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NIVA will review European rules and governance for the marine environment

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By Milthon Lujan

The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) has recently been awarded funding to lead a new EU project that will investigate the interaction between all European regulations that affect governance of Europe’s seas and coasts.

Over time, the EU has developed comprehensive regulations and complex management systems to ensure that Europe’s sea and coastal areas are in good environmental condition. At the same time, there are often other policies that affect the sea – and which do not sufficiently contribute to solving the problems that arise at sea. This applies, for example, to agricultural and fisheries policy, but may also apply to various environmental regulations.

The sum of initiatives and rules has become so complicated and extensive that the EU needs help to streamline it. This is needed to increase clarity and effectiveness and to understand better what needs to be done. This is precisely the ambition of the CrossGov project, according to project manager Froukje M. Platjouw in NIVA.

– Typical problems are fragmented and conflicting legislation, challenges in implementing the regulations in practice, and political factors such as power relations between sectors and actors, says Platjouw.

– We will highlight the effect of governance being divided into several levels, from the international to the local, and that so many different sectors are involved. The project will also develop proposals for solutions together with those involved in policy- and decision-making, says the NIVA researcher, who has extensive experience in international and EU environmental law.

The EU’s Green Deal

The project will contribute with analyzes and proposals for measures that can lead to better compliance with the EU’s own goals and international obligations.

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– The EU’s Green Deal has high ambitions to transform society towards environmental sustainability. The policy requires, among other things, that measures must be taken that change the way we affect our marine ecosystems, at the same time as the climate crisis is to be solved and new jobs are to be created in new sea-based industries, says Platjouw.

The EU is concerned with finding solutions that meet several goals at the same time so that attempts to solve one problem do not create new ones or amplify existing ones. 

– For example, climate-oriented investment in renewable energy such as offshore wind should not be at the expense of nature and biodiversity or lead to increased pollution, at the same time as social aspects must be considered, says the NIVA researcher.

Oslofjorden as a case

In addition to studying the context of the regulations as they appear on paper, the project will also go in depth on how they work in practice. A number of case studies are therefore included in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean, including the Oslofjorden.

– The Oslofjorden is a very exciting case. The ecosystem has been greatly changed by discharges from, among other things, sewage and agriculture, and overfishing. The EU’s water framework directive stipulates that the impacts of such contributions must be met with measures that can restore good ecological condition, says Platjouw.

In Norway, this has been implemented through the water management plans. At the same time, the government has mobilized many actors for a joint contribution for the fjord through a comprehensive action plan.

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– The project gives us the opportunity to follow these processes and compare what is happening in other European countries, Platjouw concludes.

About the project

The CrossGov project is part of the EU’s major research and innovation program Horizon Europe.

– CrossGov is the short name for “Coherent and cross-compliant ocean governance for delivering the EU Green Deal for European seas”

– The project will be carried out by a consortium coordinated by NIVA. The other participants are the University of Utrecht (Netherlands), the University of Eastern Finland, ACTeon (France), Sustainable_Projects (Germany), the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (Germany) and CNR-ISMAR (Italy).

– The project will start this summer and end in 2025. The project has a budget of approximately 3 million euros.

PS: NIVA as coordinator has not yet completed the contract negotiations with the EU Commission. This is expected to be completed in the coming months.

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