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Multi-Layered Marine Governance Arrangements to Support The European Green Deal

PERMAGOV report on multi-layered marine governance arrangements in the context of the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal (EGD) adopted in December 2019 seeks to facilitate the transition of the EU towards a climate-neutral continent and a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy by 2050. In addition to a set of objectives, it is also a policy program that will affect the policy landscape, by driving the development of new directives and regulation, and the amendment of existing ones. In order to facilitate transition of the EU society, to better protect marine environment, to enhance decision making and policy implementation processes, governance arrangements will need to be improved to develop and implement measures through which EGD marine protection objectives will be achieved.

The Horizon Europe PERMAGOV project aims to improve the implementation and performance of EU marine policies to reach the goals set in the EGD. The PERMAGOV project focuses on four issue areas, so-called regime complexes: Maritime Transport, Marine Energy, Marine Life and Marine Plastics. Within each regime complex, 2 to 3 case studies are used to explore and analyse how governance arrangements emerging, changing and improving their performance through the EGD. These case studies span three European Seas, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the North East Atlantic.

As part of the first phase of the PERMAGOV project, this report aims to

  • Provide an overview of the multi-level marine governance arrangements for each PERMAGOV case study, covering its key actors, rules and institutions, discourses, power resources and relations

  • Undertake a first assessment of how - through specific EU policies - the EGD is changing the multi-level marine governance arrangements that govern Maritime Transport, Marine Energy, Marine Life and Marine Plastics

  • Identify challenges and drivers within and between these arrangements that hinder or enable the successful implementation of EU policies that aim to achieve EGD objectives

Marine governance refers to the capacity of various stakeholders, including state actors, maritime industries, and civil society groups such as NGOs and coastal communities, to govern activities and their impacts on the marine environment. Multi-layered Marine Governance Arrangements (MLMGA) are the temporary stabilization of the content and organization of a particular policy domain at a certain policy level or over several policy levels. A MLMGA stabilizes and changes over time. A MLMGA and how it changes can be analysed along four dimensions: actors and their coalitions, resources, rules of the game, and discourses.

The 9 cases used in the PERMAGOV project offer different entry points into exploring how the EGD affects marine governance within EU and across regime complexes. For Maritime Transport the Fitfor55 and Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy are guiding policies. Implementation of Marine Energy is guided by the Offshore renewable energy strategy, the Green Deal Industrial Plan and RePowerEU. For Marine Life the Biodiversity Strategy and Farm2Fork Strategy as well as the Common Fisheries Policy and its Marine Action Plan are relevant. Finally, Marine Plastics are governed through the New Circular Economy Action Plan and the Action Plan: Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil.

Maritime Transport

In the Maritime Transport regime complex, two MLMGAs have been analysed: ‘decarbonising shipping’ and ‘Motorways of the Sea’. An important driver of change in the Maritime Transport regime complex is the discursive shift from energy efficiency to decarbonising shipping, resulting in rules to achieve decarbonization targets for both ports and ships. In addition, to stimulate the move from road/rail to sea new rules are developed to stimulate short sea shipping with smaller vessels. Important challenges within the Maritime Transport regime complex are the cost of technological innovations of decarbonising shipping, the lack of predictability of rules, which reduces the willingness to invest in renewable energy for shipping and by ports, and a lack of clarity in rules in terms of requirements and possibilities to comply.

Marine Life

In the Marine Life regime complex the following two MLMGAs have been analysed: ‘Seabed integrity in the Baltic Sea’ (consisting of the governance arrangements for dredging and bottom trawling) and ‘Sustainable fisheries in Italian MPAs’. The introduction of the EGD (mainly the Biodiversity Strategy) in the regime complex Marine Life resulted in a more ecosystem-focused, holistic narrative. The EGD strengthened the existing ecosystem-based approach in fisheries management and also emphasised seabed integrity as a foundation of the marine ecosystem. The biodiversity discourse and the EGD ambitions can be seen as the driver of change in the MLMGAs in the Marine Life regime complex, however, it is unclear yet how this discourse will be translated into rules and available resources. There is a tension between the EGD/biodiversity discourse and the sectoral/industry discourses, and between the different rules systems within the MLMGAs around biodiversity/conservation and around regulating human activities/industry. A key concern within Marine Life is the integration and coherence between policies and governance levels. For example the biodiversity strategy and the Farm2Fork strategy are not fully aligned. On the one hand, it is uncertain how biodiversity is integrated in Farm2Fork, while on the other it is unclear how livelihoods and food security issues are integrated in the biodiversity strategy.

