General introduction to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea basin
- the Adriatic Sea, northwest of the main body of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, separates the Italian peninsula from the Balkan peninsula and extends from the Strait of Otranto to the south (where it connects to the Ionian Sea) to the Gulf of Venice in the north.
- the Ionian Sea lying to the south of Italy and Greece, where the deepest sounding in the Mediterranean, about 16,000 feet (4,900 metres), has been recorded (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
- the Aegean Sea, located between the Greek and the Anatolian peninsulas, with the island of Crete defining its southern border (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
- the Levantine Sea is separated from the Ionian Sea by a submarine ridge between the western end of Crete and Cyrenaica (Libya) and extends to the south of the Anatolia peninsula. It is bordered by Turkey in the north, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip in the east, Egypt and Libya in the south, and the Aegean Sea in the northwest. The west borders the open Mediterranean (also called the Libyan Sea) and is defined as a line from the cape Ra's al-Hilal in Libya to the island of Gavdos, south of Crete.
Both EU and non-EU countries have coasts on the East Mediterranean. The EU countries are Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and Cyprus. The non-EU countries are Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina (with coasts on the Adriatic Sea) and Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza Strip, Egypt, Libya (with coasts on the Aegean and/or Levantine Seas).
Countries in this area share some common MSP related issues and challenges, such as the possible exploitation of submarine natural gas and oil resources, the need for environmental conservation and management actions, also considering that environmental quality is a winning asset for coastal tourism –a relevant economic activity for the East Mediterranean - sustainable management of fishery and fish stocks, the urgent need for cooperation in the sector of safety at sea, due to the present migratory crisis.
MSP in the western Mediterranean
As all EU Member states, the nations are developing MSP to fulfil their requirements under the EU Directive for MSP to deliver maritime spatial planning by March 2021. The following MSP activities are underway.
Croatia adopted the Physical Planning Act, which came into force in July 2017 and fully transposed the MSP Directive into the Croatian legislation. The Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning and the Croatian Institute for Spatial Development – which is the expert institution that develops or coordinates the development of these plans – are both the competent authorities for MSP implementation in Croatia. Croatia is developing a new generation of spatial plans to improve the integrity of marine spatial planning, consideration of interactions, effective monitoring and reporting on the state of the maritime area. The country has also been involved in several European project, as described below.
Cyprus has transposed the MSP Directive through its MSP Law, approved by the House of Representatives in October 2017. The competent authority for MSP implementation is the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Works (Department of Merchant Shipping). The Law also established an MSP Committee which oversees the draft MSP. There is, therefore, no MSP Plan developed in Cyprus yet, but the country has been involved in several European projects on MSP.
Greece has adopted the Law 4546 of June 2018 transposing the EU MSP Directive into the Greek legal system. It designates the Directorate of Spatial Planning of the Ministry of Environment and Energy as the competent authority in charge of MSP implementation. It has also established the National Spatial Planning Council, a consultation body with stakeholders which provide advice on spatial planning issues. There is currently no legally binding national MSP in Greece. Nevertheless, the country participated in various European projects, as described below.
Italy, through the Inter-Ministerial Coordination Table for Maritime Spatial Planning, produced Guidelines containing indications and criteria for the preparation of maritime spatial management plans (Decree of the Presidency of Council of Ministries, 1 December 2017, published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale on 24 January 2018, n. 19). The Guidelines include the identification of the marine areas to be considered for the preparation of maritime plans and the definition of the areas relevant in terms of land-sea interactions. Four marine areas have been identified, coherently with the definition of marine sub-regions under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Each area is composed of planning units with different types of “vocations” (generic, priority, limited, reserved) and include 42 strategic objectives. In June 2021, the Italian Government submitted its proposal for future MSP plans for the four Italian maritime regions to the European Commission. These plans were submitted to the Region’s Parliament (Giunta) for approval. Once approved they will be open for public debate in each of the Regions.
