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European Seas and Territorial Development, Opportunities and Risks

Implementation Period:
Specific Funding Programme:

ESPON (European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion) - European Regional Development Fund



About the Project:

As Europe seeks to emerge from the consequences of the economic crisis, the importance of territorial cohesion in supporting ‘smart sustainable and inclusive growth’ is becoming ever more apparent. However the rhetoric has for many years equated territorial cohesion with a terrestrial or land based agenda. Recently there has been a growing realisation that the seas are also a context which can help governments realise their development aspirations. This has been recognised through the European Commission’s Integrated Maritime Policy, and more recently, aspirations for Blue Growth. However, increasing opportunities for human use of the sea are set alongside growing realisation of the complexity of land-sea interactions and an awareness of the risks that the new focus on marine areas pose to both ecological and human wellbeing. The ESaTDOR project therefore sought to:

  • Investigate current uses of Europe’s seas through mapping current sea use patterns, typologies, dynamics and inter-linkages;
  • Identify of patterns of sea use and of types of coastal regions: investigate the present state of European sea areas, identify potential areas of conflict between the use of sea areas and their deterioration, distinguishing different types of coastal regions, study employment patterns in sea areas and evaluate the present state of maritime clusters;
  • Analyse and identify development opportunities in the respective areas, taking into account issues regarding sustainability and climate change;
  • Analyse the relationship between terrestrial and maritime planning, seeking optimal practices for maritime governance.

This has been the first ESPON project to explicitly consider land-sea interactions, and as such it has provided:

  • An assessment of the potential of European seas and maritime activities within the broader context of territorial cohesion agendas;
  • An overview of key characteristics of each of the European seas;
  • A wealth of information on cross-border and transnational maritime governance arrangements at different scales across Europe, examined through a number of case studies;
  • Maps of key thematic priorities for European marine space, including economic activity (employment), energy and pipelines and cables, transport and environment, using a consistent and comparable approach across the entire European territory;
  • Information on the intensity of land-sea interactions, focusing on both opportunities and risks, in terms of economic activity on the land, environmental pressures on the sea and flows of goods, people and services through the seas, within the constraints of data availability. This has informed the development of a tentative typology of maritime regions.

ESaTDOR Maritime region typology map

Project partners

  • The University of Liverpool (UK) - Lead partner;
  • Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR) (NO);
  • Mcrit, LTDO (ES);
  • University of Malaga – European Topic Centre on Spatial Information and Analysis (ES);
  • Institute for Local Development, University of Valencia (ES);
  • Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (DE);
  • Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University (NL);
  • University of Thessaly (GR);
  • Constanta Maritime University (RO).