The EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planninng (MSP), adopted in July 2014, prescribes that all EU member states have to implement MSP by 2021.
The Baltic Sea Region (BSR) is a forerunner in MSP which can look back over nearly 10 years of MSP projects (box). Building on this experience, several countries around the Baltic Sea have already completed or launched MSP processes. Germany and Lithuania were among the first to have marine spatial plans in place. Sweden, Latvia and Estonia are expected to finalise their national marine spatial plans by 2017. The remaining countries are currently in the preparation stage.
Detailed information on the respective national planning systems and implementation stages can be found in the PartiSEApate country fiches (as of autumn 2013/14). Baltic Sea Region states have committed themselves to regularly update these country fiches as part of their work in the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group.
MSP as a transnational task
Although it is anchored in national legislation, MSP is more than a purely a national endeavour. Transnational coordination is required to ensure national plans within a regional sea are coherent and do not contradict each other.
For this reason, all nine Baltic Sea Region countries have agreed to cooperate on MSP. The HELCOM-VASAB Working Group on MSP was founded in 2010 for this purpose. The group is composed of country representatives of HELCOM and the VASAB Committee on Spatial Planning and Development.
The HELCOM-VASAB Working Group supports MSP projects in the BSR and follows up on their results. It also acts as Horizontal Action Leader for MSP under the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The target is to draw up and apply maritime spatial plans throughout the Baltic Sea Region by 2020 which are coherent across borders and apply the ecosystem approach. Currently the DG MARE-funded Baltic SCOPE project is working towards the development of cross-border planning solutions in transboundary pilot areas.
Research on MSP
Recent years have seen increasing interest in MSP as a research subject. Different disciplines are now actively integrating MSP in their research agendas, and a growing body of literature is beginning to emerge on various aspects of MSP offering valuable insights for national and transnational MSP processes. As a multi-level and cross-sectoral process, and dealing with marine space, the marine environment and a variety of different user groups and interests, there is a clear need to investigate MSP from various perspectives. Both natural and social sciences play an important role.
BALTSPACE is the first transnational, interdisciplinary MSP research project in the BSR, complementing past and current MSP projects in the BSR. BALTSPACE is working towards a better understanding of key challenges in MSP and will offer science-based practical lessons for MSP planners and policy makers.