Marine Energy

The regime complex Marine Energy consists of three MLMGAs: ‘Floating Wind in the Celtic Sea’, ‘Energy islands in Denmark’ and ‘Offshore Wind in Norway’. Main drivers of change in the Marine Energy regime complex are the discourses of energy security, repowering, acceleration, the development of an integrated energy system and trans-boundary cooperation. These discourses changed the MLMGAs in Marine Energy in different ways. The energy security discourse, intensified due to the war in Ukraine, resulted in new rules such as REPowerEU plan, while integrated energy system and trans-boundary collaboration discourses in the Danish and Celtic cases empowered new coalitions on sea-basin level. Several challenges impede progress in the Marine Energy regime complex. Firstly, there are timing disparities between EU ambitions and Member States’ specific regulatory and contextual issues. While the EU seeks acceleration under the EGD, lengthy and complex consenting, licensing and tendering processes persist in many Member States, which leads to long lead times and uncertainty for renewable energy projects. Secondly, time is required to develop necessary technologies and infrastructure, including port facilities for the deployment of offshore wind parks, hydrogen infrastructures, and so forth. Thirdly, grid capacity limitations and storage constraints hinder acceleration, despite discourses that suggest that technological challenges can be overcome with adequate resources. Fourthly, costs, and the pre-commercial status of some technologies e.g. floating wind, poses a major challenge for investment. Finally, the discourse around acceleration diverts attention away from biodiversity protection and sustainability concerns, raising questions about how rapid offshore energy development can be compatible with biodiversity targets e.g. 30x30 agenda, as well as co-existence with fisheries and other marine interests.

Marine Plastics

For the Marine Plastics regime complex, the following MLMGAs have been analysed: ‘Marine litter from fishing gear in the Baltic Sea’ and ‘Microplastic pollution of the Mediterranean Sea’. The EGD introduced new rules for the regime complex Marine Plastics aimed at mitigating various sources of marine plastic pollution, such as the regulation of fisheries gear. Also discourses on producer responsibility and preventing pollution at the source are emerging in the Marine Plastics regime complex, but these discourses have to be strengthened to affect for example the domain of agri-plastics. In general, the plastic industry focuses on solutions, such as recycling, posing substantial challenge to change the discourse to preventive strategies. Specific for Marine Plastics is the important role Regional Sea Conventions play as key coordinators at multiple governance levels. Achieving policy coherence in the Marine Plastics regime complex is a challenge. Regulations (developed by different governance institutions) targeting different aspects of the plastic lifecycle and various pollution sources result in overlapping or conflicting governance actions. The Marine Plastics regime complex is facing an urgent need to reduce pollution due to its associated toxicity demanding fast action, while the EU governance frameworks are still in the early stages of developing mandatory regulations.


The report concludes that regime complexes do not develop in a vacuum; they all develop within the EU marine governance institutional setting and are all affected by the EGD. Therefore, developments within one regime complex influence developments in other regime complexes. Understanding these linkages is crucial for effective policy development and implementation to address complex marine challenges. We therefore conclude that the implementation of the EGD is going to be supported by policy integration and synergies across marine regime complexes, by the shift towards approaches that focus on the whole ecosystem and preventing pollution at source, by resource inter-dependencies between regime complexes, by cross-sectoral collaboration, governance coherence and alignment, and by developing and improving regulatory frameworks and compliance.

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PERMAGOV has received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme HORIZON-CL6-2022-GOVERNANCE-01-03 under grant agreement No 101086297, and by UK Research and Innovation under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee grant numbers 10045993, 10062097, 101086297.

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