Article Index

The mission approach, which the European institutions have taken, is intended to meet major societal challenges by facilitating the mobilisation of many actors doing transdisciplinary work and combining a wide range of funding instruments from European to local levels. The second Mission Forum on 5 March, opened by mission board chair Pascal Lamy, showcased that beyond wonderful aspirations, real action and highlights on change was on the agenda. The entire week was packed with presentations and networking with a strong presence of engaged women leaders not shy to go where it mattered. Here are some impressions from the events.

Lamy took great pains to focus the attention of the audience to implementation of concrete measures to restore the ocean and rivers. He explained that four years ago the planning had started in earnest. Last year's mission forum was still largely aspirational because the first projects were only just becoming operational. But now the legislative framework was in place with the Nature Restoration Law voted by the European Parliament as the most recent element to put Europe on a path to restore 20% of degraded ecosystems by 2030 as an insurance policy for the future in times of disruptive climate change, mass extinctions and more. A large number of projects and initiatives were now underway, leveraging additional financial means and more 'than the usual suspects', as he put it.

Speaker followed after speaker doing their best, supported by the contagiously enthusiastic moderator Katrina Sichel. Interspersed Slido questions to the audience regularly invited participant feedback to every step of the agenda.


The first 'operational session' was titled 'Restoring marine and freshwater ecosystems' featured speakers responsible for implementing solutions in the Mission’s lighthouses from Charter actions and inviting the audience to comment and ask question through Slido. It was followed swiftly by a panel focused on removing or preventing marine pollution at different scales.

Two long-standing efforts were recognised with the European MPA Award, Torre Guaceto nature reserve near Brindisi in Apuglia, Italy, and the marine protected area Côte agathoise on the French Mediterranean coast.

The afternoon sessions focused mostly on opportunities to transition towards a circular economy though most of that is still very much in its infancy. Several speakers insisted on the need to cluster and speed up initiatives to meet the targets.


The session on knowledge systems gave glimpses on how citizens could be engaged in a range of initiatives to stimulate integrated solutions, which go beyond environmental concerns, and also address social and economic issues. The experience is that narrow approaches have limited traction and sub-optimal results. It is also true that with total fishery production in European waters halved from about 7 million tons in 2017 to half that in 2021 there is no room for complacency. Restoration needs to be stepped up drastically to maintain consumption of healthy food from the seas as Europe can not assume to cover its growing deficit from other parts of the global ocean indefinitely.

The last panel session 'Mission Ocean and Waters in action' paid attention to engaging young people and provided a whistle stop tour through the coordination and support to the four regional lighthouse initiatives, Mediterranean, Baltic-North Sea, Atlantic-Arctic, and Danube. Cécile Nys of the PREP4BLUE project illustrated the mechanisms of horizontal coordination and support to the Mission.

It then fell to John Bell, Deputy Mission Manager and Director of Healthy Planet, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission, to offer closing remarks and encourage everybody to look ahead to a ground swell of mission implementation that would survive the change of guard both in the European Parliament with the June 2024 elections and a new Commission to take office in October this year.

What was the overall appreciation on Slido of the day? The moment of truth from almost 100 participants expressing their appreciation showed it was overall a worthwhile exercise.

The official website can be accessed here.

A few more pictures from the mission photographer below: