Work Plan of the EU Chairmanship 2016-18

Work Plan for implementation of the European Union Chairmanship of HELCOM 1.7.2016–30.6.2018

Version: December 2016 (after revisions to the document 2-1 of HOD 51-2016)

Work plan of the EU Chairmanship_December 2016.docx


Priority I. Reaching a healthy ecosystem in the Baltic Sea by 2021

A.     Assessing Good Environmental Status with quantitative indicators…

The new holistic assessment, HOLAS II, will reveal if our efforts have led to improvements in the Baltic Sea environmental status, since HOLAS I in 2010. The results will be released by mid-2017 and updated by mid-2018. Pressures and impacts will be further quantified, including via the latest 'Pollution Load Compilation', allowing us to evaluate progress towards the goals of the Baltic Sea Action Plan. Core indicators will be further developed, especially for seafloor integrity, marine litter and underwater noise. This work will also help contracting parties that are EU Member States in fulfilling their obligations under EU marine legislation.

Corresponding work

Time frame
1.    Timely finalization of the new holistic assessment of the ecosystem health of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS II) and efficient coordination of its use to fulfil other obligations 
-     Completing scientific foundation 
Assessment methods for biodiversity, hazardous substances and pressures and impacts
nd a set of core indicators finalized and agreed for use in HOLAS II.
by December 2016
​-     Update the Pollution Load Compilation

The aim is to have methods in place that are suitable to follow the progress of the Baltic Sea Action Plan. At the same time this can serve the revision of initial assessments to be reported by the EU countries under MSFD Art.8. The aim is to have also a sufficient number of core indicators so the assessment is scientifically robust.

-     Finalising the assessment 
All Contracting Parties participate in the expert workshops to quality assure and agree on the assessment and make available the latest monitoring data, covering 2011-2015.
spring 2017
​-     Timely decision-making on HOLAS II

Contracting Parties are prepared for the review of the draft HOLAS II in spring 2017 so that the adoption of the assessment is possible at HOD in June 2017.

The results of HOLAS II are released without delay so can be used by the CPs nationally, including for public consultations.

spring 2017

June 2017
​-     Updating HOLAS II - results updated with the newest data and released in June 2018

The update will make it possible to incorporate the most recent monitoring data (including year 2016 where available) and data from the newly launched monitoring in the countries such as on marine litter and underwater noise as well as cater for national reporting obligations.

​June 2017 – June 2018
​-     Coordination for coherent marine strategies

Gear group enables coordination of HOLAS II as a "roof" report under MSFD Article 8 for EU countries and according to the needs of the Russian Federation, to achieve coherence of marine strategies, and plans for using HOLAS II res​ults. 

at the latest by October 2018​
2.    HELCOM takes stock of HOLAS II results and ensures that a set of appropriate measures is devised to reach good environmental status, with the use of new or updated environmental targets and in cooperation with other organisations​​June 2017


B.      …while responding effectively to key pressures

Response to certain key pressures, such as marine litter and nutrient enrichment leading to eutrophication, should be made stronger through appropriate measures. The implementation of the regional action plan for marine litter will be a priority. In addition to the environmental benefits, this will also demonstrate the strength of Baltic regional cooperation in meeting global commitments. Actions to reduce the nutrient load in the Baltic will include progress on establishing a NOx Emissions Control Area, stimulating the building and maintaining of adequate port reception facilities, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Strategic engagement with other sectors will be encouraged to deliver innovative solutions, for instance for nutrient removal.

Corresponding work​

Time fr​ame
3.    Developing actions of Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter ('RAP ML' Recommendation 36/1) into measuresby 2018

-     Common indicators on marine litter and associated threshold values are advanced on the basis of HOLAS II results.

-     Reporting on implementation of RAP ML is carried out, utilising the ongoing follow-up organised by the leads of the individual actions and the mapping progress made around the Baltic Sea.

-     RAP ML Actions are developed into a first set of concrete national and regional measures based on results of new studies, stakeholders' input and experiences from countries, other sea regions and relevant international work. The scale of micropollutants problem in waste water effluents is identified and possible measures are considered, including but not limited to microplastics.

4.    Effective implementation of  the Baltic Sea special areas under MARPOL


-     The availability of Port Reception Facilities for sewage is monitored and facilities are maintained and upgraded if necessary including by using the Cooperation Platform on Special Area according to MARPOL Annex IV and consideration of best practice. Proper Waste Reception and Handling Plans for port reception facilities should be developed, monitored and re-evaluated with the input of relevant stakeholders.

-     Regional data collection/monitoring of MARPOL Annex IV and V waste delivered to ports is harmonized and strengthened

-     Reception of sorted MARPOL Annex V waste in Baltic Sea ports is improved.

-     Detection, sanctioning of illegal discharges of MARPOL Annex V and IV waste is strengthened.

