In 2007 the European Union developed a Blue Paper and Action Plan on an Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). Maritime spatial planning (MSP) was identified as one of the cross-sectoral tools (pillars) supporting the implementation of the IMP. In 2008, the European Commission adopted the Communication “Roadmap for Maritime Spatial Planning: Achieving Common Principles in the EU”, that proposed a set of key principles for MSP (see Key MSP Documents).
The EC defines MSP as a process of public authorities analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives.
The 2008 Roadmap launched a debate on MSP in the EU. Five workshops on MSP were held in 2009 to discuss the principles of the Roadmap with countries of the EU (Member States), regions, NGOs and industry. The result was an agreement that the ten principles of the Roadmap were appropriate and comprehensive and provided an important basis for the further development of MSP at EU level.
One point of agreement from the workshops was that MSP is an integrated and balanced process that has the potential to provide long-term stability and predictability, as well as to manage competition for space in intensively used areas. Setting objectives for MSP at a national or regional level should be seen as a process beginning with an agreement on goals, which are then defined further by objectives—clearly measurable and quantitative. Starting with a broad vision and goals allows more space for negotiation, but clear objectives must be specified to be useful for drafting, implementing and monitoring a plan.
Another important agreement was that the ecosystem must form the basis of the overall MSP framework.
Implementation of MSP in the EU is the responsibility of individual countries. The EU acts as a facilitator for cooperation and developing a common approach. Although a great deal can be achieved at national level, the EC considers it important to pursue action at the EU level to achieve a coherent framework for MSP.
On 23 July 2014 the European Parliament and Council of the European Union approved a Directive (Law) establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning (see Key MSP Documents). Countries of the EU with maritime areas are required to implement laws, regulations, and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the requirements of the Directive.The maritime spatial plans have to be established as soon as possible, and at the latest by 31 March 2021.