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Coastal Zone Policy

Proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management

The Commission launched on 12 March 2013 a new joint initiative on integrated coastal management and maritime spatial planning.

The proposal, which takes the form of a draft Directive, aims to establish a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management in EU Member States with a view to promote the sustainable growth of maritime and coastal activities and the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources.

The proposal will require Member States to map human activities at sea and identify their most effective future spatial development in maritime spatial plans and to coordinate relevant policies affecting coastal areas in integrated coastal management strategies. To ensure the sustainability and environmental health of the various uses in marine and coastal areas, maritime spatial planning and coastal management will have to employ an approach that respects the limits of ecosystems. This approach includes the assessment of plans and strategies in accordance with the provisions of Directive 2001/42/EC on strategic environmental assessment and will ensure that economic activities factor in the protection of natural resources at an early stage as well as risks related to climate change and natural hazards to which coastal areas are extremely vulnerable. This has economic benefits as natural resources are often an essential basis for activities such as fishing and aquaculture, which rely on clean seas.

Member States will also be required to cooperate to ensure coherent approaches across marine and coastal regions.  The coherent application of maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management will improve interaction between land- and sea based activities. The optimal distribution of maritime space among the various uses and coordinated management of coastal zones across sectors will enable concurrent activities to achieve their full potential. Using a single instrument to balance all instruments should also increase certainty for investors and reduce the administrative burden for national administrations, while preserving ecosystem services.

Maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management will help the implementation of several other EU policies relevant for marine and coastal areas. Relevant environment policies include the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Water Framework Directive, the Natura and Habitats Directives and the Biodiversity Strategy. Other relevant EU policies are the Integrated Maritime Policy, the upcoming Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation, the Renewable Energy Directive, the Motorways of the Sea Initiative and the Common fishery Policy.

Environment Commissioner Potočnik welcomed the initiative: "This initiative will contribute to a healthy environment and better living conditions for the 200 million EU citizens who live in coastal regions. It should also help preserve unique and diverse coastlines and ecosystems that offer invaluable habitats for plants and animals".

The full press release can be consulted here.

The Commission proposal will now be considered by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. Once adopted, the new initiative will become EU law.

The full text of the proposal, the accompanying documents which include the impact assessment and the further follow up of the different stages in the decision making process can be consulted on the pre-lex webpages.


What are the concrete obligations for Member States in the draft Directive?

  • Member States will be required to establish and implement maritime spatial plans and integrated coastal management strategies.
  • Maritime spatial plans should at least map the actual and potential spatial and temporal distribution of maritime activities in marine waters.
  • Integrated coastal management strategies should at least contain an inventory of existing measure applied in coastal zones and an analysis of the need for additional action for the appropriate management of activities in coastal zones.
  • The plans and strategies will need to be mutually coordinated, provided they are not integrated, and be reviewed at least every 6 years.
  • All relevant stakeholders and authorities should be appropriately consulted on the draft plans and strategies and have access to the results once available.
  • Plans and strategies should be based on best available data that should be collected, as far as possible, by making use of existing instruments established under other EU initiatives.
  • Member States have to cooperate together and with third countries to ensure that plans and strategies are coherent across coastal zones and marine regions.
  • Plans and strategies will need to be subject to applicable procedures in relation to strategic environmental assessments.
  • Member States will need to designate the authority or authorities for the implementation of the Directive and will need to report to the Commission on the implementation of the Directive on a regular basis.