Public participation survey

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This article is a summary of the results of the State of the art questionnaire. For more information on the state article, see The state of the art of public participation in Europe.

Survey on the level of public participation in EU member states

In order to measure public participation in different EU countries, EUCC put out a questionnaire to approximately 150 professionals in ICZM, with a focus on public participation. Out of 187 questionnaires sent, 38 were returned. Since the questionnaire included feedback, several versions were sent out while the questionnaire was refined. The questionnaire was based on the Eight levels of public participation by Sherry Arnstein described in the previous section. The questionnaire adapted the original 8 levels into 7 levels, since two of the levels were considered too similar for the purposes of the questionnaire.


There were 38 responses out of 187 questionnaires sent. The number of returned questionnaires per country were as follows:

  • Belgium: 4
  • Canada: 1
  • Cyprus: 1
  • Germany: 2
  • Spain: 2
  • France: 3
  • Greece: 2
  • Ireland: 4
  • Italy: 1
  • Netherlands: 3
  • Poland: 1
  • Portugal: 4
  • Sweden: 2
  • United Kingdom: 8

Total: 38 responses, 37 from within the EU. There are 12 ENCORA project states represented in the responses. The obvious missing state is Denmark, from which no replies have been received. Two replies came from Cyprus and Canada, states which were not in the ENCORA projects. The results from Cyprus and Canada are not included in the results below.

Question 1: How are the stakeholders identified? Generally, stakeholders are identified on an ad hoc basis, either through local knowledge, through the network of others already involved in the project or using known stakeholder such as clubs and societies. Spain is an exception with a stakeholder database, created under EU recommendation 413/2002/EC. Sweden has lists available at local and regional level.

Question 2: What are the main ways to get stakeholders involved in the ICM process? This varies widely between member states, and most answers indicate that this varies widely within each member state as well. EIA procedures are often mentioned as well as work groups and fora. Further information on methods used to involve stakeholder in an ICM process seems useful.

Question 3: What are the main groups of stakeholders involved in the ICM process in your country? Most replies are very similar, with authorities (local, regional and national), NGO's, academics, recreation and fishermen at the top of the list. Others are: Harbour authorities, shipping, consultants, energy sector, sand & gravel industry, agriculture, resident groups, drinking water industry, general public, land owners and educational organisations. Italy has an exceptional answer, it lists only coastal tourist operators as main stakeholders

Question 4: At which stage of the ICM process do the stakeholders usually get involved? Again the answers both between and within states varies, but most experts agree that the stage of stakeholder involvements depends on the project. There were several experts (in Ireland, Italy and UK) that mentioned that stakeholders were usually earlier involved in local or regional projects than in national projects. Several replies also indicated that different types of stakeholders were approached at differing stages. First, other administrative bodies were consulted, then organized institutions from industry, academia and NGO's and last, the general public.

Question 5: Is there a common vision for the future of the coastal zone in your country? If yes, were all stakeholders actively involved in creating this vision? If no, please explain why not. Again, professionals within several countries disagreed. France, Spain, Poland and Belgium indicated that these visions were under development. In Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal, experts disagreed. In this case, some experts said there was a national vision, others said there was no national vision. 4 replies and 1 from the Netherlands indicated there was no national visions, but there were several local visions. Clear replies from Greece and Italy indicated there was no national vision, Sweden had two replies, both of whom indicated there was a national coastal vision. Germany has a National ICZM strategy, but no vision.

Question 6: In your country, is the public generally considered to be a stakeholder or are they a separate group? The public is considered to be a stakeholder in Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK. Poland is in transition, where the authorities are beginning to recognize the public as a stakeholder. The public is considered a seperate group in Belgium, Germany, France and Italy. In the Netherlands 2 replies indicated that the public is not a stakeholder, the third disagreed. In Portugal this is reversed, 3 replies said the public is a stakeholder, one reply disagrees.

Question 7: Is the public aware of the importance of ICM in your country? Most nations (Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands) indicate that the public is not or very limited aware of ICM. The replies from different experts from Greece, Ireland, Portugal and the UK are conflicting, but most indicate that awareness is very limited. Of 38 replies, only 4 mention awareness of the importance of ICM.

Question 8: What are the main ways to get the public involved in the ICM process? The answers to this question vary wildly because of different interpretations of the question. Some experts discuss methods or process, other discuss strategies to get the public involved. Most replies focus on education and information, work groups and fora and/or stress the importance of focusing on specific, local issues. One notable reply indicates that threatening to remove coastal defences always seems to work. We imagine.

Question 9: Is data, information and knowledge about ICM available to the public? How? In Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden information is available to the public. The most common medium for information dissimination is the internet, numerous websites are mentioned. In Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal this information is not available. Replies from the UK differ. Note that usually information is technically available, but this is usually not accessed because access is not facilitated by the authorities. Information is too technical or citizens do not know that information is available. Experts from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal mention this specifically.

Question 10: According to you, what are the improvements that could be made when trying to inform and involve the public in ICM? This question had a range of replies. As in question 8, most answers focus on information dissimination, education, the use of the media, focusing on specific local issues and some on political will. More detailed answers to question 10 are also available.

Question 11: Is ICM participation in your country mostly voluntary or defined by law?In Germany, Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and the UK, ICM participation is voluntary. Belgium and the Netherlands are in a transition, where parts of ICM participation is defined by law.

