Today, at the 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the Baltic Sea countries and the EU come together to decide on renewed efforts to reach a healthy Baltic marine environment.

 

HELCOM – the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – is the arena in which the nine Baltic coastal states and the European Union work together to protect and restore the marine environment of the Baltic Sea. At the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Brussels today, the responsible Ministers, the EU Commissioner, and other high-level representatives meet to assess the progress made towards reaching a good environmental status in the Baltic Sea.

The outcome – the Ministerial Declaration – will form the framework for the following years' work for a healthier Baltic Sea, following the long tradition of regional HELCOM cooperation.

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New information to guide new actions

The recent State of the Baltic Sea report shows that in spite of some positive signals, the efforts so far have not led to the recovery of the Baltic Sea. This is the first time that a comprehensive assessment of ecosystem health on this scale, based on a wide range of indicators and information on human activities and their impacts, is available as background information for a HELCOM Ministerial Meeting.

"Thanks to thorough groundwork, we now understand better than before how the different pressures add up on specific areas, species and habitats in the Baltic Sea," says HELCOM Chair Ms Marianne Wenning. "Because of this, we know more about what's important to consider with regard to managing human activities. In this way informed choices can be made in order to reduce environmental pressures."

One reason that the Baltic marine environment has not yet recovered is the long delay between cause and effect, due to the natural features of the Baltic Sea. Further, some actions agreed upon in the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) from 2007 – the concrete roadmap for restoring the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea – are yet to be completed. In addition, some aspects of the environment have so far not been addressed in Baltic-wide plans and policies.


Stepping up and raising the bar

In light of this new information, an important part of the Ministerial Meeting today will be to decide both on stronger follow-through on the existing BSAP and on a blueprint and timeframe for updating the BSAP.

The current Baltic Sea Action Plan aims for a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021, and rests on actions aimed at eutrophication, hazardous substances, biodiversity, and maritime activities. In the discussions leading up to the Ministerial Meeting, marine litter, underwater noise, and seabed damage and disturbance have been raised as possible additional issues for countries to follow up on more strongly, striving to limit adverse effects by increasing efforts and coordination at regional level.

At the Meeting, the high-level representatives will decide on the next steps for these themes: e.g., whether action plans will be developed, whether indicators will be developed to measure these issues, and so on. The Meeting is also expected to follow up on the existing Regional Action Plan for marine litter.

The high-level representatives at the Meeting are also set to finalize discussions on a possible future HELCOM strategy regarding nutrient recycling in the Baltic Sea area. This has been one of the goals of the EU chairmanship of HELCOM, as part of the target of promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Nutrient recycling is essential for reducing nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea and for efficiently using the limited nutrient resources.


Meeting global goals

A common thread to the themes of the Meeting are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Agenda 2030. The countries around the Baltic Sea have agreed to use HELCOM as the regional arena for coordinating work on those SDGs that relate to marine and water issues.

The Meeting follows up on the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017, where HELCOM made several voluntary commitments towards SDG 14 – "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources".

"The marine environment is threatened in many parts of the world's oceans and the problems are often of a global nature," says Ms Wenning. "Many of the UN SDGs are related to the state of seas and oceans so our work can serve as an important contribution to many of the SDGs goals."

The Ministerial Meeting will be chaired by HELCOM Chair Marianne Wenning of the EU. Expected to participate on behalf of HELCOM members are Mr Karmenu Vella (Commissioner for the Environment, European Commission), Mr Esben Lunde Larsen (Minister for Environment and Food, Denmark), Mr Siim Kiisler (Minister of the Environment, Estonia), Mr Kimmo Tiilikainen (Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, Finland), Dr Barbara Hendricks (Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany), Mr Kęstutis Navickas (Minister of Environment, Lithuania), Ms Karolina Skog (Minister for the Environment, Sweden), Mr Jānis Eglīts (Vice Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvia), Ms Anna Moskwa (Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Poland), and Mr Nuritdin Inamov (Director of the Department for International Cooperation and Board member of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, Russia).

The entire Ministerial Declaration will be available online after the meeting at: www.helcom.fi/Ministerial2018

Twitter hashtag: #HELCOM2018

 

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More information

 

NOTE FOR EDITORS

The 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting will be held on 6 March in Brussels, Belgium, under the EU chairmanship of HELCOM. The Ministers of the Environment of the nine Baltic coastal states and the EU Environment Commissioner will gather to discuss the status and the future of the Baltic Sea marine environment. The outcome of the 2018 Ministerial Meeting is expected to revolve around new actions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals in the Baltic Sea, strengthening implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan by 2021, and adjusting the Baltic Sea Action Plan based on new knowledge and future challenges. The background to the Meeting is provided by two major reports: Implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan 2018 (PDF) and State of the Baltic Sea (first version 2017 – to be updated 2018).

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. HELCOM has worked since 1974 to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.


FOR FURTHER information, PLEASE CONTACT:

Ms Monika Stankiewicz
Executive Secretary
HELCOM
+358 40 840 2471
monika.stankiewicz(at)helcom.fi

Ms Sara Estlander
Communication Coordinator
HELCOM
+358 40 482 6103
sara.estlander(at)helcom.fi