European Maritime Day 2015 was held in Athens Greece 28th-29th May. The North Sea Commission was co-organising a workshop titled Regional cooperation on Maritime Spatial Planning with Vice President Kerstin Brunnström as one of the speakers.

EMD 2015 was the 8th consecutive Conference gathering over 1300 participants from all over Europe, hosted by the city of Piraeus. This year’s overall title was Ports and coasts – Gateways to Maritime Growth. At the Megaron Conference Center, in the heart of Athens, representatives from maritime industries, regional and local authorities, research and European political bodies gathered to discuss challenges and possibilities of the future use of the European seas.

NSC co-organised a workshop together with Institute of Marine Science of the National Research Council of Italy and CORILA Consortium for management research on the Venice lagoon system, and Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture of Hellenic Centre of Marine Research. Title of the workshop was Regional cooperation on Maritime Spatial Planning, and among the speakers were Mr Haitze Siemers, Head of Unit, DG MARE, European Commission and Mr Lodewijk Abspoel, North Sea 2050 Spatial Agenda.

Vice President of the NSC Kerstin Brunnström gave an introduction of the workshop to a packed venue, emphasizing the importance of transnational cooperation on maritime spatial planning. North Sea is one of the most heavily used seas in the world and we see increasing activities and less available space. The key element is to find a sustainable balance between blue growth and environmental protection. Planning and good management of the sea is important for regional development and The Maritime Days 2015 was a good opportunity to facilitate for exchange of best practice on how to make good systems for stakeholder involvement, for smooth coordination between governmental levels and for trans-boundary cooperation.

Mr Lodewijk Abspoel gave a presentation which focused on the potential in MSP for facilitating more production and export. It is also important to understand that MSP is not just about the sea, but also about the coastline and inland production areas. It’s not just about relocating, it’s about connecting with each other and talk to each other.

Mr Haitze Siemers from DG MARE emphasized that the debate needs to be as broad as possible, involving member states, local authorities and the public, not just experts. At the same time it is important that academia and experts on MSP share their knowledge, especially with relevant authorities.

The MSP Challenge during the North Sea Conference in Assen 15th June is a great opportunity to take this discussion further. We’ll see you there.