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European Law Monitor newsEnvironment: Commission welcomes EP vote on the Marine Strategy Directive

The European Commission welcomes the European Parliament's second reading vote on the directive to protect the marine environment which confirms the recent agreement negotiated between the Portuguese presidency and the Parliament. The objective of the agreement is to achieve the good environmental status for the European Union's marine waters of by 2020. It confirms the strong commitment of all EU institutions to improving the environmental protection of Europe's seas and oceans.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "I am delighted at the result of the European Parliament's vote on the Marine Strategy Directive. It is absolutely vital for the European Union to protect its marine waters and to clean up its seas and oceans. Doing so requires an integrated approach to managing seas and oceans.

The European Parliament approved the text agreed following several meetings between the Council, the Parliament and the Commission. Once in force, the directive will oblige Member States to ensure that EU marine waters are environmentally healthy by 2020 at the latest. Alongside other water legislation such as the Water Framework Directive, the Marine Strategy Directive will provide a comprehensive framework for the protection of water throughout its full cycle.

A Thematic Strategy filling the marine gap

Marine ecosystems are a major source of biodiversity and play a key role in weather and climate patterns affecting our livelihoods. They provide us a wide range of essential goods and services • from solar energy to carbon absorption. The marine environment is a major contributor to quality of life and social well-being, and its conservation is indispensable for the economic prosperity of maritime regions and the EU as a whole.

But Europe's marine environment is deteriorating fast. Pressures on natural marine resources and demand for marine ecological services are often too high. Threats to the EU's marine environment include impacts from climate change, commercial fishing, introduction of exotic species, pollution and introduction of dangerous substances from shipping, oil and gas exploration, oil spills, nutrient enrichment from agriculture and untreated urban waste water, marine litter and noise.

Europe´s marine waters cover about 3 million square kilometres, an area equal to the total European landmass. While certain measures contribute indirectly to its protection, nothing has yet been done to protect the larger marine environment.

For this reason, the Commission proposed in October 2005 a Thematic Strategy on the marine environment (IP/05/1335 ). Once the directive is in force, it will imply the largest territorial extension of EU environmental law.

A strong framework to clean up our seas and oceans

The main objective of the Marine Strategy Directive is to achieve environmentally healthy marine waters by 2020. This will be achieved by establishing marine regions and sub-regions, which will be managed by Member States in an integrated manner based on environmental criteria.

In drawing marine strategies for waters within each marine region, Member States will be required to cooperate closely. Each marine strategy consists of an action plan to be implemented in several stages. Member States will first need to assess the state of the environment and the main pressures in their respective marine regions, then determine what can be considered as a good environmental status and then establish targets, indicators and monitoring programmes. Programmes of measures must be drawn up by 2015 to attain good environmental status by 2020.

An important contribution of the European Parliament to the directive includes Member States' obligation to establish marine protected areas. Member States sharing a marine region will need to cooperate to ensure that their marine strategies are coherent and coordinated. They must also make every effort to coordinate their activities with non-EU countries in the same marine region, including through regional sea conventions.

An ecosystem based approach to human activities

Marine Strategies will apply an ecosystem-based approach to the management of human activities to ensure that the collective pressure of such activities is kept within sustainable levels. The aim is to ensure that all marine waters • in all their ecological diversity • remain dynamic, clean, healthy and productive.

More information:
DG Environment web page on the Marine Strategy:

6th Environment Action Plan:

Maritime Policy of the EU web page on: