The European Parliament endorsed last month a new directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in member states. Under the new legislation, EU countries will be required to draw up spatial plans for their waters, with the aim of better coordinating the various activities that take place at sea.
Maritime (or marine) spatial plans are the marine parallels to land-use plans, in that they regulate the uses and activities allowed within a specific geographic area, except that they apply to areas at sea, rather than on land.
Under the new directive, EU states must transpose the new rules into their national laws by 2016, and draw up national maritime spatial plans by 2021.
In a press release announcing the adoption of the new legislation, the European Commission wrote:
“In coastal and maritime areas, many activities compete for the same space and resources: fishing grounds, aquaculture farms, marine protected areas exist alongside maritime infrastructures such as cables, pipelines, shipping lanes and oil, gas and wind installations. The new Directive will help avoid potential conflicts between such diverse uses and create a stable environment attractive to investors, thereby contributing to sustainable growth.”
The announcement marked the culmination of years of talks among member states. In March of 2013, the European Commission released a draft of a Directive on MSP and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). At that time, the two topics were packaged together into a single directive, which would obligate member states to prepare strategies for ICZM along their coastlines, in addition to the maritime spatial plans.
However, the text of the directive adopted last month contained only the MSP component, along with a general stipulation that states’ maritime spatial planning “should take into account land-sea interactions.” The European Commission’s statement made no explicit mention of the fate of the original ICZM component of the directive.
According to Mare Nostrum Project Head Prof. Rachelle Alterman, the ability of member states to reach an agreement on an ICZM directive has been in doubt for some time, since under the European Union’s existing legal structures, policy areas such as land-use planning, property rights and building permits are under the authority of member states alone, with little intervention by the EU. The willingness to change that is apparently not yet ripe, she added.
Pablo Gorostiza Frieyro of Spain’s Port Institute for Studies and Cooperation in the Valencian Region (FEPORTS), a Mare Nostrum partner, said that opposition to EU legislation on coastal management had come mainly from the regional level. He pointed to a position paper published last year by the Committee of the Regions, a group that represents the interests of regional and local governments in the EU legislative process, which argued that a directive on ICZM would impinge upon regional and local governments’ spatial planning powers.
Meanwhile, the norms laid out in the ICZM Protocol to the Barcelona Convention remain in place, but they are largely flexible and provide plenty of room for local discretion (and apply only to Mediterranean countries, not to northern European countries). Nor are there any direct mechanisms to enforce the Protocol’s requirements, as there would have been under an EU directive on ICZM.
Mare Nostrum’s primary focus is on identifying legal-institutional obstacles to ICZM at the local level and creating tools for surmounting them.
Associate Prof. Konstantinos Lalenis of the University of Thessaly, Greece, another partner in the Mare Nostrum Project, said that the new directive’s primary effect on maritime planning in Greece would likely be in the reduction of bureaucracy for offshore activities, and that it may also affect forthcoming regional legislation on maritime protection.
Meanwhile, he added, the government of Greece is pursuing dramatic changes to its legislation on coastal zone management and protection in the direction of lessening controls. These changes would reportedly include rolling back protections on public access to Greece’s beaches, a right which is currently protected by the Greek Constitution. The new legislation would also retroactively legalize illegal construction along the coast. Over 110,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the government back away from the new legislation.Leave a reply →