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EU Maritime Policy: Green Paper 2006

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The Green Paper Towards the future Maritime Policy for the Union: a European vision for the oceans and seas aimed to launch a debate about the scope and main orientations of a future EU Maritime Policy.

This Green Paper was the result of over a year of consulting with stakeholders, identifying gaps between sea-related sectoral policy areas and attempting to adopt best practice and learn from obstacles and challenges. The mandate has been to examine all economic activities of Europeans which are linked to or impact on the oceans and seas, as well as all the policies dealing with them, with a view to finding the best way to extract more benefit from the oceans in a sustainable manner.

The debate

The Green Paper did not propose immediate action but rather highlighted a number of areas where integrated effort might either provide benefits for a number of individual sectoral policy areas or help to resolve conflicts between them. It posed a number of questions ranging from the fundamental "Should the EU have an integrated maritime policy?", to more detailed issues.

The Commission sought answers to these questions and solicited further new ideas in a public consultation process which lasted from 7 June 2006 until 30 June 2007. Over 490 contributions were finally received, and over 230 events were held where Maritime Policy was discussed with stakeholders during this period.

The EU vision

On 10 October 2007, the Commission presented its vision for an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union. The vision document (COM(2007)575 final, Brussels, 10.10.2007) -also called the Blue Book-, was accompanied by a report on the stakeholder consultation results.

Green Paper proposal

The Green Paper proposes a policy that treats the oceans and seas in a holistic way in order to achieve a Sustainable Development of these areas; this is, to ensure mutual reinforcement of economic growth, social welfare and environmental protection. Instead a mere collection of vertical sectoral policies, this policy should be integrated, intersectoral and multidisciplinary. In this regard, existing sectoral policies on maritime transport, industry, offshore energy, fisheries, the marine environment, coastal regions and others are to be examined in a systematic manner in order to explore how they could be combined to reinforce each other by avoiding fragmentation of decision-making.

Underlying Principles

The Commission believes that in pursuing the vision of "an all-embracing maritime policy aimed at developing a thriving maritime economy, in an environmental sustainable manner" it should rest firmly on twin pillars:

To stimulate growth, mantain competitiveness and ensure quality jobs within the Union, continued investments in knowledge and skills are key factors

To mantain and improve the status of the resource upon which all maritime activities are based -the ocean itself, an Ecosystem-based approach, built on scientific knowledge, is considered essential

The Green Paper vision on Coastal areas

Coastal areas are becoming more and more attractive for Europe’s affluent population, leading to the establishment of a new industry around maritime leisure services. This has created the need to support sustainable tourism to ensure that Europe remains the Nº1 world tourist destination. However there are not enough statistics to estimate the value of coastal locations, the state of health of the sea off the coasts, the availability of maritime leisure opportunities or the positive effects of the sea on their quality of life (i.e. no indicators on the non-market value of the sea exist). Without statistics, it is hard to see how planning authorities can give sufficient weight to these elements when taking decisions with regarding the development of economic activities in coastal areas or coastal waters (More information on Theme 1 - Social and economic aspects of ICZM Multifunctionality and Valuation).

Need for a preventative approach and innovative planning

As coastal areas become more attractive to Europeans, increased attention will need to be paid to the increasing coastal risks, such as erosion and flooding, generally attributed to global climate change, and how they may be avoided by the development of new planning techniques. The exportation of such techniques to those parts of the world experiencing similar impacts would allow Europe to retain its leadership in sustainable maritime development.

Financial tools for coastal regions

It will be necessary to reflect on how emerging EU Maritime Policy goals can be supported through EU financial instruments. Coastal regions receive financial support from several EU policies, which may be of considerable interest for the development of maritime policy. In this context there is a need to discuss how burdens carried by certain coastal regions or Member States in the common interest should be reflected in the allocation of financing among regions.

In this regard, the main source is the Cohesion policy (namely the Structural Funds –ERDF, ESD- and the Cohesion Fund, which aim to reduce disparities between different regions.

The Green Paper vision on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)

One of the principles of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is to integrate the sea, the land and their interface areas under a single integrating management, rather than limiting such management to terrestrial areas. Given the interaction of coastal and maritime issues across the land-sea interface, an overall EU maritime policy has a major stake in the success of ICZM. Consideration should therefore be given to an EU-wide mechanism for comparative analysis and an exchange of best practice.

A future maritime policy has to build instruments and methods for ensuring consistency between land and marine systems in order to avoid duplication and regulations, or the transfer of unsolved land-planning problems to the sea. One idea would be to associate the same stakeholders in the planning processes of each. A common vision in the form of an overall coastal and marine spatial development plan could provide a coherent set of policy objectives and principles.

Management tools proposed by the Green Paper

The Commission believes that a system of spatial planning built on the Ecosystem-based Management approach for maritime activities on the waters, under the jurisdiction of, or controlled by the Member States should be created. Previous experiences in other regions of the world show that such planning systems need to be designed with the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

This process is made both politically easier and economically more efficient by the provision of appropriate management tools, such as systems for the provision of extensive spatial data (The European Marine Observation and Data Network), cumulative Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The Green Paper on other EU policies

The Green Paper builds upon existing EU policies and initiatives.

The Green Paper states that the new EU Maritime Policy should be anchored within the Lisbon Strategy, stimulating growth and more and better jobs within the Union.

One important link between land and the marine ecosystems is provided by the continuous flow of water from our rivers to the sea. As Ecosystem-based Management of coastal waters develops on the basis of the Thematic Strategy for the Marine Environment (Marine Strategy), it is likely that land-based measures to be taken will be identified if its objectives are to be achieved.

  • Other EU Directives:

A major issue highlighted by the Green Paper is the reconciliation of the development of maritime transport and environmental conservation, against the background of the constraints imposed by EU regulations under Birds Directive, Habitats Directive, NATURA 2000.

Further reading

  • Vallega, A., The regional approach to the ocean, the ocean regions, and ocean regionalisation -a post-modern dilemma. Ocean & Coastal Management 45 (2002) 721-760
  • Suárez de Vivero, J.L., 2005, The Sea: Coastal Laws. Their Application and Associated Problems. ICCCM'05 International Conference on Coastal Conservation and Management in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, March 2005, Tavira, Portugal


The main author of this article is Garriga, Maica
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.