Wind Farm Development in the Belgian Part of the North Sea: A Policy Odyssey without Precedent

Die Autoren stellen einen sehr interessanten Rechtsfall im belgischen Teil der Nordsee vor. Das ökologisch wertvolle Meeresgebiet („Vlakte van de Raan“) grenzt unmittelbar an ein niederländisches Natura 2000-Gebiet, ist selbst (zu einem Teil) als FFH-Gebiet bereits auf der Gemeinschaftsliste für die atlantische Region und zugleich Projektgebiet für eine Windfarm mit 50 Anlagen und einer geplanten Leistung von 2 MW. Der Fall ähnelt mit seinen unerwarteten und beispiellosen Wendungen einer Odysee zwischen den Interessen der Industriepolitik, Anforderungen des Naturschutzrechts der europäischen Union, des belgischen (und flämischen) Verwaltungsrechts und der zugrundeliegenden Kompetenzordnung, angereichert mit Problemen der Staatshaftung, die durch vorzeitige und später widerrufene Genehmigungserteilung an die Betreiber ausgelöst wurden. Ein Lehrstück, das auch die Notwendigkeit einer bindenden Raumplanung im Meer verdeutlicht. Als Lösung aus der verfahrenen Situation schlagen die Autoren vor, das Verfahren zur Schutzgebietsausweisung des belgischen Teils von „Vlakte van den Raan“ ganz von neuem zu beginnen und 2014 noch abzuschließen, um ein Vertragsverletzungsverfahren der EU-Kommission zu verhindern.

Belgium has a coastline of 65 km and a territorial sea and continental shelf of 3 600 km, thus making it the smallest maritime area in North-West Europe. The Belgian marine environment is intensively used by different actors, competing with each other for limited space. Activities include recreation and tourism, shipping, fisheries, dredging, military activities, laying of cables and pipelines and mineral extraction. Almost all activities are regulated by law. In the Belgian marine areas several habitat types which figure on Annex I of the Habitats Directive occur: sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time (habitat type 1110), mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide (habitat type 1140) and reefs (habitat type 1170). Taking into account the European policy aim to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 % of Europe’s total energy production in 2020 and the rapid growth of wind energy the past years, it was clear that wind farms and their associated infrastructure would pose new challenges for the designation and conservation of marine protected areas in the Belgian part of the North Sea. The numerous judicial proceedings surrounding the proposed construction of a wind farm on the ‘Vlakte van de Raan’, an ecologically valuable complex of sandbanks that runs in a line off the Belgian coast at the town of Knokke-Heist, provide a clear illustration of this. Although allowed in 2002, the construction of the wind farm was prevented due to the withdrawal of the previously issued permits. In 2005, 19 km2 of the Belgian part of the Vlakte van de Raan was finally designated as a Natura 2000 site by the Belgian federal government, while the Dutch government, on its turn, decided to designate 190 km2 as a Natura 2000 site. However, in 2008 the decision to designate the Belgian area was annulled by the Belgian Council of State, whereas the owner of the permits, in the meantime, had introduced a liability action against the Belgian state claiming compensation for the damages suffered due to this, supposedly negligent, change of policy by the Belgian government.
This contribution will analyze in more detail the above mentioned case of the Vlakte van de Raan, and touch upon the relevant legal, social and scientific issues which are at stake. It can be expected that many of our findings with respect to marine conservation and offshore wind farms will also be of particular interest for other members states. First, the legal regime for marine protected areas in Belgium and the legal regime for offshore windmill parks will be briefly described (part 2). Next, the process of designation of both the Natura 2000 sites and the zones for offshore windmills will be presented (part 3). The main part of this contribution will tackle the legal challenges arising out of the troublesome designation of the Vlakte van de Raan as a protected area. Turning from the judicial decisions which were issued with respect to this case (part 4), the remaining policy options for the Belgian federal government in this respect will be discussed (part 5). In this respect, also the possible liability issues, which are linked to the designation of the area as a protected area, will be discussed (part 6).



Copyright: © Lexxion Verlagsgesellschaft mbH
Source: EurUp 05/2012 (Oktober 2012)
Pages: 9
Price: € 25,00
Autor: Hendrik Schoukens
Prof. Dr. An Cliquet
Frank Maes

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