Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
A space odyssey
Since taking on her current role, Commissioner Damanaki has proved unremitting in
her efforts to promote an integrated approach to all maritime policies. Her efforts have
helped drive the redevelopment and implementation of a Common Fisheries Policy
that more effectively provides a cornerstone for the EU’s ability to sustainably exploit
fisheries resources. Here, she explains the importance of Maritime Spatial Planning
Can you define the concept of Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and
explain the context within which it was first developed?
MSP is concerned with mapping out the spatial distribution of
activities at sea to ensure marine resources are used sustainably and
efficiently. It was developed as part of the EU’s Integrated Maritime
Policy as a tool for better managing sea-based activities and reducing
impact across all areas of the marine environment. The need for this
is driven by increasing activity at sea – including shipping, offshore
energy and aquaculture. With so many competing demands, a balance
has to be struck.
Our aim is to help EU Member States address the uncoordinated use of
marine areas, help ensure access to maritime space is more predictable,
and better manage the environmental pressures associated with
sea-based activities. Competition for maritime space has highlighted
the need for efficient management, to avoid potential conflict and to
create a stable environment attractive to investors.
Although this is primarily the responsibility of individual Member
States, decisions taken in one country can easily affect another. Our
role is to promote a unified approach that not only accounts for crossborder impacts but also all interactions between land and sea.
What can effective MSP contribute to the environmental
sustainability of marine and coastal regions?
Better MSP is essential to effectively manage and reduce the
cumulative impact of maritime activities and achieve our
environmental objectives. One of our key pillars and ambitions for
the EU’s marine waters is to have a good environmental status by
2020. It will also help protect the resource base for our marine-related
economic and social activities.
Better cooperation and planning across borders is also a prerequisite
for establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas. This is particularly
important since the EU is committed to fulfilling the objective set
by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to cover 10 per cent of
marine waters with protected areas.
Finally, I want to stress that MSP is an inclusive process. Environmental
NGOs, those working at sea and others interested in protecting our
resources will now have a say in the planning of maritime activities to
ensure the environment is prioritised.
The informal dialogue on the draft for a Framework Directive
for MSP met with a positive response. Can you elaborate on
the feedback you received and the next stages in the lead up to
implementation? Moreover, what challenges are associated with the
practical requirements of implementation?
It was indeed a positive response! I very much welcome the political
agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council on
our MSP proposal, and I now look forward to final adoption soon.
Once in force, Member States will have two years to enshrine the new
Directive into national legislation and will need to have established
their Maritime Spatial Plans by 2021. We will work closely with them
throughout the process.
This is a significant change in maritime affairs across Europe: currently
only three countries in the EU fully plan their sea-based activities –
and, as with every period of change, there will be challenges ahead.
For instance, governance structures will have to be established to
allow cooperation on planning at sea-basin level and new cross-border
marine management systems will need to be put in place. There is
plenty of best practice out there that Member States can learn from,
such as the pioneering work in the Baltic Sea where a cross-border
working group was created to ensure cooperation among the Baltic Sea
How does MSP fit into the Commission’s Blue Growth strategy and
its Integrated Maritime Policy?
MSP is a cornerstone of the Commission’s Blue Growth strategy and
Integrated Maritime Policy. MSP will help boost sustainable maritime
growth and jobs by facilitating the spatial development of emerging
sectors, such as renewable energy, aquaculture and maritime tourism,
at a time when they are all competing for limited space, and while fully
taking into account the health of marine ecosystems.
Maritime planning allows investors to understand what activities
can be developed, where and for how long. This reduces the risk
of delayed investment or repeatedly changing plans, which could
reduce pre-investment and transaction costs by over €1 billion by
2020. By providing a greater degree of certainty to developers we
can speed up investments in sustainable marine activities by one,
two or even three years – time savings that could generate up to
€600 million by 2020.
You gave a speech at the Conference on Coastal and Maritime
Tourism in March 2014. Can you summarise the key ‘take home’
points you communicated to attendees?
This is why we are developing an online guide to all available funds, as
well as a new web portal. This will help business take up the sustainability
challenge and invest in innovation.
At some point in life we have all had the experience of visiting idyllic
postcard-like resorts in Europe with poor connections, a dated
infrastructure and questionable service. Indeed, these are not the only
issues, because the coastal tourism sector suffers from high levels of
fragmentation, seasonal peaks and a lack of innovation. It also exerts
pressures on the marine environment that we can no longer ignore. All
this must change if the EU is to withstand the low-cost offers from the
rest of the world.
What is the vision driving your efforts as Commissioner for Maritime
Affairs and Fisheries? At what level of health do you see Europe’s
maritime regions in 2020 and what are the main barriers to
Firstly, our industry has to become more sustainable. This means
controlling all environmental impacts on coastal areas, which are some
of the most densely populated areas in Europe, and changing tourism
with the environment in mind. Innovative strategies must be coupled
with good transport options to break the curse of seasonality, especially
for islands and remote regions. Secondly, our industry has to become
more competitive. People may want sun on holiday, but not necessarily
the sun lounger. Many no longer want a static product but rather a
dynamic experience, and they want all this at an affordable price. A third
important dimension is that our tourism must become more inclusive.
Our offer must be suited for families, but also for the disabled; for
young party-goers, but also for the elderly (who represent a significant
customer base). And fourthly, a key to consumers’ trust is quality of
service. The EU needs service-orientated, multilingual people, who can
easily relocate in a changing, but open, market.
