EU legislation for coast and sea

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This article provides an overview of current (2021) European regulations that relate to the coastal marine environment. These regulations contribute to the implementation of international treaties to which EU Member States have committed themselves. Part of the EU regulations is supplementary to these treaties.

Relevant international treaties related to the coastal and marine environment are described in other articles: the UN sea convention UNCLOS, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Ramsar Convention for Wetlands. In addition, EU regulations contribute to the implementation of several regional sea conventions: the Barcelona Convention for the Mediterranean, the OSPAR Convention for the North East Atlantic, the Black Sea Convention and the Helsinki Convention for the Baltic Sea.

For several EU Directives, links are provided to more detailed Coastal Wiki articles.


Table: EU legislation relevant to the coastal and marine environment.
Regulation / directive Aim Implementation
Marine Strategy Framework Directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/marine/eu-coast-and-marine-policy/marine-strategy-framework-directive/index_en.htm To achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. The MSFD provides a legislative framework for the management of human activities having an impact on the marine environment, integrating the concepts of environmental protection and sustainable use. For the implementation, Member States are required to develop a strategy for its marine waters (Marine Strategy) following an adaptive management approach kept up-to-date and reviewed every 6 years.
Marine Spatial Planning Directive https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32014L0089

To reduce conflicts between sectors and creation of synergies between different activities; to encourage investments by creating predictability, transparency and clearer rules; to increase cross-border cooperation between EU countries; to protect and preserve the environment through early identification of impact and opportunities for multiple use of space.

The MSP Directive requires Member States to draw up maritime spatial plans which identify the spatial and temporal distribution of relevant existing and future activities and uses in their marine waters. These plans address aspects such as: land-sea interactions; the ecosystem-based approach; coherence between MSP and other processes such as integrated coastal management; the involvement of stakeholders; the use of best available data; transboundary cooperation between Member States; cooperation with third countries.
Biodiversity strategy for 2030 https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/biodiversity-strategy-2030_en To put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030 for the benefit of people, climate and the planet.

Establishing a larger EU-wide network of protected areas on land and at sea.
Launching an EU nature restoration plan based on binding nature restoration targets by the end of 2021.
Measures to enable the necessary transformative change.
Measures to tackle the global biodiversity challenge.

Water Framework Directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/index_en.html

To prevent further deterioration, to protect inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater, to promote sustainable water use based on a long-term protection of available water resources, to enhance protection and improvement of aquatic ecosystems, to ensure the progressive reduction of pollution of groundwater and to mitigate the effects of floods and droughts.

Member States identify the individual river basins lying within their national territory and assign them to individual river basin districts and ensure the appropriate administrative arrangements for the application of the rules of the Directive. A river basin covering the territory of more than one Member State must be assigned to an international river basin district. Member States ensure the establishment of river basin management plans and a programme of measures for each river basin district to achieve the objectives established under the Directive.

The Habitats Directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/legislation/habitatsdirective/index_en.htm

To contribute towards ensuring bio-diversity through the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.

Member States contribute to the creation of Natura 2000: a coherent European ecological network of special areas of conservation, composed of sites hosting listed natural habitat types and habitats of listed species. The natural habitat types and the species' habitats concerned must be maintained or, where appropriate, restored at a favourable conservation status in their natural range.

The Birds Directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/legislation/birdsdirective/index_en.htm

The conservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state in the European territory of the Member States.

Member States take the requisite measures to preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitats for all bird species, primarily by the following measures: creation of protected areas; upkeep and management in accordance with the ecological needs of habitats inside and outside the protected zones; re-establishment of destroyed biotopes; creation of biotopes.

Regulation on Invasive Alien Species (IAS) https://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/invasivealien/index_en.htm The IAS Regulation provides for a set of measures to be taken across the EU in relation to invasive alien species included on the Union list. Prevention: a number of robust measures aimed at preventing the intentional or unintentional introduction of IAS of Union concern into the EU.

Early detection and rapid eradication: Member States must put in place a surveillance system to detect the presence of IAS of Union concern as early as possible and take rapid eradication measures to prevent them from establishing.

Bathing Water Directive https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32006L0007

To preserve, protect and improve the quality of public bathing waters to protect human health.

Member States monitor, classify and manage bathing water quality to ensure that all bathing waters are at least of ‘sufficient’ quality. They inform the public on bathing water quality and take realistic and proportionate measures to increasing the number of bathing waters classified as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

Nitrates Directive https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32006L0007

To protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices

Member States (1) identify groundwaters and surface waters polluted, or at risk of pollution; (2) designate "Nitrate Vulnerable Zones" (NVZs); (3) establish Codes of Good Agricultural Practice to be implemented by farmers on a voluntary basis; (4) establish action programmes to be implemented by farmers within NVZs on a compulsory basis; (5) limit the application of nitrogen from manure; (6) monitor the implementation of the Directive and report every 4 year.

Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-urbanwaste/index_en.html

To protect the environment from the adverse effects of discharge of urban waste water and the discharge of waste water from certain industrial sectors.

(1) The collection and treatment of waste water in all agglomerations of >2000 population equivalents (p.e.). (2) Secondary treatment of all discharges from agglomerations of > 2000 p.e., and more advanced treatment for agglomerations >10 000 population equivalents in designated sensitive areas and their catchments. (3) A requirement for pre-authorisation of all discharges of urban wastewater, of discharges from the food-processing industry and of industrial discharges into urban wastewater collection systems. (4) Monitoring of the performance of treatment plants and receiving waters. (5) Controls of sewage sludge disposal and re-use, and treated waste water re-use whenever it is appropriate.