Question 12: European law provides legislation, like the Water Framework Directive and the Århus Convention, that requires the member states to implement participation in environmental matters. Does your country implement these directives? How? All countries indicate that these directives have been implemented at least minimally.

Question 13: What provisions are there in national legislation concerning environmental participation? All countries have implemented the EIA and EAE directives in some form. However, many question the effectiveness of the implementation. In practice, consultation is often minimal or not enforced. The Uk in particular seems to go further than other nations, while Greece and Italy seem to have minimal implementation.

Question 14: Do you feel that participation in environmental issues is legally supported more by the national government, local or federal/regional government, or the European Union? Most experts agree that the main driver of participation in environmental issues is the EU, but with a few exceptions. These are the Dutch regional government (provinces) and the Swedish and English national governments.

Question 15: Can you please name some examples of good practices concerning ICM participation in your country Examples of good practice in ICM

Question 16: Can you please name any obstacles to the implementation of public participation in your country? Lack of awareness and/or lack of public interest is most often mentioned (10 replies), other problems include lack of resources/funding (2x), lack of common policy/strategy (2x), problems with local or national governments (2x), lack of (good) communication from policy and/or science to the public (2x), bureaucracy, legacy of previous failed projects, inadequacy of political & technical communities. Several replies from the UK mention consultation fatigue. The public has become over-consulted.

Question 17: What measures are taken in your country to make sure that effective public and stakeholder involvement is taking place? Responses from Greece, Italy and one response from the UK indicated that no measures were being taken. This response from the UK is exceptional; all other responses from the UK mention indicate that a lot of work is being done. Most other replies mention either a legal framework for participation or communication methods.

Question 18: Can you please name some specific projects in your country that promote participation in the ICM process? examples of good practice in ICM

Question 19: Can you please complete the following table, which is based on the different levels of public participation put forward by Sherry Arnstein. Please mark the appropriate level for your country.(See also seven levels of public participation) Answers are discussed per country.

  • Belgium: Varies, very high (1x), very low (manipulation)(1x), informing (1x)
  • Germany: level 4(1x)
  • France: level 4 (2x), level 3(1x) level 1(1x)
  • Ireland: level 4 (2x), level 2(1x), level 3(1x)
  • Italy: Level 4 (1x)
  • Netherlands: Level 4 (2x)
  • Poland: level 3(1x), level 4(1x)
  • Portugal: Level 4 (4x)
  • Sweden: level 5 (2x), level 6 (1x)
  • UK: level 5 (3x), level 4 (2x)

Question 20: Same as the previous question, but for each region Answers are again discussed per country

  • Belgium: Varies, very high (1x), very low (manipulation)(1x), informing (1x)
  • Germany: level 3(1x), level 5(1x)
  • Spain: level 2(1x), level 3 (1x)
  • Greece: very low (2x)
  • Ireland: level 4 (2x)
  • Italy: level 4 (1x)
  • Netherlands: level 4 (1x), level 5 (2x), level 6 (1x)
  • Poland: level 3 (1x), level 4 (1x)
  • Portugal: level 4 (3x)
  • Sweden: varies, levels 4 to 6 (1x)
  • UK: level 4 (1x), level 5 (2x)


The survey gives an overview of public participation in Europe. The most striking result is that the levels of public participation (Questions 19 and 20) are not very different between countries, even though there are some experts who disagree. All countries are in middle range of levels (levels 3 to 5), even though earlier questions of the questionnaire indicated larger differences.

All countries have implemented public participation to some degree. There is some form of legal construction for public consultation for large coastal projects everywhere, usually in the form of EIA public partipation meetings. Some countries, notably the UK, Sweden and Ireland, go further.

In countries where participation in practice is low, there seems to be a gap between coastal practice and legal instruments which implement public particpation.

Every country can name some good examples of ICZM, even though what exactly constitutes a good example is subjective. A list of examples of good practice in ICM has been constructed using the replies fromt the survey.

Distrust from the public towards authorities on coastal matters is reported in Poland and Greece. In most other countries, lack of awareness and/or lack of interest by the public is reported as an obstacle. Several answers from the UK report consultation fatigue. This is an interesting point, that suggests that there is such a thing as too much consultation and participation. Even though this is not an issue in most countries, this is an interesting discussion point.

In Europe, participation most often occurs at Level 4, generally seen as attitude surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public hearings. Whilst a valid step towards full participation, when it is not combined with higher levels of participation it is simply not enough. Consultation alone means that there is no guarantee that “citizen concerns and ideas will be taken into account”. It is important to recognise that consultation is not full participation.

Only in some cases, is their full participation in ICM decision making, largely through the development of partnerships. These are especially common in the UK. In a partnership, the power is shared by “negotiation between citizens and stakeholders”. Planning and decision making tasks are carried out through bodies like “joint policy boards”, “planning committees” and other mechanisms that might enforce such a partnership. They work best with an “organized power base” in the region or community where meetings can be held, finances can be taken care of and where the group can do business with its employees (lawyers, technicians etc.). The key to effective partnership is good organization and planning.

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

Citation: Kreiken, Wouter (2019): Public participation survey. Available from [accessed on 7-07-2020]