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A Finnish regional non-binding MSP approach: What are the consequences for integrating Blue Growth and GES?

Marine Policy Volume 141


The EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSPD) requires the member states (MS) to pursue Blue Growth while ensuring good environmental status (GES) of sea areas. An ecosystem-based approach (EBA) should be used for the integration of the aims. However, the MSPD does not specify how the MS should arrange their MSP governance, which has led to a variety of governance arrangements and solutions in addressing the aims. We analysed the implementation of the MSPD in Finland, to identify conditions that may enable or constrain the integration of Blue Growth and GES in the framework of EBA. MSP in Finland is an expert-driven regionalized approach with a legally non-binding status. The results suggest that this MSP framework supports the implementation of EBA in MSP. Yet, unpredictability induced by the non-binding status of MSP, ambiguity of the aims of MSP and of the concept of EBA, and the need to pursue economic viability in the coastal municipalities may threaten the consistency of MSP in both spatial and temporal terms. Developing MSP towards a future-oriented adaptive and collaborative approach striving for social learning could improve the legitimacy of MSP and its capacity to combine Blue Growth and GES. The analysis indicates, that in the delivery of successful MSP adhering to the principles of EBA should permeate all levels of governance. The study turns attention to the legal status of MSP as a binding or non-binding planning instrument and the role the legal status plays in facilitating or constraining predictability and adaptability required in MSP.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • What are the difficulties in interpreting the MSPD?
  • What is the legal and governance framework for Maritime Spatial Planning in Finland?
  • What are the effects of non-legally binding MSP on its implementation ?

Implementation Context:

The EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive requires Member States to implement Maritime Spatial Plans to support the development of the Blue Economy ensuring sustainable economic, environmental and social development, while achieving a good environmental status.

Aspects / Objectives:

This article aims to identify conditions that may enable or constrain the integration of Blue Growth and GES in the framework of EBA by analysing the implementation of the MSPD in Finland.


This study is based on group interviews and analysis of the interpretation and conceptualisation of the MSPD and MSP approach in Finland. It outlines the requirements of the MSPD for the Member State and provides a literature review on the difficulties of the directive's ambiguity.

Main Outputs / Results:

This study analysed the specific implementation of the MSPD in Finland, as a regional non-binding approach. The analysis showed the enabling conditions for the implementation of EBA in this regional MSP framework. It provides recommendations for further research.


This paper focuses on the context of Finish MSP and is not transferable.

Responsible Entity:

Faculty of Law, University of Lapland (Finland)

Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme, University of Helsinki (Finland)

Centre for Blue Governance, Aalborg University (Denmark)

Costs / Funding Source:

The study has been supported by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) of the Academy of Finland under the project Enhancing Adaptive Capacity for Sustainable Blue Growth (BlueAdapt), grant number 336658

Contact person:

 Päivi Haapasaari: (paivi[dot]haapasaari[at]ulapland[dot]fi)