The adoption of the directive on a framework for maritime spatial planning (MSP) is a milestone in the EU's integrated maritime policy (IMP). IMP was launched in 2007 and became quickly a very good example for successful policy making and agenda setting at EU level. In many member states maritime policy is put in second place which is a huge mistake. Already 40 per cent of the EU's GDP are produced in coastal communities. The maritime sector amounts already to almost €500bn euros. And there is still huge potential for a further growth - a blue growth.
Offshore energy, maritime transport, coastal and maritime tourism and the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and other raw materials will be become even more important for the EU's economy. However, this growth will take place in a very sensitive and complex environment: Europe's seas and oceans are fragile ecosystems. Thus, it is crucial to foster growth and promote a sustainable development at the same time.
"It is crucial to foster growth and promote a sustainable development at the same time"
In the trilogue negotiations it turned out that due to the council's categorical rejection of integrated coastal management (ICM) it was not possible to adopt a common directive on MSP and ICM. Instead, after tough negotiations, it was agreed to include land-sea interactions and the aim to promote coherence to coastal management processes, a reasonable compromise considering the extreme position of the council. The EP could push a more ambitious directive through by assuring that member states shall apply an eco-system based approach and need to consider economic, social and environmental aspects when establishing and implementing MSP.
Member states have 24 months to implement the directive and need to establish maritime spatial plans at the latest by April 2021. Those plans will be crucial to foster growth. Maritime space is limited and some seas, like the North sea, are already very busy. For a sustainable development and growth member states need an appropriate planning procedure to distribute maritime space as efficient as possible to the different human activities and where possible encouraging multi-purpose uses such as a combination of offshore-energy installation and aquaculture farming. Therefore, I am convinced of the crucial importance of maritime spatial planning as a tool to achieve blue growth and to strengthen an ambitious integrated maritime policy in Europe.