Regional Sea Conventions
The Marine Directive requires that, in developing their marine strategies, Member States use existing regional cooperation structures to co-ordinate among themselves and to make every effort to coordinate their actions with those of third countries in the same region or sub-region.
In Europe, there are four cooperation structures which aim to protect the marine environment and bring together Member States and neighbouring countries that share marine waters: the Regional Sea Conventions.
Cooperation among Member States and with third countries has been taking place through these Conventions for more than 30 years.
On one hand, the Regional Sea Conventions (RSC) implement progressive action compatible with the requirements of the Marine Directive. On the other hand, the Directive includes numerous provisions, which aim at ensuring that the implementation of the Directive not only contributes but also builds upon the activities of the Regional Sea Conventions, which cover EU marine regions or sub-regions.
In particular, Article 6 of the Directive requires Member States to use the institutional structures and activities of the RSC to facilitate the implementation of the Directive notably in relation to third countries. The Directive also ensures that RSC and other international agreements are taken into account at all stages of the development of marine strategies. Finally, the Commission was required to consult with RSC when developing standards and methodological criteria on good environmental status.
The four European Regional Sea Conventions are:
- The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment in the North-East Atlantic of 1992 (further to earlier versions of 1972 and 1974) – the OSPAR Convention (OSPAR)
- The Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment in the Baltic Sea Area of 1992 (further to the earlier version of 1974) – the Helsinki Convention (HELCOM)
- The Convention for the Protection of Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean of 1995 (further to the earlier version of 1976) – the Barcelona Convention (UNEP-MAP)
- The Convention for the Protection of the Black Sea of 1992 – the Bucharest Convention.
The European Community is a party to the first three Conventions. For the Black Sea region, one priority of the European Commission is that the Bucharest Convention is amended to allow the European Community to accede (see Communication on Black Sea Synergy, COM(2007) 160 final).
Analysis of Regional Sea Convention needs ensuring better coherence of approaches under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Regional Sea Conventions can support the implementation of the Marine Directive in at least three main ways: by improving regional and cross-regional coherence of national implementation; by making the RSCs’ long-standing experience and established structures for cooperation available to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of national implementation; and by offering practical opportunities for the mobilisation and coordination of relevant third countries’ activities. A study aimed to identify key support needs of the RSCs concerning their role in relation to the implementation of the Marine Directive, to outline corresponding support options and to develop a work-plan for implementing the support options was prepared for the Commission.