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SPEECH/09/79












Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission - Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs



The importance of maritime spatial planning for Integrated Maritime Policy























Conference on Maritime Spatial Planning
Brussels, 26 February 2009.

Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you all to this first conference on maritime spatial planning organised by the European Commission following the publication of the Roadmap Communication on the subject a few months ago. We are today opening a debate which will continue throughout the year in the form of a series of workshops where we will look at maritime spatial planning from different angles.

Today, European seas and coastal areas are the setting for intense human activity of all kinds – shipping of goods, extraction of wind and tidal energy, fishing and aquaculture, seaside tourism and others. The economic, social and cultural significance of these activities is enormous and increasing still further, with important consequences for the quality of our marine and coastal environment. We estimate that maritime sectors account for 3 to 5% of Europe's gross domestic product. Many of these are considered to have significant growth potential.

Maritime spatial planning is an essential tool for managing these various activities particularly as we seek to promote the competitiveness of the European maritime economy. Maritime spatial planning provides a stable framework which brings the legal certainty and predictability that is a prerequisite for continuous and increasing investments in the maritime sectors, both from European and other actors.

This is an important element of Europe's action to enhance growth and jobs as set out in the Lisbon Agenda and in light of the downturn in the current economic climate.

Any long-term management for the seas and coastal areas needs to take the protection and improvement of the marine eco-system into account. In this regard, maritime spatial planning offers an ideal tool for developing an all-embracing approach to the management of maritime activities in line with these ecosystem-based requirements.

Maritime spatial planning also makes an important contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. We can expect rising sea levels, acidification, increasing water temperatures and more extreme weather events to cause shifts in maritime economic activities and to alter marine ecosystems. The use of maritime spatial planning will be crucial in order to both foresee and manage these.

We are used to terrestrial spatial planning being seen as an essential governance instrument to bring order and establish political priorities about the use of land. And yet, despite the increasing pressure stemming from maritime activities, progress in planning the use of our seas has thus far remained limited.

Maritime spatial planning provides us with the catalyst we need for improved decision-making, for arbitration between the needs of different sectors and for making the best possible use of seas and coastal areas. It is also all but indispensable in providing for the meaningful implementation of some EU policy instruments and legislation.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is a case in point.

This Directive requires that Member States take measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status in the marine environment by 2020. It also requires cross-border co-operation between Member States sharing the same marine basin. With this in mind, it suggests a number of means of achieving that status, including spatial controls to determine where and when an activity is allowed to occur.

Our focus here is thus on the interaction between maritime activities themselves and between these activities and their environment, since this leads to competition between different uses and interests within a limited marine space. We can only expect competition to become more heightened over the coming years and we therefore need to develop an appropriate response.

Maritime spatial planning should also be seen in the wider context of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy that we have formulated over the last couple of years and that is now gradually being implemented by means of concrete action.

Our maritime policy is based on the recognition that the different objectives relating to maritime activities are linked, and that a purely sectoral approach is not sufficient to achieve optimal results, let alone to avoid or resolve conflicts. The fundamental principle of our maritime policy is therefore to better co-ordinate and integrate maritime activities and policies.

Maritime spatial planning is one of the key means of achieving this.

It is important to realise that for this approach to be effective, each level of government will need to be involved. European, national, regional and local authorities will all have a lot to gain from maritime spatial planning as part of an Integrated Maritime Policy.

Those who are directly affected by maritime affairs must be part of the process, and feel ownership and that they are responsible for the policies and actions undertaken under the umbrella of an Integrated Maritime Policy. In fact, I have been extremely happy to see that a lot of actions are already underway in several European Member States and regions. I am particularly pleased that we have with us today the new Secretary-General for the Sea in France, Admiral Tallec, as well as Minister Döring from Schleswig-Holstein.

Important developments are also taking place in regional sea conventions, whose representatives are present here today too. The input, ideas and practical experiences that you all bring to this process are of the utmost importance in providing us with a solid basis for spreading these practices more widely.

