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Role of the regions: Future prospects and recommendations for the MSP directive implementation


These two related studies 1) describe the state of play of MSP implementation in the European Union and especially within the projects’ countries, and 2) address the role of the regions in the implementation process of the MSP Directive and analyses their concerns and proposed solutions. 

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 is the current implementation status of the MSP Directive in the countries bordering the Western Mediterranean sea and the Northern Atlantic ocean?
  • What are the roles of the regions in the implementation process of the MSP Directive?

Implementation Context

These two reports have been developed under the SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED projects. 


The same methodology and structure was applied to both documents, which allows an easy comparison of the regions’ role in the MSP process, both in Western Mediterranean and Northern Atlantic. 

Main Outputs / Results

This analysis makes it possible to make a first state-of-play of the implementation of the EU MSP Directive in the 5 countries involved in the SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED projects. It focuses especially on the main regulatory power of the regions with regards to four Directives: MSFD, MSP and Birds & Habitats Directives. Even if the implementation of these directives is regulated by the States, this paper shows that regional authorities have their roles to play and some may even have regulatory powers to ensure some implementation aspects by the territories, and the application of the national legal frameworks translating the EU directives. 

The two reports also point out the policies conducted by the regions, in addition to their national governments' policy with regard to the implementation of the four Directives mentioned above. Below are some examples illustrating the level of contribution and commitment of some regions in both sea basins.

  • In Spain, the Government of Catalunya is currently developing two Strategies which are critical for the implantation of the aforementioned directives: (i) The Strategy of Natural Heritage and Biodiversity; and (ii) The Maritime Strategy for Catalunya, as part of the Programme for Maritime Action created in December 2016 by “Government Agreement”, which will deliver in several requirements of the aforementioned directives and particularly the MSP. 
  • In Italy, the Region Tuscany is strongly committed, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment, to the implementation of the Marine Strategy also through the coordination of the Regions that are part of the Western Mediterranean Sub-Region. Therefore, the region pursues the measures needed to implement the strategy as a basic instrument to ensure the coherence and sustainability of sea-going activities by projecting maritime space planning in line with Directive 2014 / 89 / EU. 
  • In the Atlantic area, the Portuguese central government is committed to implement these Directives coordinating its action with the Regional government of Madeira and Azores archipelagos. In 2014, Portugal submitted to the European Commission the Monitoring Program and the Program of Measures for national marine waters under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June, Amended by Commission Directive (EU) 2017/845 of 17 May, DQEM), joining in one document the two programs for the four national marine subdivisions (Mainland, Subdivision of Madeira, Subdivision of the Azores and Subdivision of the Extended Continental Shelf). These management and monitoring programs are currently being implemented. 

Other types of regional actions related to maritime and coastal issues undertaken by Regional authorities, apart from regulatory powers, are presented as well. Some can have a role in seeking consensus among the actors of the territory concerning the definition of zones for the development of marine energies, marine leisure, or other activities. 

Regional authorities can be facilitators, to create links with other stakeholders and key players within the territory in the scope of the implementation of the MSFD, MSP, Birds and Habitats Directives. They can also link with citizens and civil society within this framework. This is an aspect particularly visible when addressing the conservation measures and strategies of their territory related to protected areas. Wherever it comes to creating working groups, consultation, networks, assembly or ad-hoc opportunities for exchanges, the regional authorities are key players in facilitating citizens awareness raising and reaching stakeholders of their territories. 

The effectiveness of maritime related directives in addressing coastal and maritime management issues is evaluated in these papers. To summarize, those Directives are considered effective in terms of: 

- Opportunities for collaboration with other countries 

- Consultation/cooperation with multi-stakeholders 

- When encompassed in an integrated approach towards management 

- Empowering conservation policies 

- When well-articulated at different governance levels 

- When regional authorities have a know-how and already experimented planning tools 


They can be considered less effective, and need improvement in: 

- Evaluating the real impact/ achievement in environmental objectives 

- Coordination, responsibilities and management at regional level, which should be stronger 

- For Birds and Habitats directives in particular, there should be an improvement in the assessment requirement and processes. 

- Links with regional development and the application of the directives 


In order to improve the content and implementation of the 4 maritime related directives, these two papers recommend the following measures:

-the involvement of the regions in decision-making and planning

-Adequate funding for the monitoring of the implementation of these directives should be ensured. 

- The use of adequate tools is necessary, as to improve knowledge about natural socio-ecologic systems, activities and impacts. Further investment in scientific knowledge to address data gaps is needed. 

- Recognition of sea basins characteristics

- Not only favour the environmental aspect of sustainable development but also consider the 3 pillars of sustainability, and combine economic development policies (tourism, businesses, fishing, etc.) with environmental sustainability, to keep the income of future generations. 

-Land-Sea interactions (LSI) should be integrated better in the process of these Directives’ implementation. 

- Multi-stakeholders and local communities should be more involved in policy decision-making: 

- Pilot actions need to be initiated, for example, from existing cases, to validate management models (urban planning, coastal defence, fisheries exploitation, etc.) that can meet the different needs (both current and future in relation to climate change in effect) of the sectors concerned. 

-Improve public awareness

- Reporting mechanisms under these instruments (plus the WFD, applied to coastal waters) need to be more compatible and simplified. The monitoring and reporting requirements and the complexity of the processes is a concern for small administrations. 

- Improve cross-borders cooperation: common work has to be better conducted with neighboring countries, intercalibrating across national borders both regarding deciding on ecological status as well as measuring methods. 


As these studies are very specifically focusing on the SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED project area, their transferability is limited. However, some of the findings regarding the role of regional authorities in national MSP processes may be relevant in other contexts.

Responsible Entity 


Costs / Funding Source

SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED were co-funded by the EC – DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) 


Contact person

Damien Périssé

CPMR (damien[dot]perisse[at]crpm[dot]org)