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International Cooperation and MSP in the Baltic Sea

Environmental Policy
Governance
International Relations
Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir
Bates College

Abstract

The 2014 European Union Directive on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) calls on member-states to consult and cooperate as they develop comprehensive MSPs across maritime boundaries. This paper discusses the challenges of achieving such international cooperation around MSPs in the Baltic Sea. International cooperation is traditionally undertaken by foreign affairs ministries, entities which are absent in the discussions about cross-boundary MSPs in the Baltic Sea, an area which includes eight EU member-states, and Russia. But despite differences in timing, bureaucracies, and available resources complicating matters, this paper discusses how planners, who most are new to international affairs, have achieved some levels of cooperation in the absence of harmonized MSP systems. Using interviews and observations that were collected during the Baltic SCOPE project this paper identifies factors that influence success of transboundary collaboration. Baltic SCOPE brought together MSP planners of six Baltic Sea countries to develop cross-border cooperation capacity. The results indicate that ideally countries should develop more compatible planning approaches including data collection, analyses, and mapping practices to overcome the practical problems caused by different approaches and practices of MSP. However, collaboration has proven possible even without harmonized MSP systems. Achieving this requires continued collaboration and discussions across border. A key is to reach a shared understanding of cross-border topics and the differences of handling them across the borders.