The Baltic Sea control area for sewage from passenger ships (MARPOL Annex IV) will take effect on 1 June 2021 for existing ships and on 1 June 2019 for new ships. For direct passages between St. Petersburg and the North Sea there is an extension until 1 June 2023. Discharge of untreated sewage from passenger ships will be eliminated. The task is to facilitate implementation of these HELCOM and other measures.

-     Designation of the Baltic Sea as NOx Emission Control Area and follow-up

IMO MEPC 70 agreed on the designation of the Baltic Sea as NECA in parallel with the North Sea. The environmental gain for the Baltic Sea of both NECAs is significant, as is reduction of N emissions.

Follow-up should include facilitating implementation of the NECA and measuring the gains in terms of nutrient reduction from atmospheric deposition as the NECA is progressively implemented.

5.    Developing regional policy on nutrient recycling
​-     HELCOM Recommendation on sewage sludge is adopted

-     A proposal for HELCOM nutrient recycling strategy is developed​

-     A project on nutrient content in manure will be established

HELCOM target is to promote sustainable agricultural practices, by encouraging nutrient recycling and efficient use of phosphorus in agriculture,  introducing nutrient accounting at farm level and applying modernized national standards for nutrient content in manure Baltic-wide, in order to reach nutrient balanced fertilization and reduce nutrient losses as well as save resources. This will also contribute to addressing the conclusions of the European Court of Auditors' audit on "Combating eutrophication in the Baltic"[1].​​

HELCOM 38-2017
End of 2017

​6. Further developing oil response capacity
As shipping and oil transport through the Baltic Sea is expected to remain high, the oil pollution response capacity of the Baltic Sea countries and the whole region should be maintained and further developed, based on e.g. risk assessments.


A.     PROMOTING KNOWLEDGE AND INNOVATION IN THE BALTIC SEA…HELCOM has a unique role in contributing to the further understanding of environmental status of the marine environment in the Baltic and the ecosystem services it provides. This knowledge is essential in ensuring that incentives for investment in promising Blue Growth sectors lead to a healthy ecosystem in the Baltic – the sustainable Blue Economy. This approach will be promoted through the HOLAS II results, follow-up and use of existing or future BONUS projects' results, mapping the ecosystem services and assessing their social and economic value, and fostering the application of the ecosystem-based approach in Maritime Spatial Planning.
Corresponding work​​Time frame
7.    Strengthening of the HELCOM work strand on social and economic analysis
​-      A roadmap is developed to outline further steps and needs to analyse the cost of degradation of the marine environment and benefits of the improved marine status, to support HOLAS II and other needs.

-     Resources are secured for work to continue.

A social and economic analysis is being incorporated into HOLAS II by linking human activities to pressures and impacts on ecosystem components within one holistic framework. The aim is that all Contracting Parties are engaged in the HELCOM economic and social analysis network and developed tools, approaches and principles help to bridge implementation of various policies. The aim is also to feed results into European work (MSFD CIS).

End of 2016 (under EU-funded TAPAS project)

In 2017

​8.    Supporting innovation in the Baltic
​-     Dialogue between BONUS and its successor is intensified to ensure that ongoing and future BONUS and other research projects are utilised to advance analyses and promote innovative solutions addressing identified obstacles to achieving Good Environmental Status.

-     Innovative approaches emerging from EUSBSR Priority Area "Hazards" are explored among contracting parties as well as on nutrient reduction.

Exchange information and best practice to help determine the value of certain innovative techniques in nutrient-reduction and also in the provision of other ecosystem services.​

9.    Fostering application of the ecosystem approach in Maritime Spatial Planning – through linking policies and implementation, utilizing HOLAS II and developing new solutions
​-     Promote and further develop HOLAS II tools for use in MSP

HOLAS II work to estimate the level of (cumulative) human impacts on the marine waters and social and economic assessments are of particular relevance to MSP. Their use in broad-scale and national MSP is to be promoted, both in the preparation phase and when results are available.

Further development of the HOLAS II tools is to be explored, such as to better link cost of degradation and social and economic analysis of the use of marine waters including economic indicators and as far as possible social indicators to MSP and initiate planning to incorporate future perspective in the pressure and impact indexes to create scenarios of development of human activities and impacts on ecosystems based on HOLAS II results. The aim is to make most of the new HOLAS II knowledge and holistic approaches for MSP purposes, and at the same time support coherent implementation of Baltic Sea Action Plan, MSFD and MSP directive (EU countries). The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region could support this aim, utilizing HELCOM role as a co-lead (together with VASAB) of the Horizontal Action Spatial Planning.