In Slovenia the MSP Directive is implemented within the framework of the Spatial Planning Act adopted in 2017. The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (Spatial Planning, Construction and Housing Directorate) is the competent authority for the implementation of MSP. A draft MSP (AP SPRS) was produced in early 2020. The contract for the Environmental Report has been signed and a public consultation on both documents took place during 2020-2021. The final Pomorski prostorski plan Slovenije (Maritime Spatial Plan of Slovenia) was adopted by the Government in July 2021.
East Mediterranean cooperation on MSP
Cooperation between Member States in the eastern Mediterranean region has been promoted through several actions such as the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), where MSP is considered as a relevant issue for the strategy. Further cooperation has also been developed thanks to projects such as THAL-CHOR I and THAL CHOR II, (Cross border cooperation for Marine Spatial Development), ADRIPLAN (ADRiatic Ionian maritime spatial PLANning) or the SUPREME project (Supporting Maritime Spatial Planning in the Eastern Mediterranean) which carried out cross-border initiatives for MSP in the region.
Relevant pan-Mediterranean MSP institutions and structures
UNEP/MAP was firstly created to address marine pollution issues and includes now integrated coastal zone spatial planning (ICZM) and ecosystem-based management (EBM). Within ICZM and EBM, it promotes MSP. The 20th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, held in December 2017 in Tirana (Albania), adopted the “Conceptual Framework for Marine Spatial Planning” in the Mediterranean Sea. The Conceptual Framework for MSP is recognized as a guiding document to facilitate the introduction of this management tool into the implementation of ICZM through the relevant regional framework and within the system of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols. MSP-related aspects are also addressed, for example through the Coastal Area Management Programme (CAMPs) managed by PAP/RAC. Moreover, SPA/RAC is active in the field of MSP with some joint actions with the EC to promote establishing SPAMIs (Special Protected Areas of Mediterranean Interest) in open seas, including deep seas (MedOpenSea project). In addition to that, it is involved in other actions targeting the definition of EBSAs (Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas) in the Mediterranean, under the framework of the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD).
One of UNEP MAP’s initiatives is the creation of supporting infrastructures, the Regional Activity Centres (RACs). Their main objective is to promote information sharing and communications between MAP stakeholders and the wider user community. There are six Regional Activity Centres across the Mediterranean:
Blue Plan Regional Activity Centre (BP/RAC), France, contributing to raising awareness of Mediterranean stakeholders and decision makers on environment and sustainable development issues, in particular through assessment of the current state and development of future scenarios.
Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC), Croatia, focusing on the sustainable development of the Mediterranean's coastal areas, including in particular the implementation of the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in the Mediterranean.
Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Centre (SPA/RAC), Tunisia, assisting Mediterranean countries in implementing the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean.
Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC), Malta, assisting the Mediterranean coastal States in ratifying, transposing, implementing and enforcing international maritime conventions related to the prevention of, preparedness for and response to marine pollution from ships.
Information and Communication Regional Activity Centre (INFO/RAC), Italy, providing adequate information and communication services and infrastructure technologies to Contracting Parties to implement Article 12 on public participation and Article 26 of the Barcelona Convention on reporting.
Sustainable Consumption and Production Regional Activity Centre (SCP/RAC), Spain, a centre for international cooperation with Mediterranean countries on development and innovation in the production sector and civil society, based on more sustainable consumption and production models.
Finally, The MED POL Programme is responsible for the follow up work related to the implementation of the LBS Protocol, the Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities and of the dumping and Hazardous Wastes Protocols.
UNEP/MAP was firstly created to address marine pollution issues and includes now integrated coastal zone spatial planning (ICZM) and ecosystem-based management (EBM). Within ICZM and EBM, it promotes MSP, for example through the Coastal Area Management Programmes (CAMPs) managed by PAP/RAC. SPA/RAC is active in the field of MSP with some joint actions with the EC to promote establishing SPAMIs (Special Protected Areas of Mediterranean Interest) in open seas, including deep seas (MedOpenSea project). In addition to that, it is involved in other actions targeting the definition of EBSAs (Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas) in the Mediterranean, under the framework of the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD).
