Brussels, 11th December 2007. A battle of wills between the Council and the European Parliament ended today with the adoption of a Marine Strategy Directive unfit for the purpose of protecting European Seas and acting as the “environmental pillar” of the EU’s new maritime policy.

Brussels, 11th December 2007. A battle of wills between the Council and the European Parliament ended today with the adoption of a Marine Strategy Directive unfit for the purpose of protecting European Seas and acting as the “environmental pillar” of the EU’s new maritime policy.

The Parliament had tried to strengthen the Commission’s original proposals while Member States led by the UK and the Netherlands worked to weaken them.

The significance of a last minute agreement “to achieve” good environmental status (the Council preferred “aim to achieve”) is undermined by a weak definition of good environmental status (GES) and an absence of measures to tackle the many threats faced by Europe’s seas. The Directive is further compromised by extensive deferring to Member States (who clearly aren’t in a mood to act), and by a loophole that allows them to avoid taking action if they believe it will result in “disproportionate costs”.

The Marine Strategy Directive is the EU’s first concerted attempt at dealing with Europe’s marine environmental problems but instead of a strong EU-wide response the Directive pushes the responsibility for action on to individual Member States and weakens existing regional seas initiatives in the process.

Seas At Risk will now shift its attention to encouraging a progressive national implementation of the Directive’s provisions, and to ensuring that the EU’s maritime policy process strengthens this weak “environmental pillar” with other more progressive environmental policies and approaches.

Marine Strategy Directive provisional consolidated text (11/12/07).

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