1. INTRODUCTION – BACKGROUND
1.1. Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2328/2003, (EC) No 861/2006, (EC) No 1198/2006 and (EC) No 791/2007 and Regulation (EU) No 1255/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council defines the legal basis for this call for proposals. In particular, Article 83 states that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) may support operations such as projects in accordance with the objectives set out in Article 82, one of which is "to promote the protection of the marine environment, in particular its biodiversity and marine protected areas such as Natura 2000 sites, and the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources and to further define the boundaries of the sustainability of human activities that have an impact on the marine environment", in particular in the framework of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).
1.2. The Commission's Annual Work Programme for 2015 and 2016
On 18th of December 2014 the Commission adopted the work programme for 2015 C(2014)9794 and on 11th of December 2015 the work programme for 2016 C(2015)8729 and the financing for the implementation of the EMFF. These work programmes for 2015 and 2016 sets out details of the financing mechanisms and of the priority areas for actions fostering the development and implementation of the Union's Integrated Maritime Policy under the EMFF.
1.3. Current status of the MSFD implementation process
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008/56/EC1) aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. In order to achieve GES by 2020, each Member State is required to develop a strategy for its marine waters (a "Marine Strategy") which must be kept up-to-date and reviewed every 6 years.
In 2012, Member States reported under the MSFD for the first time on their initial assessment (including on the current environmental status, on the predominant pressures and impacts and on the uses of their marine waters), on what they consider as being "good environmental status" (GES) and on the environmental targets they set themselves in order to reach GES by 2020 (Articles 8, 9 and 10 of the MSFD).
Based on these Member State reports, the Commission had to "assess whether, in the case of each Member State, the elements notified constitute an appropriate framework to meet the requirements of this Directive..." (MSFD Article 12). In February 2014, the Commission published a report2 on this assessment, which identified a number of shortcomings in the implementation of the Directive and made suggestions on how to prepare for the updates of the initial assessment, determination of GES and environmental targets which are due in 2018, to be carried out in accordance with MSFD Article 17. The report highlighted the need for greater coherence with related EU legislation, in particular the Habitats and Birds Directives (92/43/EEC3 and 2009/147/EC4) and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC5), and for more coherent and coordinated approaches within and between marine regions and sub- regions.
Given the shortcomings of the 2012 reporting, the Commission's 2014 report also concluded that the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters6 ("GES Decision") needed to be revised, strengthened and improved to ensure that the next phase of MSFD implementation yields greater benefits. A scientific and technical review of the GES Decision was initiated which led to the Commission presenting in January 2016 a first draft proposal for a revised GES Decision. The proposal is expected to facilitate the 2018 updates of the initial assessment and determination of GES by clarifying the criteria and methodological standards to be used by Member States in order to ensure consistency and to allow for comparison between marine regions or subregions of the extent to which good environmental status is being achieved. It could also help Member States in assessing progress in the implementation of the programme of measures (MSFD Article 18) that were taken in order to achieve or maintain GES (according to MSFD Article 13).
In addition, following the implementation of the MSFD monitoring programmes in 2014, Member States should use their monitoring data to establish a "distance to the target" of good environment status. In particular for some descriptors, e.g. biodiversity, non- indigenous species, marine litter, seafloor integrity and underwater noise, further efforts at regional level are needed to ensure an adequate and coherent implementation and to contribute to an assessment at regional or subregional level. The action under this call can address the methodological aspects but should also include monitoring data gathering, and sharing efforts, given that there are still considerable gaps in monitoring networks.
1.4. About the call for proposals
Organisations who wish to apply must fulfil the requirements specified in this call. They
are required to fill in the application form and provide the requested documentation.
The area for funding, the exclusion, eligibility, selection and award criteria for funding, the financial provisions and the procedure to apply are described in this call for proposals.
All call documents are available for download from the DG Environment website: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/funding/grants_en.htm.