The first meeting of the Working Group on IMP-MED took place in December 2009. It gathers representatives of the EU and its Member States together with non-EU Mediterranean countries for discussing and reviewing the implementation of the IMP-MED project, which aims at promoting an integrated approach for maritime management within the Mediterranean through regional meetings, technical regional workshops and technical assistance.
CPMR Intermediterranean Commission
The CPMR Intermediterranean Commission was created in Andalusia in 1990 to express the shared interests of Mediterranean regions in important European negotiations. The principal mission of the Intermediterranean Commission is to encompass the issues raised in all the Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, in particular after the 1995 Barcelona declaration. Today, the Intermediterranean Commission has forty Member Regions in 9 different countries (Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia). Its purpose is to be open to all the different sub-national levels in all Mediterranean countries.
In December 2014, the CPMR Intermediterranean Commission set a working group on Transport and Integrated Maritime Policy to support regional authorities in improving governance and coordination in the implementation of EU maritime and transport policies in the Mediterranean. Themes covered include MSP.
Relevant East Mediterranean MSP institutions and structures
The EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) is a macro-regional strategy adopted by the European Commission and endorsed by the European Council in 2014. The Strategy was jointly developed by the Commission, together with the Adriatic-Ionian Region countries and stakeholders, in order to address common challenges. The EUSAIR covers eight countries: four EU Member States (Croatia, Greece, Italy and Slovenia) and four non-EU countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia).The Strategy aims at creating synergies and fostering coordination among all territories in the Adriatic-Ionian Region. For the implementation of the Strategy, an Action Plan was defined, structured around four cross-related pillars of strategic relevance: 1) Blue Growth, 2) Connecting the Region (transport and energy networks), 3) Environmental quality, 4) Sustainable tourism. Four Thematic Steering Groups (TSGs; one per pillar) have been set up.
MSP represents a relevant issue for the Strategy when considering development and coordination of activities and actions at sea, particularly in the context of:
Pillar 1 Blue Growth, since proper joint governance of the maritime space provides an important framework for a sustainable and transparent use of maritime and marine resources.
Pillar 3 Environmental Quality, where ICM (Integrated Coastal Management) and MSP are recognized as needed tools to ensure sustainable use of resources, in a scenario of increased human use of the marine and coastal space, especially for fishing, maritime transport, tourism and construction, and related intensified pressures on coastal and marine ecosystems.
Cooperation towards the implementation of the Strategy and of activities foreseen by the Action Plan is carried out through the four TSGs. These are chaired for an initial period of 3 years by a tandem of countries, on a rotating basis. At present the TSGs coordination is as follows: Greece and Montenegro for Pillar 1, Italy and Serbia for Pillar 2, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina for Pillar 3, and Croatia and Albania for Pillar 4.
Related Transnational, Non-sectorial Organisations & Policies - Mediterranean Sea
Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)
The Union for the Mediterranean is an intergovernmental organisation aimed at bringing together the 28 EU MS and the 15 southern and eastern Mediterranean countries, to enhance regional cooperation and dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Established in 2008 under the French Presidency of the EU, it built on processes that had emerged and achieved progress in the previous years, notably the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP).
UNEP-MAP Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD)
The creation in 1996 of the MCSD by the Contracting Parties conveys their commitment to sustainable development and to the effective implementation, at the regional and national levels, of the decisions of the Earth Summit and the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development. The MCSD is made up of 40 members: 22 permanent, representing each of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, as well as 18 rotating representatives from wider community. The MCSD has provided major inputs to the formulation of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD) and spearheads its implementation at the country level.
The Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (MedPartnership) is a collective effort of leading environmental institutions and organizations together with countries sharing the Mediterranean Sea to address the main environmental challenges that Mediterranean marine and coastal ecosystems face. The MedPartnership is being led by UNEP/MAP and is financially supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and other donors, including the European Commission and all participating countries.
Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE)
MIO-ECSDE is non-profit Federation of over 130 Mediterranean Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in the fields of Environment and Development in 25 countries of the Euro-Mediterranean area. MIO-ECSDE mission is to protect the natural environment and cultural heritage and promote sustainable development in a peaceful Mediterranean by bringing together the efforts of environmental and developmental NGOs.
