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National Defence and Security

Main issues

National defence and security are MSP topics that require additional care under the planning process. Their specific status comes from their role as belonging to key and fundamental functions of national governments, therefore creating preconditions for all other human activities on the sea. 

National defence and security are not synonymous: 

  • Military defence usually comprises activities that are designed to ensure capability for armed combat (on, above and under the water), which is ensured by means of naval exercise areas, artillery ranges and air bases, for example. Civil defence safeguards the civil population, ensures the most important societal functions and contributes to military defence in the event of war.
  • Security is a generic term that can relate to a broad range of military and domestic issues including border security, crime prevention and prosecution (e.g. illegal fishing), management of migration crises, and disaster relief. Sometimes security and defence are named a total defence (e.g. in Sweden - please see p. 86 of the draft Baltic Sea plan). 

MSP creates important pre-conditions influencing performance of defence and security both during peacetime and conflicts (e.g. coastal defence is important for contingency measures). However, MSP has to address a number of challenges: 

  • Defence and security spatial needs come with a degree of uncertainty and can therefore only be planned to a limited extent. With the exception of training exercises and related military training areas in peacetime, it is difficult to predict under MSP process what security and defence measures will need to be taken. 
  • MSP must also cope with classified or secrete information (e.g. specific areas where windmills can affect/disturb protected secret systems such as sensors and radars - please see presentation of Eva Rosenhall, 3rd slide, from 2nd Baltic MSP Forum). 
  • The superior position of authorities responsible for defence and security, in comparison to the other stakeholders, might bias the MSP discourse due to possible power arrangements.

International standards regarding how to include national defence and security in MSP do not exist. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) only partially regulates defence and security with regard to selected topics, such as innocent passage, piracy, transport of slaves, and illicit traffic in illegal drugs. Many of these topics are not space specific and do not influence MSP. Article 25 of UNCLOS seems to be the most relevant as it gives rights to the coastal state to temporarily suspend, in specified areas of its territorial waters, the innocent passage of foreign ships if such suspension is essential for the protection of the state’s security, including weapons exercises. This provides the basis for establishing various military training areas and other temporarily closed zones for navigation, fishing and other maritime activities in territorial waters. However, such a mandate does not extend beyond the limits of territorial waters. Defence and security are not listed among freedoms in EEZs, high seas and continental shelf areas, nor are they prohibited there. Therefore, in practice (with some limitations related to nuclear power), military and security related activities are performed outside territorial and internal waters on the basis that they are not forbidden there. 

The EU MSP Directive (article 8) suggests that military training area might be covered under the MSP planning process as one of the 14 sea users listed in this article. However, enhancing national defence and security is not directly mentioned among the MSP objectives in article 5 of the Directive. Therefore, it is up to Member States to decide how to tackle national defence and security in maritime spatial plans. 

At a sea basin level, the pros and cons of MSP in a defence perspective were discussed at the session devoted to this subject at the 2nd Baltic Maritime Spatial Planning Forum in November 2016 in Riga.

Please note that this section of the EU MSP Platform website is not currently being updated with new information. However, the resources throughout our website remain relevant to our mission of sharing knowledge and experiences on MSP in the EU.

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