The North Sea under pressure: is regional marine co-operation the answer? - European Union Committee Contents


The EU Sub-Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy of the House of Lords, chaired by Baroness Scott of Needham Market, is conducting an inquiry into EU Marine Regional Co-operation. The Sub-Committee seeks evidence from anyone with an interest.

Written evidence is sought by 26 September 2014. Public hearings will be held over the period October-December 2014. The Committee aims to report to the House, with recommendations, by March 2015. The report will receive responses from the Government and the European Commission, and may be debated in the House.

The "Healthy Oceans-Productive Ecosystems" (HOPE) European conference for the marine environment in March 2014 recognised that Europe's seas and oceans are under significant pressure and must be safeguarded for their intrinsic value and to ensure the health of their ecosystems including for human benefit. Moving forward, the need to collaborate and to achieve greater coordination within and between marine regions was particularly stressed.

This is an important juncture in the development of governance structures to support the marine environment. Member States are implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and, following its recent adoption, will need to implement the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive. Implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy is underway, involving a regional approach. Energy security is a prominent issue and has placed interconnection, including across sea basins, firmly under debate. Finally, the European Commission has a Blue Growth Agenda to harness the potential of the seas.

In several of these areas, a regional approach is required and, elsewhere, it is encouraged. We will seek to identify the advantages and disadvantages of a regional marine co-operation approach and we will consider what inspiration can be drawn from existing mechanisms. We take co-operation to refer both to Member State co-operation and to co-operation across sectors and interests. While we are particularly interested in making recommendations specific to the North Sea, we anticipate that our findings will have wider applicability.

We will make policy recommendations to the UK Government, the European Commission and Member States accordingly.

Our focus is on four case studies as set out in the Call for Evidence, but we would welcome comments on regional marine co-operation in other areas, with the exception of maritime security and migration. For the purposes of this inquiry, we will consider the marine environment extending to the coastline.

The Sub-Committee seeks evidence on any aspect of this topic, and particularly on the following questions:

The rationale for action: Risks to EU seas

1.  What are the principal risks to the EU's marine environment? How significant are factors such as conflicts between users of the marine environment, unclear governance arrangements and potential inconsistencies between pieces of legislation affecting the marine environment?

2.  To what extent do you agree with the recent conclusion by the European HOPE conference[311] that co-operation, co-ordination and improved governance lie at the heart of the solution to tackling the risks to the EU's marine environment?

A regional approach to marine health and productivity: Case Studies

3.  In relation to the case studies set out below in particular, what are your views on existing examples of effective regional collaboration between Member States and between sectors? What further progress towards regional co-operation in these areas, particularly in the North Sea, would you like to see?

·  Identification of spatial protection measures, such as Marine Protected Areas, under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive;

·  Action, through regional co-operation, to implement the fisheries and aquaculture sustainability objectives of both the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the revised Common Fisheries Policy;

·  The development of energy co-operation in regional seas including interconnection and the development of marine renewable technologies;

·  Innovation and knowledge, particularly towards delivery of the Commission's Blue Growth Agenda.

4.  With particular reference to the case studies above, what are the advantages and disadvantages, including resource implications, of a regional co-operation approach? To what extent can local and national approaches conflict with a regional approach?

Potential processes to develop a coherent regional approach

5.  A range of processes and institutions have evolved to support regional marine co-operation, including Regional Sea Conventions, EU macro-regional strategies, EU sea basin strategies and the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive. Others have developed more informally, such as the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative. What, with reference to emerging structures and experience around the world, are the basic requirements to develop a coherent and flexible regional approach to marine regional co-operation? Is an ideal model yet identifiable, particularly for the North Sea, from those that are emerging?

You need not address all these questions in your response.

311   European Commission, 'Healthy Oceans, Productive Ecosytems': marine/hope-conference/pdf/HOPE%20Conference%20Declaration.pdf [Accessed 6 February 2015] Back

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