The Bologna Charter is a policy document aiming at strengthening the role of coastal administrations in the context of European policies and initiatives at the Mediterranean scale related to: coastal protection, integrated management, adaptation to climate change. The Charter also promotes and outlines a Macro-Project initiatives for the current programming period of the European Structural Funds (2014-2020), designed for a coherent Mediterranean macro-thematic and multi-sectoral strategy. The Macro-Project is detailed in the Joint Action Plan. Although the main focus is on coastal planning, management and adaptation to climate change, MSP approaches and principles are clearly considered relevant and taken in consideration by the Charter and the Action Plan.
Mediterranean Network of Basin Organizations (MENBO)
The International Network of Basin Organizations has as main objectives to: (i) develop permanent relations with the organizations interested in comprehensive river basin management, and facilitate exchanges of experiences and expertise among them; (ii) promote the principles and means of sound water management in cooperation programmes to reach sustainable development, (iii) facilitate the implementation of tools for institutional and financial management, for programming, for the organization of data bases, and of models adapted to the needs.
Agency for sustainable Mediterranean cities and territories (AViTeM)
The main objective of AViTeM is to establish a mechanism for the exchange of experience, expertise, cooperation and training, to enable promotion of integrated and exemplary initiatives of urban and territorial development in the countries of the Union for the Mediterranean. It is a response to strong demand of cooperation from Mediterranean countries in the areas of processes, tools and methods, for the implementation of effective urban and territorial planning against a backdrop of regionalisation and decentralisation.
Related Transnational, Non-sectorial Organisations & Policies – East Mediterranean Sea
Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII)
The Adriatic and Ionian Initiative was established at the Summit on Development and Security on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, held in Ancona (Italy) on 19-20 May 2000. It substantially contributed to the process of definition of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR). Today, the AII counts eight Members: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. The cooperation with AII has gradually assumed different forms, including the establishment of partnerships involving Adriatic Ionian networks and Fora such as the Forum of the Adriatic Ionian Chambers of Commerce, the Adriatic Ionian Forum of Cities and Towns and UniAdrion (the Adriatic Ionian network of Universities).
Adriatic Ionian Euroregion (AIE)
The AIE is an international association of regional and local authorities of Italy, Croatia, Greece, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania. Established in 2006, as Adriatic Euroregion, it aims to promote the transnational and interregional cooperation in the area. It represents a model of institutional co-operation developed at regional level for establishing mutual relation and common development interests
Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Chambers of Commerce
The Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Chambers of Commerce is a transnational, non-profit association linking the chambers of commerce of countries residing on both Adriatic and Ionian coasts: Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia, Greece and Albania. The aim of the association, established in 2001, owing to the will and vision of the founding chambers of commerce, those of Ancona and Split, is to strengthen the synergies and opportunities for socio-economic development of the Adriatic and Ionian area. With the scope of achieving better coordination of its activities, the Forum identified topics of common interest from which six Workgroups were created: Agriculture, Environment, Women's Entrepreneurship, Transports, Tourism and Fisheries/Aquaculture.
Relevant Sector Organisations – Mediterranean Sea
General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)
Shipping and Ports
CPMR Intermediterranean Commission - Working Group on Transport and Integrated Maritime Policy
Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism (MEET) Network
Network of Marine Protected Area Managers in the Mediterranean (MedPAN)
IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation
Offshore Renewable Energy
Mediterranean Association of the National Agencies for Energy Conservation (MEDENER)
Association of Mediterranean Energy Regulators (MEDREG)
Renewable Energy Solutions for the Mediterranean (RES4MED)
Observatoire Méditerranéen de l’Energie (OME)
General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)
Mediterranean Universities Union (UNIMED)
Relevant Sector Organisations – East Mediterranean Sea
Shipping and Ports
North Adriatic Port Association (NAPA)
Adriatic Protected Areas Network (AdriaPan)
Adriatic Ionian network of Universities (UniAdrion)
Last update 22.02.2022