The ability of regional coordination and policy integration to produce coherent marine management: Implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in the North-East Atlantic
The transboundary nature of the marine environment requires concerted actions among neighbouring countries to improve its quality in an effective way. Coordination at international level is particularly important during the implementation of environmental policies aimed at reducing the widespread pressures derived from activities, such as shipping and fishing. The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to protect and improve the status of a wide range of ecosystem components with a regional focus, promoting cooperation among countries and integration with other environmental policies. In 2014, the European Commission assessed the level of adequacy, consistency and coherence achieved by Member States during the implementation of the first phase of the MSFD and hence this paper focuses on the cross-border coherence and coordination within one marine region in order to achieve the goals of the Directive. In particular, it identifies and analyses the main differences among the results of the implementation of the first phase of the MSFD across the North-East Atlantic region. This analysis shows that, in general, the use of existing data, methodologies and targets from related environmental policies corresponds to the higher levels of coherence among countries while a limited use of such policies produces less coherence. This suggests that the European Commission, Regional Seas Conventions and Member States should work together to identify the real connection between the MSFD and other policies to make a proper use of existing data and approaches and to harmonise different policy objectives. In particular, the review shows what might be termed a ‘paradox of coherence’ amongst Member States where coherence of action has to be achieved within a European policy of subsidiarity, the act of Member States having control over the way they implement framework directives. This can be regarded as a fundamental flaw in having a ‘Framework Directive’ instead of the greater control in a ‘Directive’.