Industrial Emissions Directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/industry/stationary/ied/legislation.htm

Protection of human health and the environment taken as a whole by reducing harmful industrial emissions across the EU.

Member States take the necessary measures to ensure that no installation or combustion plant, waste incineration plant or waste co-incineration plant is operated without a permit. Emission permits must take into account the whole environmental performance of the plant and include emission limit values must be based on the Best Available Techniques (BAT). The IED contains mandatory requirements on environmental inspections and provisions to ensure that the public has a right to be informed and to participate in the decision-making processes.

The Seveso Directive https://ec.europa.eu/environment/seveso/legislation.htm

Prevention of major accidents involving dangerous substances and limiting the consequences of such accidents for human health and the environment.

Member States ensure that the operator is obliged to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents and to limit their consequences. Requirements include: external emergency plans, land-use planning for the siting of establishments, making relevant information publically available, ensuring that when necessary emergency measures are taken, conducting inspections, reporting accidents to the Commission.

The Persistant Organic Pollutants (POP) Regulation https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32019R1021&rid=3

To protect human health and the environment from POPs by prohibiting, phasing out as soon as possible, or restricting the manufacturing, placing on the market and use of substances subject to the Stockholm Convention on POPs.

Specific control measures prohibit or severely restrict the production, placing on the market and use of POPs; minimise the environmental release of POPs that are formed as industrial by-products; make sure that stockpiles of restricted POPs are safely managed; and ensure the environmentally sound disposal of waste consisting of, or contaminated by POPs. The REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation (EC 1907/2006) requires companies to identify and manage the risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU. They have to demonstrate how the substance can be safely used, and they must communicate the risk management measures to the users.

CCS Directive (Carbon Capture and Geological Storage) https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32009L0031

The environmentally safe geological storage of CO2 through permanent containment of CO2 in such a way as to prevent and, where this is not possible, eliminate as far as possible negative effects and any risk to the environment and human health.

Provisions for the environmentally safe geological storage of CO2 include: designation of competent authority, site selection, exploration an storage permits, monitoring, information to the public, reporting to the Commission, inspections, measures in case of leakages or significant irregularities, closure and post-closure obligations.

EIA Directive (Environmental Impact Assessment) https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32011L0092

Assessment of the direct and indirect environmental effects of those public and private projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment, before consent is given. Effects may relate to: human beings, fauna and flora; soil, water, air, climate and the landscape; material assets and the cultural heritage; the interaction between these factors.

The Directive provides a list of project categories for which an EIA is required. Member States designate a competent authority for performing the duties arising from the Directive. The information to be provided by the developer include: a description of the project, a description of the measures envisaged in order to avoid, reduce and, if possible, remedy significant adverse effects; the data required to identify and assess the main effects which the project is likely to have on the environment; an outline of the main alternatives studied by the developer and an indication of the main reasons for his choice, taking into account the environmental effects. Member States ensure that members of the public concerned will be informed and consulted and will have access to a review procedure before a court of law to challenge the substantive or procedural legality when a decision has been taken.

Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) https://ec.europa.eu/oceans-and-fisheries/policy/common-fisheries-policy-cfp_en

To conserve fish stocks and reduce overfishing in order to provide EU citizens with a long-term stable, secure and healthy food supply.

The CFP provides a comprehensive legal framework, including: fish stock management at maximum sustainable yield, landing obligation, multiannual plans (MAPs) to manage fisheries in different sea basins, fleet capacity ceilings per EU country, Inspections, monitoring and surveillance, EU Fleet register. The CFP also cares about the economic and social dimensions of fisheries.

Community Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Information System Directive https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32002L0059

To enhance the safety and efficiency of maritime traffic, improve the response of authorities to incidents, accidents or potentially dangerous situations at sea, including search and rescue operations, and contribute to a better prevention and detection of pollution by ships.

Member States monitor and take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that all ships entering the area of a mandatory ship reporting system (automatic identification system, ship's routing system, voyage data recorder system) comply with that system in reporting the information required. Compliance of ships with vessel traffic services must be monitored. Presence of dangerous or polluting goods carried on board must be notified. Appropriate measures relating to incidents or accidents at sea have to be taken and reported.

Port State Control Directive https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=celex%3A32009L0016

To reduce substandard shipping in the waters under the jurisdiction of Member States in order to prevent shipping casualties and pollution of the seas and coastlines.

Implementation of a Port State Control System based on the inspection of all ships with a frequency depending on their risk profile. Member States take measures to acquire legal inspection powers to carry out inspections in accordance with the criteria established in the Directive.

Flag State Requirements Directive https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32009L0021

To ensure that Member States fulfil their obligations as flag States and to enhance safety and prevent pollution from ships flying the flag of a Member State.

Member States take measures to ensure that ships flying the flag of the Member State comply with conditions specified in the Directive.

Directive on safety of offshore oil and gas operations https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=celex%3A32013L0030

To prevent major accidents in offshore oil and gas operations and limit the consequences of such accidents.

Member States appoint a competent authority independent of Member State functions relating to the economic development of the offshore natural resources. Granting licences to carry out offshore oil and gas operations are subject to provisions regarding, inter alia, risk management, safety and environmental considerations, accident prevention, independent verification, public participation relating to the effects of planned offshore oil and gas exploration, reports on major hazards, emergency response plans, transboundary emergency preparedness.