“When you live in Malta, you are almost everywhere close to the ocean”, said Karmenu Vella. The Maltese politician grew up with the sea, its opportunities and its risks. “Issues such as overfishing, pollution and climate change can be experienced much more directly on such a small island as Malta”, Vella continued. For him, this is also a reason to deal as EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries especially with the problems of the oceans and their long-term solution.

Dr. Ulf Kämpfer, mayor of Kiel, Volker Rieke (Federal Ministry for Education and Research), Schleswig-Holstein's minister for the environment Jan Philipp Albrecht, GEOMAR director Professor Peter Herzig and Dr. Cornel Wisskirchen (Deutsche Bank) congratulate Karmenu Vella (2. v. r.). Photo: Jan Steffen/GEOMAR

Prime Minister Daniel Günther acknowledged the great importance of international marine research: “Despite considerable gains in knowledge, we can and must understand much more about our oceans. Therefore, further research is so important, also with regard to climate change. In Schleswig-Holstein we are grateful for the fact that EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella gives such a high priority to maritime policy”, Günther stated. During the award ceremony, a number high-ranking personalities such as the former US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prince Albert II of Monaco, the German Federal Minister of the Environment Svenja Schulze and the Deputy Director of UNESCO, Vladimir Ryabinin, appreciated the merits of Karmenu Vella in video messages. “The large number of greetings for this year's award winner impressively underscores the performance of Karmenu Vella”, said GEOMAR Director Prof. Dr. Peter Herzig. “These statements made it very clear what a high reputation the EU Commissioner enjoys in the international community even though there were some critical voices in the run-up”, Herzig continued. Dr. Cornel Wisskirchen, spokesman for the Regional Head Northern Germany of Deutsche Bank AG, also acknowledges the achievements of the Maltese politician. “In some sense the presentation of the German Ocean Award to Commissioner Karmenu Vella could serve as a motivation and an invitation to politicians to tackle the urgent problems of the oceans in the future even more decisively. With Karmenu Vella, we are honoring a personality that has not only set important accents at the EU level”, said Dr. Wisskirchen. This is also underpinned by the EU's commitment at this year's OurOcean conference in Bali to provide € 300 million for the Blue Economy, to address climate change impacts, marine pollution, marine conservation and sustainable fisheries in the coming years.

Schleswig-Holstein's minister for the environment Jan Philipp Albrecht. Photo: Jan Steffen/GEOMAR

“The European Commission has taken important steps to protect fish stocks in Europe by changing its fisheries policy in recent years”, said Jan Philipp Albrecht, Minister for the Energy Transition, Agriculture, Environment, Nature and Digitalization of Schleswig-Holstein (Germany) in his laudatory speech for Karmenu Vella. “Commissioner Vella is representative of these advances. Of course, there are still many deficits in the fisheries policy, but here the EU Member States themselves are also responsible. It is therefore necessary to work jointly on these deficits”, said the Schleswig-Holstein Minister of the Environment.

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