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SPEECH/ 09/431

Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Maritime spatial planning: from discussion to action

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED


W orkshop on maritime spatial planning

Stockholm, 2 October 2009

Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you at the last of the series of four workshops on maritime spatial planning which the Commission has organised in 2009. The idea behind these workshops has been to discuss and build on the roadmap on maritime spatial planning adopted last November and the ten key principles for maritime spatial planning set out therein.

I am proud to say that maritime spatial planning has got off to an excellent start.

This incredible achievement is thanks in large part to you, the experts and stakeholders in this field. You have taken maritime spatial planning to heart and are doing your utmost to make it work across the European Union.

The extent to which maritime spatial planning has taken off is a signal of its crucial importance. Maritime spatial planning is fundamental to the integrated management of the seas and oceans. By promoting a rational use of the oceans and seas, improving decision-making and balancing out sectoral interests, maritime spatial planning allows us to achieve a sustainable use of marine resources. This is the fundamental message delivered by the European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy - a policy which, as we all know, encourages joined-up thinking, integrated decision-making and widespread consultation.

Today's event is significant in that it concludes phase one of our efforts to bring maritime spatial planning to a wider audience and to have a common understanding of the added-value maritime spatial planning can bring.

All four workshops have elicited great interest and produced some fine results. They have demonstrated that our concept is the right one, that our efforts to trigger a debate have been successful and that there are good reasons for pressing ahead.

My message on maritime spatial planning is very simple.

It is necessary, because it provides the best means of organising maritime space in an impartial and transparent manner.

It is efficient, if everybody that uses it as a tool develops a shared understanding of what it means.

And it is useful, as it avoids disjointed planning and management, it allows stakeholders and planners to communicate in the same language and it clarifies expectations from the decision-making process.

Our job from this day forward is to make sure that these fundamentals translate into readily workable tools and methods.

Maritime Spatial Planning is a mechanism for arbitrating between different sectoral interests and environmental objectives. It is a tool geared towards the allocation of 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. This, in turn, provides impetus for a new approach to the governance of maritime affairs in Europe.

We are all aware that moving towards the integrated management of our seas and coasts is not just an option – it is a necessity. However what we cannot afford to do is to experiment blindly. Building on others' experiences is a crucial part of the debate and those with expertise in maritime spatial planning are more than willing to share their knowledge.

Today we will hear about the experiences on the application of maritime spatial planning farther afield, such as in Canada. UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has also produced a manual on the practical application of maritime spatial planning and some NGOs are developing guidelines and papers on this issue.

Apart from being internationally relevant, maritime spatial planning ties in well with other aspects of our work to secure a sustainable future for our oceans and seas. This is especially true of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which is now in its implementation phase. This Directive emphasises both the ecosystem approach and the regional approach, both of which we are currently contemplating resorting to as a basis for our management of fisheries resources.

Even more importantly, the development of management plans for sea areas under the Marine Strategy will require cross-border co-operation between Member States. The Directive suggests using temporal and spatial distribution tools for the development and implementation of management plans. So the links with our own work on maritime spatial planning are here very clear.

As I mentioned earlier, the work that has gone into these workshops on maritime spatial planning has demonstrated the extent to which – in such a short period of time - it has become a mainstream topic and an integral part of our thoughts on how better to manage our oceans. This whole experience has been a positive one and our discussions on the ten key principles set out in the roadmap of last November have shown that we have got it right, at least as far as the basics are concerned.

I would like to highlight a few particularly telling points that I will take away from this series of workshops.

Co-ordination and co-operation between Member States in marine regions have been discussed as one of the vital ingredients of successful maritime spatial planning. Concrete examples of issues affecting the seas around us, such as the North Sea, have underpinned this perception. Key EU-wide projects like the development of wind energy to meet the 2020 energy targets depend on co-ordinated approaches to planning if we are to develop vital infrastructures such as energy grids across sea basins.

Although maritime spatial planning is different from land-use planning, the aspects which link them together with Integrated Coastal Zone Management have to be carefully weighed up and taken into account.

Governance is another crucial issue: both one-stop-shop licensing processes that integrate sectoral planning responsibilities and more efficient processes to assess impacts across sectors and across borders, illustrate what can be done here.

Finally, one thing that the discussion process has taught us is that integration – both at administrative level and across sectoral disciplines – is a genuine necessity. Maritime spatial planning does not exist in a vacuum. It needs to interface with existing rules and regulations, notably EU environment legislation and international commitments undertaken through the IMO and other bodies. Moreover, it must build on different levels of competence, ranging from the municipal and regional levels to the national and EU levels.

This is particularly relevant in the case of interaction with the Common Fisheries Policy. As you know, we have embarked on an ambitious reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in which all aspects of the policy are up for discussion. This includes future interaction between maritime and fisheries policies. I would invite any of you who wish to have your say on this or any other aspect of the reform to do so before our public consultation closes at the end of this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The development of maritime spatial planning is really a joint undertaking for us all: regions, Member States, stakeholders, and the Commission. At the end of the day, our shared interest lies in achieving a better and more sustainable management of our seas – not in promoting some outdated power struggle. The role that we have tried to play in this context is to stimulate the application of maritime spatial planning and to encourage stakeholders and Member States to share experiences, so as to develop a common understanding of the objectives and the approach.

Many questions have been only briefly touched upon and need to be further developed. What we need most of all are practical experiences of an integrated approach to maritime spatial planning and further development of best practice. This is why we have launched a call for two preparatory actions on maritime spatial planning, regarding which the applications submitted are currently being examined. The aim of these actions is to test maritime spatial planning, in practice, in a cross-border context. Strengthened cross-border co-operation is regarded as important not just by Member States, but by 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 will provide real added value.

We have also launched a study on the economic benefits of maritime spatial planning, which are often touted, but now need to be demonstrated. Benefits will include increased certainty for investments and fewer conflicts between sectors, which can help to speed up licensing procedures and thus allow businesses to move forward with their investments and with minimum delay. We expect to have the full findings of this study during the first half of 2010.

Today you will explore the last two key principles of the roadmap, cross-border co-operation and stakeholder participation. Cross-border co-operation is, simply put, crucial, if we are to achieve serious, integrated, ecosystem-based management of a sea area and the activities in it. And without stakeholder ownership, any maritime spatial plan can only be less, and probably much less, effective.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a means of reviewing what has been achieved to date, a progress report on the implementation of the Maritime Policy Action Plan will be submitted to the European Council for endorsement in December. The progress report shows that the Blue Paper and the Maritime Policy Action Plan have largely delivered what they set out to do.

Steps have been taken to introduce a new method of integrated maritime governance, within the Commission and in its dealings with Member States and stakeholders. The IMP has also overseen the launch of cross-cutting instruments in the areas of maritime spatial planning, integrated maritime surveillance and marine knowledge. And two-thirds of the actions outlined in the Action Plan have already been completed and most of the remaining actions are well underway.

I hope I have given you a taste of how the Integrated Maritime Policy is progressing, and how exciting, the particular task of developing maritime spatial planning in the EU, is. I am convinced that it is one of our more solid building blocks for maritime policy.

I wish you every success for what promises to be a very fruitful workshop and I look forward very much to receiving your input and ideas.

Thank you.


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