In 2009, following approval of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008/56/EC), the European Commission (EC) created task groups to develop guidance for eleven quality descriptors that form the basis for evaluating ecosystem function. The objective was to provide European countries with practical guidelines for implementing the MSFD, and to produce a Commission Decision that encapsulated key points of the work in a legal framework. This paper presents a review of work carried out by the eutrophication task group, and reports our main findings to the scientific community. On the basis of an operational, management-oriented definition, we discuss the main methodologies that could be used for coastal and marine eutrophication assessment. Emphasis is placed on integrated approaches that account for physico¿chemical and biological components, and combine both pelagic and benthic symptoms of eutrophication, in keeping with the holistic nature of the MSFD. We highlight general features that any marine eutrophication model should possess, rather than making specific recommendations. European seas range from highly eutrophic systems such as the Baltic to nutrient-poor environments such as the Aegean Sea. From a physical perspective, marine waters range from high energy environments of the north east Atlantic to the permanent vertical stratification of the Black Sea. This review aimed to encapsulate that variability, recognizing that meaningful guidance should be flexible enough to accommodate the widely differing characteristics of European seas, and that this information is potentially relevant in marine ecosystems worldwide. Given the spatial extent of the MSFD, innovative approaches are required to allow meaningful monitoring and assessment. Consequently, substantial logistic and financial challenges will drive research in areas such as remote sensing of harmful algal blooms, in situ sensor development, and mathematical models. Our review takes into account related legislation, and in particular the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD ¿ 2000/60/EC), which deals with river basins, including estuaries and a narrow coastal strip, in order to examine these issues within the framework of integrated coastal zone management.