EU Directives and Strategies

Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (2014/89/EU)
Competition for maritime space – for renewable energy equipment, aquaculture and other uses – has highlighted the need to manage our waters more coherently. Maritime spatial planning (MSP) works across borders and sectors to ensure human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way. That is why the European Parliament and the Council have adopted legislation to create a common framework for MSP in Europe.

The MSP Directive aims to set the framework for maritime spatial planning with the objective of promoting the sustainable growth of maritime economies, sustainable development of marine areas and sustainable use of marine resources, applying an ecosystem-based approach, promoting the coexistence of relevant uses and activities and taking into account land-sea interactions. The Directive was adopted in 2014, with deadline for transposition and designation of competent authorities in 2016, and the deadline for the establishment of maritime spatial plans in 2021.

Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC)
The aim of the European Union's ambitious Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe. The MSFD aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend.

The Marine Directive was adopted in 2008. The Commission also produced a set of detailed criteria and methodological standards to help Member States implement the Marine Directive. These were revised in 2017 leading to the new Commission Decision on Good Environmental Status. Annex III of the Directive was also amended in 2017 to better link ecosystem components, anthropogenic pressures and impacts on the marine environment with the MSFD's 11 descriptors and with the new Decision on Good Environmental Status.

Floods Directive (2007/60/EC)
The Floods Directive which applies to all kinds of floods (river, lakes, flash floods, urban floods, coastal floods, including storm surges and tsunamis), on all of the EU territory requires Member States to approach flood risk management in a three stage process whereby:

  1. Member States undertake a preliminary flood risk assessment of their river basins and associated coastal zones, to identify areas where potential significant flood risk exists (by 2011);
  2. Where real risks of flood damage exist, they must develop flood hazard maps and flood risk maps for such areas (by 2013);
  3. Finally, flood risk management plans must be drawn up for these zones (by 2015).

These steps need to be reviewed every 6 years in a cycle co-ordinated and synchronised with the Water Framework Directive (WFD) implementation cycle.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive
The initial EIA Directive of 1985 ((85/337/EEC) and its three amendments have been codified by Directive 2011/92/EU of 13 December 2011, which was then amended in 2014 by Directive 2014/52/EU. The EIA procedure can be summarized as follows: the developer may request the competent authority to say what should be covered by the EIA information to be provided by the developer (scoping stage); the developer must provide information on the environmental impact (EIA report – Annex IV); the environmental authorities and the public (and affected Member States) must be informed and consulted; the competent authority decides, taken into consideration the results of consultations. The public is informed of the decision afterwards and can challenge the decision before the courts.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive (2001/42/EC)
The SEA Directive applies to a wide range of public plans and programmes (e.g. on land use, transport, energy, waste, agriculture, etc). The Directive does not refer to policies. Plans and programmes in the sense of the SEA Directive must be prepared or adopted by an authority (at national, regional or local level) and be required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions. The SEA Directive does not have a list of plans/programmes similar to the EIA.

An SEA is mandatory for plans/programmes which:

  • are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste/ water management, telecommunications, tourism, town & country planning or land use and which set the framework for future development consent of projects listed in the EIA Directive; or
  • have been determined to require an assessment under the Habitats Directive.

Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)
Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted by the European Union in 2000, will be the operational tool, setting the objectives for water protection for the future. It introduces a new legislative approach to for water protection and management for the future, based not on national or political boundaries but on natural geographical and hydrological formations: river basins. The WFD also requires coordination of different EU policies, and sets out a precise timetable for action, with 2015 as the initial target date for getting all European waters into good condition.

The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)
The Habitats Directive ensures the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species. Adopted in 1992, the Habitats Directive  aims to promote the maintenance of biodiversity, taking account of economic, social, cultural and regional requirements. It forms the cornerstone of Europe's nature conservation policy with the Birds Directive and establishes the EU wide Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas, safeguarded against potentially damaging developments.

The Birds Directive (79/409/EEC)
Concerned with the decline of bird populations, the Member States unanimously adopted the Birds Directive in 1979. It is the oldest piece of EU legislation on the environment and one of its cornerstones. Amended in 2009, it became the Directive 2009/147/EC.

The Directive places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species. It establishes a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) including all the most suitable territories for these species. Since 1994, all SPAs are included in the Natura 2000 ecological network, set up under the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.

Blue-Growth strategy
Blue Growth is the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Seas and oceans are drivers for the European economy and have great potential for innovation and growth. It is the maritime contribution to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The strategy consists of three components:

  1. Develop  sectors that have a high potential for sustainable jobs and growth (aquaculture, coastal tourism, marine biotechnology, ocean energy, seabed mining);
  2. Essential components to provide knowledge, legal certainty and security in the blue economy (marine knowledge, maritime spatial planning, integrated maritime surveillance);
  3. Sea basin strategies to ensure tailor-made measures and to foster cooperation between countries (Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea).

Common Fishery Policy
European Common Fishery Policy (CFP) is a set of rules for managing European fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. Designed to manage a common resource, it gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds and allows fishermen to compete fairly.

The CFP aims to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and that they provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens. Its goal is to foster a dynamic fishing industry and ensure a fair standard of living for fishing communities.

EU Tourism policy
EU policy aims to maintain Europe's standing as a leading destination while maximising the industry's contribution to growth and employment and promoting cooperation between EU countries, particularly through the exchange of good practice. The EU's competence in the tourism is one of support and coordination to supplement the actions of member countries.

In June 2010, the European Commission adopted the Communication, "Europe, the world's No. 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe". This communication set out a new strategy and action plan for EU tourism. Four priorities for action were identified:

  • To stimulate competitiveness in the European tourism sector;
  • To promote the development of sustainable, responsible, and high-quality tourism;
  • To consolidate Europe's image as a collection of sustainable, high-quality destinations;
  • To maximise the potential of EU financial policies for developing tourism.

Integrated Maritime Policy
The EU Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) seeks to provide a more coherent approach to maritime issues, with increased coordination between different policy areas. The IMP focuses on issues that do not fall under a single sector-based policy e.g. "blue growth" (economic growth based on different maritime sectors), and issues that require the coordination of different sectors and actors e.g. marine knowledge. Specifically, it covers these cross-cutting policies:

  • Blue growth;
  • Marine data and knowledge;
  • Maritime spatial planning;
  • Integrated maritime surveillance;
  • Sea basin strategies.