2. OBJECTIVE(S) – THEME(S) – PRIORITIES
2.1. General objectives
The purpose of this call for proposals is to support the next phase of MSFD implementation, in particular to achieve regionally coherent, coordinated and consistent updates of the determinations of GES, initial assessments and sets of environmental targets by July 2018, in accordance with Article 17(2a and 2b), Article 5(2) and Article 3(5) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC). The proposals should have practical outcomes which clearly contribute to the implementation of the MSFD and in particular to the 2018 reporting requirements and those related to the interim progress in the implementation of programme of measures to be established by 2019 (Article 18).
The successful implementation of the proposals should directly contribute to regional or subregional cooperation needs of Member States' competent authorities in their implementation of the Directive. The proposals can contribute directly to the efforts of the regional organisations, such as the Regional Sea Conventions (RSCs), as long as these are directly linked to the 2018 MSFD implementation requirements. The proposals have to have a link with the preparation of the 2018 MSFD reports, particularly where there are synergies and efficiency gains from such regional approaches.
The proposals should support those (sub)regions where, to date, Member States have already jointly identified certain shortcomings and are committed to address them together in a coherent manner; in particular, (sub)regions where no formal, coordination on (sub)regional MSFD implementation process is operational will be treated as a priority.
2.2. Specific objectives
Overall, the starting point should be to identify and address strategic priorities at regional or subregional7 level for targeted actions related to the financial planning and delivery of the second cycle of MSFD implementation for particular regions or subregions, particularly for the reports due in 2018.
The proposals should address one or more of the following:
review, and where necessary, update the determinations of GES (MSFD Art. 9), following the recommendations of the Commission's assessment8 and using the outcomes of the scientific and technical review of the GES Decision including a revised GES Decision if adopted, leading to determinations of GES which are consistent at the level of marine region or subregion as required under MSFD Art. 3(5). This could include the establishment of regional or subregional threshold values for GES criteria, adapted as necessary to the different characteristics within each region or subregion;
update the 2012 assessment (MSFD Art. 8), in accordance with Annex III of MSFD and with the criteria and methodological standards in the GES Decision (using any
revisions to these and the latest available EU guidance on assessments and reporting). This could focus on delivery of one or more parts of the assessment (i.e. Art. 8 (1a), (1b) and/or (1c)). For Art. 8(1a) and (1b), the assessments should deliver clear outcomes on the current status (state, pressures and impacts), on trends in status (improving, stable, deteriorating) and, where possible, provide an estimate of the distance from GES for the relevant descriptors and criteria. Where relevant, this could include development of methodological aspects of assessments including gathering and processing of available data. In addition, develop ways of communicating assessment results in accessible manner to general public and policymakers;
c. update the environmental targets and associated indicators (MSFD Art. 10), addressing these where appropriate at regional or subregional level, or developing common approaches to the establishment of national targets;
develop tools and mechanisms to describe and assess progress in the implementation of the programme of measures, in order to deliver the report requested under MSFD Art. 18;
improve the management of and access to data used in the assessments and from monitoring programmes, in accordance with MSFD Art. 19(3) and the INSPIRE Directive (Directive 2007/2/EC establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community) and, where possible, make it available via the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)9.
establish nested sets of geographical assessment areas for a region or subregion, to provide a basis for the Art. 8 assessments, taking account of the latest EU guidance on their establishment and use, including considerations of ecological relevance for the assessments and policy and management needs for MSFD implementation;
further improve monitoring programmes (MSFD Art. 11), particularly regarding as appropriate the coordination of monitoring in a region or subregion, the development of joint monitoring programmes, and/or improvements in their design, which lead to more efficient and effective monitoring particularly for assessment of the distribution and extent of pressures and their impacts. This could focus on particular descriptors and could include linking to monitoring programmes for other EU policies (e.g. Water Framework Directive, Birds and Habitats Directive, CFP). It could also include making more effective use of monitoring undertaken by the private sector (e.g. operational monitoring required in industry licences).