EU countries are not being ambitious enough in implementing the Marine Directive, national targets for 2020 are too weak and there are major shortcomings in coordination at the international level. These are the key findings of a survey held among European NGOs earlier this year.

Conducted by Seas At Risk and the European Seas Environmental Cooperation (ESEC) group, the survey involved 31 NGOs from 16 European countries and was carried out in order to gain an initial impression of the quality of Member State reports prepared in July of this year.

One of the key concerns voiced by NGOs was that draft targets set to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020 are weak and do not go beyond existing commitments with NGOs fearing that countries are heading for a business-as-usual approach.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) required Member States to conduct a public consultation on their Initial Assessment; define what they consider to be GES; and set targets and indicators by 15th July 2012.

On a positive note, 60% of the responding NGOs said an adequate amount of time was given to respond to the public consultations and that the Member State reports were easily accessible. However only a third of the respondants stated they were involved at the start of the reporting process.

To date, 8 countries (Bulgaria, Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia) have not yet submitted their reports to the European Commission and up until October 15 there were 12 countries in all who had failed to report. These delays give the impression that countries lack the political will that is needed to restore European waters and jeopardise Europe’s attempt to reach its 2020 target of GES.

In the first half of 2013, the European Commission will review the country reports and assess their adequacy, consistency and coherence, as required by the MSFD. The result of this review could lead to bilateral discussions between the Commission and individual Member States to recognise gaps and agree actions to close them.

In addition, the review will also help to outline priorities for the next steps of MSFD implementation, such as the development of monitoring programmes and establishing a programme of measures.

ESEC is an informal network between Seas At Risk (SAR), the Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE), and the Black Sea NGO Network (BSNN), which work for the protection of the marine environment in Europe’s regional sea basins.
Survey results

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