-     Enhance understanding on how to deal with environmental protection in the planning process

The aim is to work out specific and practical solutions which could be based on a chosen topic such MPAs-MSP (how are MPAs taken into account in planning, both inside and outside MPAs) or green infrastructure (areas of ecological significance). The aim is also to enforce, facilitate and monitor the application of the adopted MSP Guidelines on the implementation of ecosystem-based approach and transboundary consultation, public participation and cooperation. The Guidelines will be reviewed and, if needed, revised based on the experiences gathered including regarding the requirements of the Helsinki Convention.​


Integrating healthy ecosystems and economic growth in one coherent policy, does not only require knowledge and innovation but also that the resources of the sea are well-managed and protected where necessary. Marine protected areas (MPA) are one of the most important tools to achieve that. They help rebuild fish stocks, improve coastal protection and greatly benefit coastal and marine tourism. Monitoring the MPA network and implementing the guidelines on management of seafloor integrity and fisheries in protected areas will be essential. HELCOM will also improve the enforcement and coordination of management measures to minimise pressures and impacts on MPAs, in particular for transnational ones. The effectiveness of such measures will need to be assessed, both for individual sites and at network level.

Corresponding work
Time frame

10.    Increasing effectiveness of management in Marine Protected Areas 
Possibly to start in 2017

-     Seek funding opportunities to develop an approach and carry out an assessment of effectiveness of HELCOM MPAs

-    Consider update of guidelines on MPA management measures, to include coordination of measures in adjacent transnational MPAs

-     Use HOLAS II process and results to make a proposal on guidelines on management of seafloor integrity and fisheries in protected areas

-  Seek opportunities between HELCOM, OSPAR and the EU for streamlining arrangements for requesting ICES advice on fishing activities.

To assess effectiveness of HELCOM MPAs has been agreed in HELCOM Recommendation 35/1 and the requirements for carrying out such assessment have been further defined through the new HELCOM action to "Develop joint tools/approach for assessing effectiveness of spatial protection measures for individual sites as well as network level". Updating the existing management guidelines for HELCOM MPAs will bring them in line with new knowledge and make them compatible with other international criteria as identified in the new HELCOM action "Coordination of management measures of pressures and impacts on MPAs".


​Priority III. Tackling the challenge of regional governance​


More exchange of information and better cooperation between HELCOM and the relevant Regional Fisheries Bodies will be key to having a biodiverse ecosystem, also sustaining livelihood of fisherman in the Baltic Sea. This is reflected in the objective of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, according to which fisheries management should be implemented based on the ecosystem approach, thus supporting sustainable use of natural marine resources.

Corresponding work

Time frame
11. HELCOM initiating new regional partnerships, including in fisheries and aquaculture in support of application of ecosystem-based approach  and full implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 2017

-     A plan is prepared to support national considerations on further work in HELCOM on fisheries and environment and on stronger cooperation between HELCOM and other organisations.

HELCOM Chair to seek cooperation possibilities with BALTFISH on how HELCOM can support BALTFISH and vice versa. The aim is to facilitate national work, mutually supportive agenda and eventually maximize synergies between the different bodies. A dialogue between HELCOM and BALTFISH is initiated to discuss areas of possible common interest. Cooperation with BSAC continues.



Further synergies with regional or European governance frameworks will be sought, for instance with the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The adoption of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will strengthen ocean governance. Regional Sea Conventions, in particular HELCOM, should play a crucial role in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans and seas.

Corresponding work

Time frame
12. Linking the implementation of HELCOM commitments and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  

-    Stronger connecting points are established between national implementation of HELCOM commitments and SDGs, especially SDG 14.

-     A regionally coordinated mechanism is set up/established to assist the countries in reporting in a coordinated manner, in particular on SDG 14.

-     A coordinated initial set of regional indicators is established to assist the countries in reporting of a number of SDG and associated targets.

Draft matrix on SDGs and HELCOM targets will support these actions and could be regularly updated and shared with the involved parties.

SDG/HELCOM target matrix to be finalized in 2016 

High-level segment at HELCOM 38-2017

13. Securing further synergies with the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) 

¾     Seek the use of HELCOM monitoring systems in the development of the monitoring system of EUSBSR.

¾     Explore ways to involve the relevant EUSBSR stakeholders in sharing the interim results of HOLAS II in mid-2017, with specific attention paid to how EUSBSR could to a greater extent address marine litter and biodiversity, and could contribute to supporting innovative approaches under point 8 above.

¾     HELCOM to continue its role as horizontal action coordinator for HA Spatial Planning (Maritime Spatial Planning) together with VASAB and follow-up Regional Baltic Spatial Planning Roadmap 2014 – 2020, including strengthening the link to planning on land.

¾     Continue close coordination, including via the countries and at the level of working programmes, e.g. to facilitate initiation of projects to support implementation of HELCOM's Baltic Sea Action Plan, policy goals, and targets. ​




14. Cooperate with other Regional Sea Conventions (RSC) as well as UNEPContinuous

-     Continue, when applicable, contributions and support for RSC indicator development of UNEP as well as other related reporting.

-     Support increased visibility of the RSCs on the global level (e.g. 2017 conference on SDG 14).

-     Consider to jointly promote the release of simultaneous major results, such as HELCOM HOLAS II and OSPAR Interim Assessment, to highlight the contribution of RSCs to implementation of policies and measures.

-     Strengthen the connections on data exchange (e.g. geodata) to ensure mutual standards on regional and global scales and in particular, streamline and join efforts with OSPAR whenever suitable.




- Second half of 2017