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Maritime spatial planning: building on our commitment

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/09/347   03/07/2009

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SPEECH/ 09/347

Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Maritime spatial planning: b uilding on our commitment

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED


T hird workshop on maritime spatial planning

São Miguel, Azores (Portugal), 3 July 2009

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you as we come to the end of the third in the series of four workshops on maritime spatial planning which the Commission is organising in 2009. The Commission attaches a lot of importance to discussions such as these which, I believe, is indicative of the strong commitment we have to this new management tool in the context of the Integrated Maritime Policy.

Of course, having events such as this in a place as beautiful as San Miguel makes our discussions all the more easy! For that, I would like to thank the Regional Government and the University of the Azores for their generous offer to host this workshop.

This event, and the two previous workshops that have been organised, give us a sound launching pad for the fourth and final workshop to be held in Stockholm – a workshop which promises to be equally as rewarding and fruitful.

However, our one and a half days of lively discussions here on maritime spatial planning and its links with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive have enabled us to cement further our dialogue with you as key maritime stakeholders and to have your active involvement in the nitty-gritty of the European integrated maritime policy. The outcome of your deliberations is a very important contribution to the quest for an integrated approach to the sustainable management of marine areas at European level. The process, which we embarked upon almost five years ago, is steadily moving ahead.

We meet at a time when the European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy, the sound principles underlying it and the tools used to make it a living reality are continuing to gather momentum and support across the EU. To take but one example of particular relevance to today's workshop and venue, Portugal is currently developing a maritime spatial plan which seeks to include all maritime sectors. In addition, this plan reflects the needs, challenges and rules that are peculiar to the Azores.

Indeed, our location here in the Atlantic is one of the best possible illustrations of just how unique and rich our marine ecosystems are and of our responsibility to use them in a sustainable manner, striking the right balance between economic, social and environmental imperatives.

In your discussions today you have considered this ecosystem approach as central to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the achievement of a good environmental status. Moreover, you have identified co-ordination and co-operation between Member States in marine regions as a vital asset. This links in directly with maritime spatial planning which is one of the key tools for giving a practical angle to the Integrated Maritime Policy.

Likewise, it is an important building block for a new approach to the governance of maritime affairs in Europe. Maritime spatial planning as we see it takes an impartial view of affairs and involves all maritime sectors equally. By arbitrating between different sectoral interests and allocating marine space in a rational and well-balanced way, it provides the right framework for a fresh approach to policy-making and an all-embracing, coherent approach to our oceans and seas.

It is fair to say that when the Commission launched the Green Paper on a new maritime policy for the European Union, Member States had some reservations concerning the potential role of the EU in developing maritime spatial planning at European level and on the added value of action at a European level. The Commission consistently acknowledged that Member States would be responsible for implementing maritime spatial planning and that the subsidiarity principle would apply.

We remain convinced that taking action with respect to maritime spatial planning at an EU level, aiming for a common approach and for a truly integrated process provides significant added-value. Consequently, in the Blue Paper on the Integrated Maritime Policy and the accompanying Action Plan we committed ourselves to developing a roadmap to facilitate and encourage the further development of maritime spatial planning in EU Member States.

The roadmap, adopted on 25 November 2008, sets out ten key principles of relevance to maritime spatial planning in the EU. The discussion of these principles, as follow-up to the roadmap of last year, is essential for us to be able to build the common approach I just mentioned.

Having such a discussion on maritime spatial planning makes sense. We know that moving towards the integrated management of our seas and coasts is no longer an option – it is a necessity.

In this light, in the context of the implementation of the Marine Strategy Directive, the development of management plans to ensure that the environment is amply taken into consideration requires integration and necessitates an ecosystem approach, and therefore also cooperation between Member States across borders. It is clear that this process will be far more effective if temporal and spatial distribution tools are used.

To date we have so far received very positive and supportive reactions from Member States and maritime stakeholders alike, which is of course encouraging. However, the roadmap only sketches out the first steps towards the development of a common approach to maritime spatial planning in Europe.

I believe we have now already moved beyond this point and the ongoing, substantive debate about the ten key principles on maritime spatial planning, combined with the most recent discussions on maritime spatial planning during the European Maritime Day held in Rome, prove that we have. The question no longer is whether we need maritime spatial planning, but how best to go about it. The prevailing view seems to be that the key principles proposed in the roadmap are valid, sufficient and relevant to our debate and therefore provide a sound basis for future developments in this field.

We will continue the debate, and we will also continue with the development of best practices and experience, by launching a call for two preparatory actions on Maritime Spatial Planning and a study on its economic benefits in the coming weeks. The preparatory actions aim to test maritime spatial planning in practice in a cross-border context. Strengthened cross-border cooperation is regarded as important by Member States, the maritime sectors and all relevant stakeholders. These preparatory actions will thus deepen the development of a common approach to maritime spatial planning in the EU and provide real added value.

The study on the economic benefits of Maritime Spatial Planning will seek to prove the benefits to be had from a reliable planning framework under such an approach. Benefits to business include increased certainty for their investments and less conflicts between sectors which can help to speed up licensing procedures and thus allow businesses to move forward with their investments with only a minimum amount of delay.

There is a lot more to be said on this fascinating subject, and the discussions go on, of course.

For today, however, I would again like to express my thanks to all who have been involved in organising and in participating with their expertise in this workshop, including all the speakers and panellists. Your contributions to making this event a success have proved invaluable.

In taking such an active part in this workshop, you have, each in your own way, demonstrated how stakeholder involvement is an enriching and learning experience for all involved. That is why stakeholder involvement must always be a cornerstone of our work to deliver a sustainable future for our coasts and seas.

The Commission certainly has much to take away with it from this fine event. I sincerely hope that you do too.

Thank you.


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