While the primary responsibility for implementing maritime spatial planning remains with the Member States, I believe that there is clearly added value to be gained through a commitment, on the part of the Commission, to encourage and facilitate the development of this essential tool in the Member States. In order for maritime spatial planning to be functional in sea areas shared by two or more Member States, cross-border co-operation will be vital. A common European approach to this issue is therefore of great value and importance.

As a first step in this direction, the Commission has published a Roadmap on maritime spatial planning which identifies and describes legal and other instruments of importance, as well as examples of current practices in this context. From these the Roadmap then derives ten key principles which we believe characterise successful maritime spatial planning in European seas.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Roadmap adopted on 25 November last year marks the start of a debate with Member States and various interested stakeholders. The wealth of feedback which we have already received reveals a remarkable level of interest in this issue all across Europe. I find the response, so far, very encouraging.

As I mentioned earlier, today is the starting point for a series of workshops where the potential use and implementation of maritime spatial planning in the EU will be discussed in detail with all concerned stakeholders. In this regard, I am very pleased that we have with us today Mr Vande Lanotte, who will speak later this morning on stakeholder involvement – an element of this process that is indispensable.

The workshops will provide a forum for an exchange of knowledge and best practice on maritime spatial planning, and they will encourage a discussion between Member States about the lessons learned so far. Our aim is for the workshop discussions to address all pertinent aspects, for example:

  • How should we deal with the application of the ecosystem-based approach in organising maritime space?
  • What are the challenges for the development of new maritime or offshore economic activities in a context of increasingly intense activity?
  • How is maritime spatial planning linked to the application of existing EU legislation, for example in the fields of environmental policy or fisheries policy?

In order to structure the debate, we will use the ten key principles set out in our Roadmap. Individual workshops will focus on these principles in order to have a thorough and in-depth discussion on each.

Our next workshop is due to take place in Ispra, Italy, in the second half of April. It will be followed by a workshop organised in partnership with the University of the Azores in June In them, we hope to discuss how maritime spatial planning:

  • can be best adapted to the specific characteristics of various maritime areas;
  • how it interrelates with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive;
  • how it should be anchored in the legal and administrative system;
  • the role of setting objectives for maritime spatial plans, and in particular for arbitration in cases of conflicts between sectors; and
  • how to integrate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms into maritime spatial plans.

Once this is done, a closing workshop will be held in Sweden in the first half of September. This workshop will focus primarily on consultation with stakeholders and co-ordination between terrestrial and maritime spatial planning. I believe, here, that the Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy issued last year, will be key in reflecting within this context the general discussion on the implementation of Integrated Maritime Policy at various levels of governance.

This workshop will coincide with a concluding conference to summarise the main results of all of the workshops and discuss forward-looking options – notably how we want to take the debate forward and what conclusions should be drawn from the discussions.

The Commission will also launch pilot projects aimed at developing aspects of cross-border co-operation.

One such project is likely to be included as one of the actions under the new Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region that will be proposed by the Commission in June this year. We are also looking at other possible pilot projects in different areas of the European Union.

Both the workshops and the pilot projects will allow us to produce a progress report. That document will sum up the reactions from Member States and stakeholders and present the policy options for the next steps to be taken.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have here a policy process in the making, where you – as interested stakeholders – are invited to air your views, put forward your questions and generate new ideas. I strongly encourage you to seize this opportunity to participate in this process so that we may work together towards bringing about the sustainable development of European maritime activities.

The challenges linked to the further development of maritime activities are all around us. From the development of renewable energies in light of our 2020 targets, to the spectacular growth in maritime transport, to the increase in actions to explore the seabed, a broad spectrum of activities is taking place. These activities compete with each other for space, but they also need to be balanced against the need for a healthy marine environment as a basis for all maritime activities.

The question is not whether to deal with all of these challenges, but rather, which are the best tools for doing so.


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