This article introduces the European Union Marine Strategy. It should be read in conjunction with the article on the Green Paper for an EU Maritime Policy.
The European Commission has proposed an ambitious strategy to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe.
The Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment was adopted by the European Commission on the 24th of October of 2005. Its roots are in the Sixth Environmental Action Programme adopeted by the Council and Parliament for the period of 2002-2012.
The Marine Strategy aims to achieve good environmental status of the EU's marine waters by 2021 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend.
The consultation process
To help prepare the Strategy an extensive consultation process to stakeholders took place form 2002 to 2004. Two stakeholder conferences were held. An internet consultation took place from 15 March to 9 May 2005.
Challenges of the Marine Strategy
- The Strategy should adopt a common vision and general approach to all sea areas, where many common transboundary problems exist.
- The Strategy should also adopt specific approaches on a regional scale to address regional diversification (problems and priorities differ from one sea area to another due to socio-economic variation)
- The Strategy should adress all human uses in a holistic and integrated way following an Ecosystem-based Management approach, rather than through a sector-by-sector approach, with the corresponding policy development and institutional changes
- The Strategy implementation will require a sustained long-term political commitment to deliver.
Individual marine regions have to be identified on the basis of bio-geographic and oceanographic features, together with the human activities and their impact on the areas concerned.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea ICES study suggesting European marine regions was an important contribution to this process.
European Marine Regions will be stablished by a Marine Strategy Directive on the basis of geographical and environmental criteria. Each Member State, in close cooperation with the relevant other Member States and third countries within a Marine Region, will be required to develop Marine Strategies for its marine waters.
The Marine Strategies will contain a detailed assessment of the state of the environment, a definition of "good environmental status" at regional level and the establishment of clear environmental targets and monitoring programmes.
Each Member State will draw up a programme of cost-effective measures. Impact assessments, including detailed cost-benefit analysis of the measures proposed, will be required prior to the introduction of any new measure.
The Marine Strategy an other EU policies
- The Marine Strategy will constitute the environmental pillar of the future maritime policy the European Commission is working on (see Green Paper for an EU Maritime Policy), designed to achieve the full economic potential of oceans and seas in harmony with the marine environment, which is one of the European Commission's strategic objectives for 2005-2009.
- The Marine Strategy is consistent with the Water Framework Directive from 2000 which requires that surface freshwater and ground water bodies (lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries, coastal waters…) achieve a good ecological status by 2015 and that the first review of the River Basin Management Plan should take place in 2021.
- Regional Conventions for the protection of the European Seas:
- North-East Atlantic: the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) (1992)
- Baltic Sea Area: the Helsinki Convention (1992)
- Black Sea (1992): the BSC Convention (1992)
- Mediterranean: the Barcelona Convention (1995)
These Conventions provide frameworks within which the EU, its Member States and third countries work jointly. Although they have done an excellent job in protecting the marine environment, they have few enforcement and control powers so their commitments are difficult to implement.
The Marine Strategy and other international initiatives
- United Nations (UN): important milestones in protecting the marine environment
- UN Conference on the human environment (1972): adoption of the Stockholm Declaration
- UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
- UN Conference on environment and development (UNCED 1992): adoption of Agenda 21 and the Precautionary principle
- UN Johannesburg summit (2002): adoption of the Johannesburg Declaration
See also EU coastal related policies
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