This paper provides an overview of the emerging policy landscape for marine spatial planning in the European Union, which consists of four main categories of policy drivers: environmental legislation, legislation on marine renewable energy, fisheries regulations and the Integrated Maritime Policy. The weak links between these categories of policy drivers, underpinned by a lack of clarity regarding the vision for sustainability, pose major challenges for the emergence of ecosystem-based and integrated marine spatial planning in Europe. In addition, there is still uncertainty arising from on-going reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, and discussions on the need for a new marine spatial planning directive. This paper concludes with the view that better integration of environmental concerns into the Common Fisheries Policy is needed to strengthen the link between environmental legislation and fisheries regulations, and that the existing policy landscape, particularly the Marine Strategic Framework Directive, already provides a legal framework for ecosystem-based marine spatial planning. Such a framework is consistent with the recognition that ecosystem conservation underpins other pillars of sustainable development and provides the foundation for cross-sectoral marine planning and management.