The Changing Faces of Europe`s Coastal Areas

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

Executive Summary

This report provides information on the state of the environment in the coastal areas of Europe, and provides evidence of the need for a more integrated, long-term approach. Since 1995, concern about the state of Europe's coastline has led to a number of EU initiatives, which build on the concept of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM). ICZM attempts to balance the needs of development with protection of the very resources that sustain coastal economies. It also takes into account the public's concern about the deteriorating environmental, socio-economic and cultural state of the European coastline.

The specific objective of this work is to contribute to the review of the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council concerning the implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Europe (2002/413/EC), planned by the European Commission for 2006. This review requires information on existing trends and on the effects of policies and financial instruments directed towards coastal management.

The EEA intends to contribute to the review by promoting spatial analysis and enhancing the integration of relevant environmental data with related socio-economic data to the extent current available information allows. At the same time, the report aligns itself to the wider context of ecosystems and human well-being set up by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). By linking ecosystems and human well-being, this approach focuses in particular on 'ecosystem services', i.e. the benefits people obtain from ecosystems.

Climate change and its impact on coastal zones is yet another important analytical framework that is taken into account while analysing the state of coasts. The increasing vulnerability of the coastal population and ecosystems becomes a challenge for the ICZM approach, which should achieve a reduction in these vulnerabilities through the coherent spatial organisation of coastal zones and by increasing the resilience of coastal systems.

By analysing the responses of society to unsustainable development trends, the report reviews existing relevant policies and tracks how they may affect the coastal zones. However, analysing the effects of all these policies is a complex task for which there are not always sufficient data. Nevertheless, the report is intended to give a comprehensive picture of European policies concerning the coast, either directly or indirectly. The focus is weighted towards the EU ICZM Recommendation and follows the work undertaken by the EU Expert Group on ICZM, which selected two sets of indicators: a set of 27 indicators for measuring sustainability on the coast, and an additional set to measure the implementation of integrated coastal management in European countries. A number of case studies completed within this EU ICZM framework have also been included. The indicators also serve as examples for a more widespread adoption of integrated territorial management principles across Europe.

Testing indicators at Member State and regional level is especially important as the approach (laid out by the EU ICZM Recommendation) underlines the flexible and problem-oriented nature of adopted responses. Here, the EU follows the subsidiarity and proportionality principle by providing leadership and guidance to support implementation at other levels. It is also important to note that a European approach on ICZM builds on existing instruments and programmes which may not necessarily have been designed with coastal zones in mind.

The report serves the purpose of developing the EEA's approach on integrated spatial assessment with a view to understanding changes in coastal systems and monitoring progress towards sustainable development. It focuses mainly on the environmental dimension, which is used as an entry point to analyse the relationship between society and the natural environment in coastal zones.

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