The proposal – which takes the form of a draft directive – aims to establish a common European framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management in EU Member States, with a view to ensuring that the growth of maritime and coastal activities and the use of resources at sea and on coasts remain sustainable.
European Commissioner for Maritime Affaires and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said: "Today we are proposing a new step of the Integrated Maritime Policy of the European Union and offering a new tool for our Blue Growth Strategy. By facilitating sustainable development and investments at sea, the Directive will contribute to make real the potential of Europe's Blue Economy for growth and jobs."
European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik said: "This initiative will contribute to a healthy environment and better living conditions for the 200 million EU citizens who live in coastal regions. It should also help preserve unique and diverse coastlines and ecosystems that offer invaluable habitats for plants and animals."
Human and economic activities such as offshore wind energy, submarine cable and pipeline routes, shipping, fishing and aquaculture are increasing in marine waters and coastal areas, but too little coordination can lead to competition for space and pressure on valuable resources.
The proposed action will require Member States to map these activities in maritime spatial plans in order to make more efficient use of seas, and develop coastal management strategies that will coordinate measures across the different policy areas that apply to activities in coastal zones.
Respecting the minimum requirements proposed by the Directive, Member States will need to ensure that their maritime planning and coastal management supports sustainable growth, while involving relevant stakeholders and cooperating with neighboring states.
The coherent application of maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management should improve coordination between land- and sea-based activities. Better coordination would bring benefits in areas such as, for example, the connection of offshore wind installations to energy grids on land, or work on infrastructure to protect coastlines against erosion and climate change that also affects activities in coastal waters.
Using a single instrument to balance all interests should also increase certainty for investors and reduce the administrative burden for national administrations and operators, while preserving ecosystem services. Currently, in some countries one needs to contact up to 8 administrative agencies before having the permit for an aquaculture site.
With the one-stop-shop principle proposed in the Directive, such administrative complexity will be done away with and time and money will be saved. It is estimated that increased business certainty and reduced administrative burden will lead to economic benefits up to EUR 1.6 billion across the EU, particularly for SMEs. Studies have also shown that, for example, the acceleration of investments in wind-farm and aqua-farm activity would generate between EUR 60 million for an acceleration of 1 year to 600 million for an acceleration of 3 years by 2020.
The European Union is aiming to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by 2020. Maritime sectors offer areas for innovation, sustainable growth and employment which should contribute to this objective. As set out in the Communication on Blue Growth, Opportunities for Marine and Maritime Sustainable Growth (see IP/12/955), today's proposal is an essential part of this ambition to develop Europe's Blue Economy.
Maritime spatial planning is a transparent and comprehensive process based on stakeholder involvement, analysing and planning when and where human activities should take place at sea. The aim is to identify the most efficient and sustainable current and future utilisation of maritime space. In 2008 the Commission published its ‘Roadmap for Maritime Spatial Planning: Achieving Common Principles in the EU’, followed by a 2010 Communication ‘Maritime Spatial Planning in the EU — Achievements and Future Development’, which paved the way for today's proposal.
The proposal should ensure that economic activities factor in the protection of natural resources at an early stage, as well as risks related to climate change and natural hazards to which coastal areas are extremely vulnerable. This has economic benefits as natural resources are an essential basis for activities such as fishing and aquaculture, which rely on clean seas. These new tools will also help improve the implementation of EU environment legislation such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive.
Integrated coastal management is a tool to coordinate all policy processes affecting the coastal zone, addressing land-sea interactions in a coordinated way with a view to ensuring their sustainable development. It ensures that management or development decisions are taken coherently across sectors.
A 2002 Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management defines the principles of sound coastal planning and management and how to best implement them. The EU is also a contracting party to the Barcelona Convention, which established a Protocol on Integrated Coastal Management that entered into force in March 2011, making integrated coastal management compulsory for Member States bordering the Mediterranean.
The Commission proposal will now be considered by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. Once adopted, the new initiative will become EU law.