Development of the European Marine Strategy
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This article introduces the European Union Marine Strategy. It should be read in conjunction with the article on the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
The European Commission has proposed in 2005 an ambitious strategy for the environmental protection of the European Seas. The roots of the Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment are in the Sixth Environmental Action Programme adopted 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 from 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 address 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.
The strategy applies to the different European marine regions, identified on the basis of bio-geographic and oceanographic features, together with the human activities and their impact on the areas concerned.
The proposal of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) for European marine regions was an important contribution to this process.
European Marine Regions will be established 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 Strategy
The Marine Strategy aims at establishing a detailed assessment of the state of the marine environment, a definition of "good environmental status" (GES) at regional level and clear environmental targets and monitoring programmes.
Member States will be responsible for drawing up a programme of measures to achieve the GES targets. 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 and other EU policies
The Marine Strategy constitutes 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 of 2000, which requires that surface freshwater and ground water bodies (lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries, coastal waters…) achieve a good ecological status by 2015;
- Regional Conventions for the protection of the European Seas:
The EU, its Member States and third countries already work jointly in these Conventions for protecting the marine environment. The Marine Strategy provides new control powers for enforcement of commitments regarding marine environmental protection.
The Marine Strategy and other international initiatives
Major initiatives of the United Nations (UN) for protection of 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
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