Since coastal erosion is occurring on a
European wide scale and in many cases has a transboundary character,
it is legitimate to ask ourselves in what way can EU policies
and Directives help manage coastal erosion. In this respect it
is rather disappointing that there is a lack of European legal
requirement concerning coastal erosion management.
1. Existing EU policies and Directives
The existing Directives on floods, water and sea and draft Soil
Directive do not address the coastal erosion problem as one of
the issues to be solved from a European perspective. Furthermore,
the EU policy regarding ICZM has the status of a Recommendation
only. Member States were encouraged to develop and publish coastal
strategies by 2006 under the EU Recommendation on ICZM. Although
policies for the EU’s coasts have a long history they have not
been implemented in an integrated manner so far .
Being a Recommendation only, countries are not obliged to implement
ICZM. The lack of a Directive for ICZM reflects the complexity
of socioeconomic issues involved in coastal land use, differences
in legal systems across Member States and the difficulty of defining
acceptable management strategies for the different residents,
users and interest groups involved with the coastal region .
Nevertheless, in the implementation of these policies and directives,
elements for managing coastal erosion could be included after
all. Member states that have signed the Mediterranean ICZM Protocol
(Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Malta and Cyprus) have
committed themselves to undertake the necessary measures to mitigate
the impact of coastal erosion (see box).
ICZM Mediterranean Protocol
Article 23 COASTAL EROSION
"In conformity with the objectives and principles
set out in Articles 5 and 6 of this Protocol, the Parties,
with a view to preventing and mitigating the negative impact
of coastal erosion more effectively, undertake to adopt
the necessary measures to maintain or restore the natural
capacity of the coast to adapt to changes, including those
caused by the rise in sea levels.
The Parties, when considering new activities
and works located in the coastal zone including marine structures
and coastal defence works, shall take particular account
of their negative effects on coastal erosion and the direct
and indirect costs that may result. In respect of existing
activities and structures, the Parties should adopt measures
to minimize their effects on coastal erosion.
The Parties shall endeavour to anticipate
the impacts of coastal erosion through the integrated management
of activities, including adoption of special measures for
coastal sediments and coastal works.
The Parties undertake to share scientific
data that may improve knowledge on the state, development
and impacts of coastal erosion."
ICZM recommendation (2002)
The EU ICZM Recommendation is a guiding policy for implementing
sustainable erosion management. The recommendation stresses
the fact that coastal zones are threatened by the effects of climate
change, in particular rising sea levels, changes in storm frequency
and strength, and increased coastal erosion and flooding. Working
with natural processes and respecting the carrying capacity of
ecosystems are also basic principles for protection strategies.
Marine Strategy Framework Directive
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which was
adopted in June 2008, provides an opportunity to frame sustainable
erosion management practices within a wider marine spatial planning
system thereby ensuring a consistent approach to issues such as
monitoring. The Marine Strategy does not explicitly address
the issue of coastal erosion, but could pose restrictions to measures
for erosion control, if these affect the good environmental status
of the marine environment. Especially the designation of strategic
sediment reservoirs should be taken up as an important component
of marine planning.
The Inspire Directive, approved in 2007, aims to establish
an infrastructure for spatial information (SDI) for Europe. The
European SDI is going to be the common framework and standard
for spatial data flow, including technologies, datasets, metadata
and services. The INSPIRE Directive should support the
standardised delineation of coastal sediment cells by incorporating
key input datasets required for such a delineation into Spatial
Data Infrastructure (SDI) standards being established under the
terms of the Directive. Also the preparation of setback
lines should be adapted to the requirements of this Directive.
The objective of the Floods Directive on the Assessment
and Management of Flood Risks (2007/60/EC) is to reduce and manage
flood-related risks to human health, the environment, infrastructure
and property. This Directive is closely related to the Water Framework
Directive (WFD), and its implementation will be coordinated with
River Basin Districts under the WFD. The Directive provides for
the drafting of flood risk maps and management plans. Within
these plans, coastal erosion should be recognised as an important
factor in coastal flooding.
EU Thematic Strategy on Soils
Although the EU Thematic Strategy on Soils, approved in 2006,
acknowledges the importance of soil protection since soil functions
contribute to coastal management, there is no explicit reference
in the Strategy to the problem of coastal erosion. In
the implementation of the strategy it is therefore recommended
to recognise the contribution of river catchments to the sediment
budget and sediment quality within the coastal sediment cell.
The preparation of coastal erosion risk maps and provision
of guidelines for the integration of soil concerns into spatial
planning through the identification of strategic sediment reservoirs
should be promoted.
EU Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment
The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment has the objective
of ‘contributing to a better quality of life through an integrated
approach concentrating on urban areas’ and to contribute ‘to a
high level of quality of life and social well-being for citizens
by providing an environment where the level of pollution does
not give rise to harmful effects on human health and the environment
and by encouraging sustainable urban development’. For many cities
in Europe that are located in the coastal zone it would be wise
to take account of coastal erosion. Within this context
the need to make spatial allocations for ‘strategic sediment reserves’
should be recognised in urban planning strategies for coastal
zones vulnerable to erosion. From a resilience point of view sediment
reservoirs can be combined with setback zones along the shoreline.
The extent to which Natura 2000 sites are currently used
as sources to supply sediments to compensate chronic deficits
of sediments as a result of human intervention should be monitored.
It will also be important to consider the effect of allowing the
natural dynamic to operate (particularly in realignment schemes)
within these sites as this can lead to the replacement of one
habitat by another with a potential loss of Favourable Conservation
Status in the habitat which is replaced. The way this is approached
needs to be considered and guidance given by the Commission.