WWF asks the European Commission to ensure that Greece proceeds promptly with the establishment of maritime spatial planning

Posted on 21 February 2023

In a briefing note sent to the European Commission, WWF expresses its concern about the continued delays and incorrect transposition and implementation of Directive 2014/89/EU establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning (MSP), and calls upon the European Commission to ensure that Greece takes all necessary measures to comply with its obligations in a timely and efficient manner.

According to the MSP Directive, the member states of the EU have the obligation to establish and implement maritime spatial planning for the promotion of the sustainable development of marine activities, such as energy, transport, fisheries, and aquaculture, and to contribute to the sustainable use of marine resources, the preservation and protection of the marine environment and its resilience to climate change impacts. 

Greece transposed the MSP Directive into national law with a two-year delay in June 2018, and since then has done very little to comply with its obligations. In December 2021, the European Commission initiated an infringement process against Greece, by sending a letter of formal notice, for non-compliance with the Directive because Greece had failed to establish maritime spatial plans within the timeframe set by this directive, namely 31 March 2021.

The briefing note, which is co-signed by the directors of WWF Greece and WWF European Policy Office, aims to contribute to the Commission’s informed decision-making process by outlining certain key aspects of Greek national legislation with the view to demonstrating the incorrect transposition and ineffective implementation of this Directive. In particular, WWF’s briefing note focuses on the following issues:

  • Greece has not undertaken any concrete actions and has not announced a specific schedule and timeframe for the development and adoption of maritime spatial plans.
  • The integration of the MSP in the national spatial planning system, and the prevalence of sectoral spatial plans over MSPs, fail to transpose the MSP Directive correctly into the Greek legal system. 
  • The designation of certain areas, and the approval of programmes, for the development of sectoral activities prior to the establishment of MSPs promote a fragmented, ad hoc and sectoral approach to spatial planning. This is contrary to the MSP directive and its objectives, and fails to take into account the key requirements set out therein, especially the ecosystem approach, an integrated approach to land-sea interactions and coordinated cr0ss-sectoral planning.  

The MSP is an important tool for the sustainable development of marine activities, the sustainable growth of maritime economies, and the protection of the marine environment. Marine ecosystems are interconnected, and the threats and pressures upon them cannot be addressed in a fragmented and piecemeal way.

As stressed in WWF’s briefing note, the Greek government’s choice to use ad hoc planning, favoring the development of certain marine activities (i.e. oil and gas exploitation, aquaculture and offshore wind farms), instead of proceeding promptly and competently with the establishment of MSPs, raises serious concerns about the effective implementation of the MSP Directive and the achievement of its objectives, but also the objectives of the Integrated Maritime Policy of the EU.

Given the increase and intensification of marine activities, the designation of certain marine areas for their sectoral development prior to the establishment of MSPs creates a fait accompli and contradicts the rationale and objective of the MSP Directive which is designed to promote and achieve an integrated, coordinated and cross-sectoral approach to spatial planning and the development of marine uses and activities. 

© Andrea Bonetti / WWF Ελλάς