Belgium: EU Member States Should Undertake National MSP, Report Says

Belgium: EU Member States Should Undertake National MSP, Report Says

Delivering power from offshore renewable energy – wind, wave and tidal – in European sea basins will require more integrated and cross-border maritime spatial planning (MSP). This could be achieved through a new directive on MSP. Such a directive could require legislation in Member States without being prescriptive on form and content, and lay a foundation for increased cooperation on MSP through flexible, regional actions. This is one of the key recommendations of the EU-funded project SEANERGY 2020.

Due to the increased activities in European sea basins, there is growing competition between interests across different sectors, such as shipping and maritime transport, offshore energy, port development, fisheries and aquaculture, and environmental protection.

More power from offshore renewable energy means more pressure on already limited marine space. A collaborative and integrated approach on further use of space at sea is required to secure the sustainable development of marine areas. The EU-funded project, SEANERGY 2020, has studied national and international planning instruments with a view to formulating policy recommendations on how to best deal with MSP and remove policy obstacles to the deployment of offshore renewable energy in the European sea basins.

The report of the SEANERGY 2020 project concludes that the European Commission should encourage EU Member States to carry out national maritime spatial planning (MSP). There is a strong consensus that MSP is a useful tool to manage conflicts between the different uses, and to ensure a balance between economic, environmental and social objectives at sea.

However, existing MSP practices largely reflect national needs and priorities and lack explicit focus on transnational issues. Given the expanding nature of human activities, increasing environmental concerns at sea, and their cross-border implications, there is also a need to ensure a transnational focus on MSP activities.

Furthermore, the project team recommends ‘the European Commission to play a key role in facilitating transnational cooperation and coordination in MSP. Although politically challenging, a new MSP directive, supported by requirements to perform national MSP, but respecting also the Principle of Subsidiarity, could be a way forward. Alternatively, the European Commission could aim for establishing guidelines to promote the necessary steps towards national and transnational MSP’.

Additional project recommendations, which could either fit into the context of an EU directive on MSP, EU guidelines or other existing EU instruments, are:

  • Establishing a regional (or sub-regional) sea basin forum to actively align national objectives and plans across neighbouring borders.
  • Ensuring cross-border stakeholder consultations.
  • Including cooperation on key MSP-related aspects, such as data collection and management, grid infrastructure development, research and permitting and licensing procedures.
  • Water Framework Directive could be used as a template for promoting cooperation and designing cooperative structures.

The project consortium, headed by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), consisted of eight different European partners. ECN was lead partner in developing the project’s policy recommendations.


Press release, October 3, 2012; Image: nffo