This was the rationale behind the Communication that the Commission
presented, and what I’d like people to take home is that the Commission
is working with national governments to make European tourism fit for
the 21st Century. Coastal and maritime tourism in particular deserves an
EU strategy of its own if we are to guarantee a decent future to the 446
maritime and coastal regions that stretch across Europe.
How do you believe the new EU financial framework for 2014-20 will
help boost the sustainable development of the tourism industry in
As a result of the economic downturn, many operators have difficulty
accessing credit to upgrade and modernise their business. The good news
is that numerous EU funds are designed to finance their projects, as long
as they make sense environmentally. We have for instance the European
Structural and Investment Funds, the Regional Funds, Horizon 2020,
COSME, the Creative Europe programme, Erasmus+, LIFE+, funds of the
European Investment Bank – and the list goes on.
Throughout my mandate, my approach to our seas and oceans has
always been to prioritise sustainability and growth: if we achieve
environmental sustainability, then economic and social sustainability will
derive from that. Against this setting, we have now started to radically
rethink a number of areas. For healthier fish stocks, overexploitation is
being cut back, allowing for the recovery of weakened stocks, phasing out
discards and carefully customising management for each sea basin and
region. I have no doubt that this alone will greatly improve the welfare of
Beyond fisheries, we have been looking more widely at the marine and
maritime sectors – our ‘blue economy’ – by pooling maritime sectors
together, and focusing our minds (and public money) on the most
promising areas for the economy. Progress has been made on tourism,
ocean renewable energy and marine aquaculture, and we want these
industries to continue to grow and drive forwards out of the crisis in an
intelligent and environmentally sound way.
We have had a lot of concrete results already. Within a context of
limited and fragmented human knowledge of the oceans, we have been
assembling marine data, making them public and filling in the gaps. By
the end of this year we will have digital maps of water depth, geology,
habitats and seabed life for each of the sea basins of our continent.
Simultaneously, we have been improving knowledge of what is occurring
at sea at any given moment: who is sailing, where to and what their
cargo is – similar to sky traffic control. We have made giant steps in
information sharing, and my vision is to one day have completely
integrated surveillance functions that will enable us to better combat
crime and pollution, save money and dramatically improve preparedness
and rescue capabilities when incidents arise. Guided by this vision, I have
recently presented the foundations for such a strategy and found in the
EU High Representative Catherine Ashton a crucial ally. I am confident
that in good time a fully fledged EU maritime security strategy will
become a reality.
Opportunities do exist – so many, in fact, that it may not be easy for
small and microenterprises to find their way to the most suitable one.
Deep blue benefits
Effective Maritime Spatial Planning will:
• Reduce conflicts between sectors and create synergies between different activities
• Encourage investment by instilling predictability, transparency and clearer rules. This will help boost the development
of renewable energy sources and grids, establish Marine Protected Areas and facilitate investment in oil and gas
• Increase coordination between administrations in each country, through the use of a single instrument to balance the
development of a range of maritime activities. This will be simpler and cheaper
• Increase cross-border cooperation between EU countries on cables, pipelines, shipping lanes, wind installations, etc.
• Protect the environment through early identification of impact and opportunities for multiple use of space
I’m also very happy to have christened the MSP legislation. I am sure
this will be a crucial element in making our coastal regions competitive,
unpolluted and an attractive place to live in by 2020. It will allow us to
plan use of sea space and coastal areas as carefully as we do on land. In
addition, if we want the sea to drive growth, then we need to provide
industry with legal certainty on where to invest. Locating one wind farm
across state borders can be more efficient and environmentally sound
than building two in separate and potentially vulnerable spots. Moreover,
reallocating shipping lanes away from protected areas reduces the risk of
Finally, are there any significant events on the horizon relating to EU
maritime affairs and fisheries?
Can you outline some of the key achievements of the DirectorateGeneral for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) over the past
year? What will DG MARE be focusing on in the next 12 months?
We also held one of our flagship events in May: the annual European
Maritime Day. This year it was hosted in Bremen, and focused on
innovation and maritime technologies. Five political sessions and 21
workshops brought together the whole maritime community, from
policy makers to NGOs, academics, industry and citizens, to discuss the
challenges our maritime economies and marine ecosystems are facing.
We have come a long way in the last year regarding Common Fisheries
Reform adoption, and it is already bearing fruit. The next priority is
implementation of the policy, and this is where our focus lies at present.
In the Northeast Atlantic we now have fewer overfished stocks; the figure
fell from over 80 per cent of stocks in 2009 to around 40 per cent in
2014. The situation is not as positive in the Mediterranean, but the new
policy opens opportunities for international action. The EU can really
be a leader in the fight against illegal fisheries, introducing solutions of
fisheries governance at a global level.
The EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region has a strong maritime
focus and will be on the agenda for the Italian Presidency, second half
of this year. This is the first time that there has been an equal balance of
EU countries (Croatia, Greece, Italy and Slovenia) and non-EU countries
(Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) working
together to meet common challenges and build on shared strengths in a
In maritime affairs, we have already taken big steps forwards. The Atlantic
Strategy has been adopted, as well as strategies for main sectors like
tourism and energy. The European Maritime Security Strategy has also
been approved – for the first time bringing together EU civilian and
military dimensions of maritime security. We have introduced legislation
(as discussed, the MSP directive will be in place very soon) and a lot
of progress has been made in the areas of surveillance, research and
innovation, and seabed mapping.