’ activities. Furthermore, the agenda included two plenary panels gathering stakeholders to reflect on opportunities for blue circular economy in fisheries and aquaculture, on the one hand, and on nautical tourism and port activities, on the other. The event was organised back-to-back to a brokerage session on Smart Specialisation Strategies in the blue biotechnologies sector organised by DG MARE on May 9.

The opening of the event gathered representatives from key Euro-Mediterranean institutions, including the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP), the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the BLUEMED initiative, as well as DG MARE. It was facilitated by Mr George Alexakis, Crete’s Regional Councillor in charge of European & International Affairs and CPMR Vice-President for Maritime Affairs, on behalf of the CPMR.

Ms Eleni Hatziyanni from the European Commission DG-MARE insisted on the European Commission’s commitment to encourage a more sustainable Blue Economy. She commented that there is “no green without blue”: Blue Economy sectors need to transition towards sustainable and digitalised ways of doing, with research and innovation as key priorities. Echoing Ms Hatziyanni’s presentation, attendants were given an inspiring keynote speech from Mr George Kremlis, Principal Advisor to the Greek Prime Minister on Circular Economy and Climate Change. After having reminded the audience that Circular Economy is primordial for climate mitigation, Mr Kremlis insisted on the three key dimensions of today’s blue economy in the Mediterranean: green growth, blue economy, and digital economy. “We need a green digital Blue Economy”, he said, to sum up his message.

The last part of the opening session was dedicated to the presentation of the report on the implementation of Circular Economy in the Blue Economy sectors by Ms Magali Outters from MedWaves and Mr Emmanuel Maniscalco from the CPMR. “Joining forces in order to spare efforts”, the report is an example of collaboration between three organisations (MedWaves, CPMR and Plan Bleu) to enhance knowledge on Circular Blue Economy in the Mediterranean. The report includes a state of play of Circular Economy focusing on six specific blue sectors, a series of recommendations and a list of around 40 examples from the field. “Circular economy is not only about recycling, but also about keeping the waste and its value,” reminded Ms Outters.

The second session focused on projects’ results and outcomes. Partners from the Interreg MED BLUEfasma project (the University of Patras, IMC Foundation and MedCities) presented the results of their work after two years of collaboration. The aim of this modular project is to enhance the innovation capacity of SMEs working in the maritime sectors, notably through a living lab methodology. In the same vein, Mr Luis Miranda from ASCAME and the Blue Growth Community project gave an overview of the Blue Growth Community’s innovative Blue Economy tools. Then, Mr Benoit Wuatelet from UNIDO and Mr Pol Rovira from MedWaves focused on Southern Mediterranean countries by presenting the actions of the SwitchMed program, respectively in the seafood value chain in Morroco and Tunisia and on green entrepreneurship. According to Mr Wuatelet, “developing an infrastructure that can increase the circularity of materials and reduce raw material input is paramount to the future of fisheries and aquacultures in the Mediterranean.”

In the afternoon, stakeholders from the public, private and civil society sectors gathered around a first plenary panel on “Opportunities for Circular Blue Economy in Fisheries and Aquaculture” moderated by Ms Martina Bocci, Blue Economy consultant. Invited speakers presented a remarkable variety of initiatives from across the Mediterranean basin. Many initiatives were focusing on the pressing issue of marine litter, a challenge that could be solved through a stronger implementation of Circular Economy principles. On this specific issue, Mr Lefteris Arapakis, co-founder of the Enaleia NGO, concluded that “to go through this crisis, we need to create a win-win relationship between human societies and nature, with extra revenues for the communities and protection of the environment”.

The second plenary panel on opportunities for Circular Blue Economy focused this time on Nautical Tourism and Port Authorities, moderated by Mr Raffaele Mancini, Blue Economy expert. The topics addressed went from innovation to challenges from the Southern Mediterranean countries, including decision-making processes, business models and changes needed to integrate Circular Economy in the tourism and ports sectors.

To close the series of fruitful exchanges that took place throughout the day, high representatives from the co-organising organisations (Mr Enrique de Villamore from MedWaves, Mr Davide Strangis from CPMR and Ms Céline Dubreuil from Plan Bleu) along with Ms Aliki Karousou from the Region of Crete, highlighted the importance of dialogue and cooperation for the development of a Blue Circular Economy. Mr Strangis, Executive Director in charge of EU Programmes, Partnerships, Geographical Commissions and Membership of the CPMR, stressed that “we need to exploit results through new opportunities,” echoing the start of the Interreg Euro-MED’s new programming period (2021-2027). Speakers gave perspectives for future projects thanks to the Interreg MED and ENI CBC MED programmes and especially their next phase, namely the Interreg NEXT MED and Interreg Euro-MED programmes, focusing on capacity building activities and circular economy while allowing the participation of non-European countries.

The second day of the event took place at the Port of Barcelona, were participants had the opportunity to learn fisrt-hand about ongoing Circular Blue intiatives at Barcelona. Firstly, Ms. Emma Cobos, Strategic Development Director at the Port of Barcelona presented the Port’s project. Then Mr. Ignacio from Sumbox presented this alternative packaging for fisheries, Ms. Maria José Pedragosa presented Popsicase, Net Viva and Revivack projects, and Mr. Albert Marfà presented the biodegradable products made by Oimo.

The event finalized with a martime visit to the Port of Barcelona and a live demo of Ona Safe & Clean drones, made out of recycled aluminium, that search and collect marine litter.

The report “A Circular Blue Economy for the Mediterranean: current practices and opportunities”, which was the cornerstone of the event, will be officially released and widely disseminated in June 2022.

See all photos of the event here.

Download the PPT presentations of the event:
1. BLUEMED Implementation Plan and its Pilot Plastic-free Healthy Mediterranean Sea – Mr Fabio Fava
2. A Circular Blue Economy for the Mediterranean: current practices and opportunities – Ms Magali Outters and Mr Emmanuel Maniscalco
3. BLUE GROWTH COMMUNITY Talks on Innovative Blue Economy Tools – Mr Luis Miranda
4. BLUEfasma identity and main results – Mr Thanasis Koukounaris
5. BLUEfasma online platform and tools – Ms Konstantina Marousi
6. BLUEfasma White Paper – Mr Andrea Alvito
7. BLUEfasma Policy Recommendations – Ms. Carolina Pérez
8. Initiatives actuellement menées par SwitchMed dans les pays du sud de la Méditerranée – Mr Benoît Wuatelet and Mr Pol Rovira
8. CBE Draft Report Conclusions
9. Oimo – Mr Albert Marfá
10. Popsicase – Ms Maria Jose Pedragosa
11. SUMBOX – Mr Ignacio Molina

Watch the video recording of the event here:
– In English:  Morning sessions | Afternoon sessions.
– In French: Morning sessions | Afternoon sessions.
– In Spanish: Morning sessions | Afternoon sessions.

"Circular economy is not only about recycling, but also about keeping the waste and its value."

Ms Magali Outters, Policy Team Leader of MedWaves

"To go through this [marine litter] crisis, we need to create a win-win relationship between human societies and nature, with extra revenues for the communities and protection of the environment”

Mr Lefteris Arapakis, co-founder of the Enaleia NGO