The importance of developing an integrated approach to maritime affairs is underlined in the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union. This was first published in 2007, as a result of a year- long consultation exercise following the launch of the discussion document "Towards a Future Maritime Policy for the European Union. A Progress Report was published in 2012. The objective of the Integrated Maritime Policy to coordinate all EU policies with a maritime dimension in order to safeguard environmental sustainability and quality of life in coastal regions while promoting the growth potential of maritime industries.
A common approach to Marine Spatial Planning is a cornerstone of this policy. The EU Commission produced a Communication Roadmap on Maritime Spatial Planning (2008). The roadmap is intended to facilitate the development of spatial planning for both maritime and coastal spaces in order to realise the growth potential of EU maritime sectors in a sustainable way. MSP can also help coastal areas prepare for climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, floods, altered marine ecosystems and investments in coastal protection.
Launching the roadmap, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented: "Maritime spatial planning is a key tool for a more rational use of sea areas and for the sustainable development of the maritime economy. It is the only way in which we can provide a predictable framework for economic investments in offshore areas and is a precondition for striking a balance between the vested interests of different maritime activities while preserving the marine environment".
The fast growth in maritime activities such as maritime transport, port development, aquaculture, offshore drilling and tourism, combined with emerging and potentially new uses of the sea such as underwater technologies, offshore renewable energy and blue biotech is increasing the pressure on already limited marine space.
An increasing number of EU Member States are now developing maritime spatial planning in order to manage activities at sea and in the coastal zone. By developing a common approach, EU members can deal in a more effective way with maritime matters which often are interlinked and transcend national borders. e.g. the management of maritime activities in line with ecosystem requirements.
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