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​Two former pollution sites located in the Kaliningrad region in Russia were approved for removal from the HELCOM Hot Spot list by the HELCOM Heads of Delegation, one of the decision-making instances, during their last meeting held in Helsinki from 18 to 19 June 2019 – the 56th Meeting of the HELCOM Heads of Delegation(HOD 56-2019).

The first site to be removed from the list is the Kaliningrad wastewater treatment plant, or HELCOM Hot Spot No. 67. Newly constructed in December 2015, the upgraded wastewater treatment plant of Kaliningrad started to be fully operational by the end of 2016, with all of Kaliningrad's sewage water redirected to the new plant. 

"The new treatment plant fully complies with the HELCOM recommendation on municipal wastewater," said Natalia Tretiakova, the Russian Head of Delegation to HELCOM. With its population of 574,000 people, the city of Kaliningrad was the biggest source of untreated wastewater input to the Baltic Sea in the Kaliningrad region until the launch of the new plant. 

In the same meeting, the deletion of HELCOM Hot Spot No. 69, the Cepruss pulp and paper mill in Kaliningrad, Russia, was also approved. Cepruss was added to the list because of significant discharges of pollutants stemming from the processing of pulp and paper into the Pregolya river. The site ceased all production in 2011.  

Since 1992, HELCOM maintains a list of significant pollution sites around the Baltic Sea – the HELCOM Hot Spots. Today, about three quarters of all hotspots have been cleaned up. The most notorious Hot Spots are point sources such as municipal facilities and industrial plants, but the programme also covers pollution from agricultural areas and rural settlements, and sensitive areas such as coastal lagoons and wetlands where special environmental measures are needed. 

Furthermore, in Helsinki, the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan(BSAP) featured prominently on the meeting's agenda, with the Heads of Delegation moving forward on the structure of the updated plan. Maintaining the same level of ambition for the updated BSAP was a particular point of emphasis.

HOD 56-2019 also adopted the revised HELCOM Recommendation 28E/13 on Introducing Economic Incentives as a Complement to Existing Regulations to Reduce Emissions from Ships. Where implemented already, economic instruments have proven to increase environmentally friendly shipping practices beyond the existing legislation. Some of these methods include differentiated port fees and fairway dues, differentiated taxation of marine fuels and on-shore power supply. 

The creation of an expert network on marine protected areas (MPAs) – HELCOM Network for Marine Protected Area Management (EN MPA MANET) – was also approved during the meeting in Helsinki. The new network will respond to the need for a concerted approach on the management of MPAs across the Baltic Sea region, especially for transboundary areas. It will provide expert input to HELCOM work related to MPA management, as well as conservation of habitats, biotopes and species in general, the relevant Ecological Objectives in the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Bidding farewell to the current HELCOM Executive Secretary, Ms Monika Stankiewicz, who is due to leave the organization in July 2019, the Heads of Delegation singled out her excellent performance and acknowledged her instrumental role in lifting HELCOM to where it is today.

Stankiewicz has been at the HELCOM Secretariat since 2006 when she started as Professional Secretary for Maritime Affairs. She assumed the position of Executive Secretary in 2012 until 2019. She will be succeeded by Mr Rüdiger Strempel.