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Integrated Maritime Governance – The case of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy

Tuesday, 17 August 2010
by Alexandros Kailis, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium *
Integrated Maritime Governance – The case of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy
Promoting sustainable management of the oceans, seas, coasts and maritime sectors requires the development and implementation of an integrated approach to maritime governance[1]. This, in turn, presupposes the establishment of policy frameworks, structures, and common tools which contribute to implementing an all-inclusive approach to sea-related activities[2].

At the European level, the European Commission decided to make “the particular need for an all-embracing maritime policy” one of its strategic objectives for 2005–2009[3]. To pursue this objective, on 10 October 2007, the European Commission adopted its Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy for Europe accompanied by an Action Plan[4]. The Action Plan sets out a number of measures to be taken by Commission as a first step in implementing a new integrated maritime policy for the EU, namely actions which aim to improve the maritime economy, protect and restore the marine environment, strengthen research and innovation, foster development in coastal and outermost regions, provide leadership in international maritime affairs, and raise the visibility of Europe's maritime dimension.

In this Communication, for the first time, the EU explicitly recognises that an overarching, integrated, and coherent approach is needed for the sustainable management and governance of the oceans, seas, coasts and maritime sectors. Specifically, based on the perception that all "matters relating to Europe’s oceans and seas are interlinked and that sea-related policy must develop in a joined-up way if we are to reap the desired results" [5], the European Commission’s Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) indicates the meaning, importance, and added value of applying an integrated and coherent approach to sea-related affairs.

The ultimate objective of this new policy framework for the EU is to promote and enhance, at EU and international level, integrated and joined-up decision-making on matters affecting the oceans, seas, coasts and maritime sectors, and to create optimal conditions for the sustainable use of the oceans and seas[6]. In particular, the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy promotes the development and implementation of integrated maritime governance and integrated approaches within EU Member States and coastal regions, and fosters the development of integrated sea-basin strategies tailored to the specific needs of Europe’s different sea-basis[7]. Additionally, this European maritime policy encourages the identification and exploration of synergies between all EU sea-related sectoral policies – namely the environmental, maritime transport, energy, research, industry, fisheries, freedom, security and justice and regional policies. Moreover, this new policy for the EU aims at improving and enhancing cooperation and coordination on maritime affairs with third countries, international maritime partners and organizations[8].

At the core of the Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU lies cross-cutting tools for integrated policy-making instrumental in implementing a holistic approach to maritime affairs. These tools include: (i) an integrated maritime surveillance system for the EU maritime domain to promote the safe, secure and sustainable use of the marine and coastal resources or space[9], (ii) maritime spatial planning and integrated coast zone management to serve as fundamental tools for eco-system based management and sustainable development of marine areas and coastal regions[10] and (iii) a marine data and knowledge network to give stakeholders and policy-makers precise and high quality marine scientific data and information[11].

Moreover, apart from the above-mentioned overarching goals, the Integrated Maritime Policy attaches also great importance to the interaction with and amongst stakeholders and their robust and constant involvement in the maritime policy-making and governance structures. Hand-in-hand development of the Integrated Maritime Policy with the various stakeholders will contribute significantly to promoting and implementing integrated maritime governance for the EU, and it will ensure an all-inclusive thinking on all levels of maritime affairs. In an effort to balance the various interests at stake, facilitate and improve the sharing of information, the exchange of best practices and dialogue with stakeholders, the European integrated maritime policy encourages the establishment of cross-sectoral cooperation platforms and networks with industry, the research community, the maritime regions, public authorities, and environmental NGOs.

When it endorsed the integrated maritime policy, the European Council of 14 December 2007 asked the Commission to report within two years on the achievements of the policy[12]. Following that invitation, the Commission adopted on 15 October 2009 a Progress Report on the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy[13]. In its Progress Report, which was endorsed by the conclusions of the General Affairs Council of the EU on 16 November 2009, the Commission sums up the main achievements of the Integrated Maritime Policy made so far and charts the course for its next implementation phase. The Report sets out six key strategic directions for the future development of the Integrated Maritime Policy: (i) enhancement of integrated maritime governance on all levels (ii) further development of cross-cutting policy tools, (iii) implementation of sea-basin strategies, (iv) definition of the boundaries of sustainability of human activities that have an impact on the marine environment in the years ahead, in the framework of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, (v) further promotion and development of the international dimension of the IMP, (vi) and a renewed focus on sustainable economic growth, employment and innovation.

To date, the EU’ integrated maritime policy empowered with the strong support from EU institutions, Member States, regions and stakeholders has established itself as new approach to enhance the optimal development of all sea-related activities in a sustainable manner. This new maritime policy for the EU is changing the way Europeans look at their seas and oceans and reaffirms the strategic importance of the continent’s seas and coastal regions. Such an integrated maritime policy approach to the sustainable management and governance of the oceans, seas, and coasts, could serve as a useful source of inspiration and provide a unique contribution towards the establishment of effective and well-functioning global integrated maritime governance. 


This article represents solely the views of its author and cannot in any circumstances be regarded as the official position of the Commission.


Endnotes


  1. The need for an integrated approach to ocean and maritime affairs is emphasized in the  preamble to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which stipulates that “the   problems of ocean space are closely inter-related and need to be considered as a whole.” See available online:<http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/preamble.htm>. Additionally, in 2002, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on  Sustainable Development concluded that “ensuring the sustainable development of the oceans requires effective coordination and cooperation.” See European Commission Communication on Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy: Towards best practice in integrated maritime governance and stakeholder consultation – COM(2008) 395, 26.6.2008, pp. 4.
  2. European Commission Communication on Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy: Towards best practice in integrated maritime governance and stakeholder consultation – COM(2008) 395, 26.6.2008, pp. 4-5.
  3. Green Paper on A Future Maritime Policy for the Union: a European Vision of the Oceans and Seas - COM(2006) 275, pp. 6.
  4. European Commission Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union – COM(2007) 575 of 10 October 2007, and Action Plan to the Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the Union – SEC(2007) 1278.
  5. European Commission Communication on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union – COM(2007) 575 of 10 October 2007, pp. 2.
  6. The main environmental pillar of the Integrated Maritime Policy is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of June 2008, which aims to achieve good environmental status of the EU’s marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend.
  7. See Communication from the Commission on the European Union and the Arctic Region – COM(2008) 763 of 20.11.08, Communication on the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region –  COM(2009) 248 of 10.6.2009, and Commission Communication "Towards an Integrated Maritime Policy for better governance in the Mediterranean – COM (2009) 466 of 11.09.2009.
  8. See Communication on developing the international dimension of the Integrated Maritime Policy of the European Union - COM(2009) 536 of 15.10.2009.
  9. See Commission Communication ‘Towards the integration of maritime surveillance: A common information sharing environment for the EU maritime domain’- COM (2009) 538 final of 15.10.2009.
  10. European Commission Communication on a Roadmap for Maritime Spatial Planning: Achieving Common Principles in the EU, COM(2008)791, of 25.11.08. The Council signed at the end of 2008 the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management under the Barcelona Convention.
  11. The Commission announced the establishment of a European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODNET) by the end of 2010.  
  12. Presidency Conclusions of the European Council on 14 December 2007 – Doc.  16616/1/07 REV1.
  13. Commission Progress Report on the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy – COM (2009) 540 final  of 15.10.2009, p. 2.
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