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European Commission


Brussels, 13 March 2013

Questions and Answers on proposed Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management

Why is the Commission proposing a Framework Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management?

The uncoordinated use of coastal and maritime areas is currently resulting in competition for maritime and coastal space and inefficient use of marine and coastal resources. On-going uncertainties and a lack of predictability regarding appropriate access to the maritime space have created a suboptimal business climate for investors. With rapidly increasing demand for maritime space for new activities, such as renewable energy and aquaculture installations, the EU needs to ensure coherent planning of maritime activities at sea. Increased use of coastal and marine areas as well as risks related to climate change and natural hazards to which coastal areas are extremely vulnerable, put pressure on coastal and marine resources. They require integrated and coherent management to secure sustainable growth and preserve marine ecosystems for future generations.

Cross-border co-operation on maritime spatial planning (MSP) and integrated coastal management (ICM) in EU marine regions and sub-regions is essential as marine ecosystems, fishing grounds, marine protected areas as well as maritime infrastructures, such as cables, pipelines, shipping lanes, oil, gas and wind installations, etc. run across national borders. The planning of major investments and applicable policy processes in sea basins needs to be considered on a cross-border basis. For example, offshore energy grids are necessary to the development of renewable energy sources. Yet, coordination between Member States is far from being systematic, and the current inconsistencies between existing systems prevent efficient cross-border planning.

The risk is also high that Member States establish a multitude of different systems operating in different timescales which will make cross border cooperation almost impossible.

What do Member States have to do to implement the Directive?

Member States will be asked to draw up maritime spatial plans, which will map existing human activities and identify their most effective future spatial development at sea, and develop integrated coastal management strategies which will ensure coordinated management of these human activities in coastal areas. They will have to fulfil minimum requirements which are of procedural nature: develop maritime spatial plans and integrated coastal management strategies, and establish appropriate cross-border cooperation among them.

The Proposal respects Member States prerogatives to tailor the content of the plans and strategies to their specific economic, social and environmental priorities, as well as their national sectorial policy objectives and legal traditions. The planning details and the determination of management objectives are left to Member States. The EU will not take part in these processes.

The aim of the action is for Member States to establish a process or processes that cover the full cycle of problem identification, information collection, planning, decision-making, management, monitoring of implementation, and stakeholder participation.

How is the proposal related to the Commission's Europe 2020 strategy and Blue Growth initiative?

Maritime sectors are active in emerging areas where innovation, sustainable growth and employment contribute to the EU 2020 objective. MSP and ICM can boost maritime growth by facilitating the development of Blue Growth sectors, such as renewable energy, aquaculture or maritime tourism, in a context of increasing competition for space and limited ecosystem resources.

MSP and ICM increase the stability, transparency and predictability of the investment climate where they are implemented. MSP and ICM will give operators certainty about possible economic development, the applicable policy processes and the necessary procedures. The risk of investments being delayed or plans having to be changed repetitively will be reduced.

A reduction of 1% in costs leads to positive economic effects ranging from EUR 170 million to EUR 1.3 billion by 2020. Furthermore, accelerating investments in wind-farm and aqua-farm activities by 1, 2 or 3 years are likely to generate between EUR 60 million and over EUR 600 million by 2020.

Planning is a Member States competence. Does the initiative lead to an overreach of competences by the Commission?

The Commission has always strongly stated that Member States should retain the full competence of what and where to plan. For that reason, the Commission is proposing a Directive which safeguards proportionality and subsidiarity by leaving the flexibility for implementation to the Member State.

Some Member States have already put in place MSP and ICM processes. Has this been taken into account by the Commission?

Some Member States have pioneered MSP and ICM and have developed efficient planning and coastal management mechanisms. The Commission has worked closely with Member States experts in drawing up its Proposal so that the existing systems can be incorporated consistently within the minimum requirement proposed by the Commission. Specifically the Directive allows for its transposition and implementation to build upon existing national rules and mechanisms to the greatest extent possible. For ICM, the coastal management strategies should build on principles and elements set out in earlier EU initiatives such as Council Recommendation 2002/413/EC and Council Decision 2010/631/EU

Member States who made early efforts to develop MSP/ICM will be at an advantage, not at a disadvantage.

Does the Proposal add a new layer of regulatory complexity?

On the contrary, current sea space management often leads to overregulation and complexity. In some countries one needs to contact up to 8 administrative agencies before having the permit for an aquaculture site. Administrative complexity has also prevented Europe to install more offshore wind energy sites.

Transposing and implementing the Directive will allow Member States to coordinate their administrations on the basis of integrated planning and management processes. This constitutes a huge simplification and costs-saving exercise for the administration, as well as for investors. The use of a single instrument to balance maritime activities and available space and to coordinate policies in coastal areas reduces regulatory complexity and ensures that measures proposed in the context of specific objectives of existing EU law (renewable energy, Motorways of the Seas, various environment laws, reformed Common Fisheries Policy, etc) are facilitated by the overall planning underway for a given sea area and integrated management of applicable policies. This also strengthens coherence with and ultimately simplifies the overall regulatory framework.

Therefore, Maritime Spatial Plans and Integrated Coastal Management Strategies will help reach the objectives of the Renewable Energy Directive, the Motorways of the Sea initiative, several pieces of environmental legislation and the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

Does the Directive impose new obligations and new objectives to national sectoral policies like transport, energy or fisheries? Are we creating duplications?

Maritime spatial plans and integrated coastal management strategies will not set new sectoral policy targets. They aim at integrating and linking the objectives defined by national or regional policies, at identifying steps to prevent conflicts between different sectors and at contributing to the achievement of EU objectives in maritime sector policies.

MSP will not result in more restriction or duplication of objectives for shipping. It will support the growth of maritime transport through a more efficient organisation of space: for instance Member States will be able to better coordinate developments regarding shipping lanes and ports. Administrative costs for shipping companies will decrease as they will be less likely to fight unplanned decisions, lose time due to inefficient changes in shipping routes, or undergo uncertainty concerning the timing of infrastructure developments.

ICM will contribute to better coordination between different policies and therefore not create additional obligations, but rather facilitate the implementation of existing legislation and obligations. This is particularly relevant because ICM addresses the land and the sea simultaneously. Linkages between the 'dry side' (land) and 'wet side' (sea) of the coast are such that integration of different policies that address either land or sea will facilitate the management of human activities in coastal areas, making it easier to achieve objectives across different policy domains.

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