Towards the HELCOM Moscow Ministerial Meeting
Speech by Ms. Anne Christine Brusendorff, Executive Secretary of HELCOM,
at the HELCOM Diplomatic Lunch, 19 October 2009,
Savoy Restaurant, Helsinki
Your Excellencies, dear Colleagues,
Good afternoon. I would like to begin my speech by saying that I am indeed honored that all of you would make time to be here today at the annual HELCOM Diplomatic Lunch. This is the ninth year that we have hosted the Meeting of the Ambassadors of the HELCOM Member States, the Minister of the Environment of Finland, as well as the Ambassadors of the countries in the drainage area to exchange views on key issues having effect on the international co-operation for the protection of the Baltic marine environment.
Today, I would like to brief you on the preparations for the HELCOM Meeting of the Ministers of the Environment to be held in Moscow on 20 May 2010. The Meeting, which will take place at the Baltschug-Kempinski Hotel, located just across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, will be preceded by the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan Stakeholder Conference on 18 May, and a Meeting of the Heads of Delegation of the HELCOM Member States, including the European Commission, on 19 May. I would also like to inform you that we have already prepared the first draft of the Ministerial Declaration, which of course will be further elaborated in the coming months.
For HELCOM, the Moscow Ministerial Meeting has an immense significance and can be considered as another milestone in our joint efforts to re-create a healthy Baltic Sea. At this Meeting, Ministers will review progress that the countries have already made in reducing their pollution to the Baltic Sea, and present their National Implementation Programmes to achieve the objectives of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan to radically reduce pollution to the sea and restore its good ecological status by 2021. The HELCOM countries will particularly present their programmes on how they are to implement actions to curb eutrophication, which is caused by excessive inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen coming from agricultural runoff and inadequately treated municipal sewage, and halt the inputs of hazardous substances. These programmes will include concrete measures to reach the provisional country-wise pollution reduction targets as set in the Baltic Sea Action Plan.
With the National Implementation Programmes in place, the work to further decrease pollution loads to the sea will pick up pace considerably. According to the latest available data, currently an overall pollution load reduction trend is observed for the whole Baltic Sea. Certain countries have made significant progress towards their provisional pollution reduction targets. But the overall situation is still unacceptable. Excessive pollution loads of nitrogen and phosphorus from the drainage area to the Baltic continue to drive overgrowth of algae and extension of anoxic bottoms in most of the Baltic Sea sub-basins.
The upcoming Moscow Ministerial Meeting will also offer a good opportunity to view the status report on the implementation of the actions within the fields of nature protection and maritime safety and response to accidents at sea. The maritime-related actions in the draft Ministerial Declaration focus on further enforcement of shipping regulations and improving safety of navigation, including monitoring of banned and non-compliant ships entering the Baltic Sea, covering all shipping routes in the Baltic with hydrographic re-surveys, and conducting a formal safety assessment in order to come up with cost-efficient risk-reducing measures for maritime transportation. Major measures are also proposed regarding the elimination of pollution from ships, including designation of the Baltic Sea as a sewage control area as well as a nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission control area within the framework of the International Maritime Organization, and commitments to reduce the risk of alien species introductions.
Additionally, a major holistic assessment of the status of the Baltic marine environment will be released at the Meeting. This assessment is being prepared to support the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. All National Implementation Programmes will be measured against this assessment.
And just to remind you, the Ministerial Meeting in Moscow will follow after the Baltic Sea Action Summit of the leaders of the Baltic Sea countries, which will be arranged in Finland on 10 February 2010. Its aim is to provide full political support and commit to the agreed actions within the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.
As you know, the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan has already been heralded as a pioneer scheme for European seas. The European Commission has recognized that the HELCOM plan will be instrumental for the successful implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive in the Baltic Sea region. The importance of HELCOM’s work is also recognized in relation to the EU Maritime Policy, and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region draws heavily from the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan in its environmental as well as safety and security pillars.
In this respect I would also like to mention that HELCOM has been awarded the prestigious 2009 Swedish Baltic Sea Water Award for the adoption of an overarching Baltic Sea Action Plan. The official ceremony was held on 17 September at a dinner hosted by Sweden’s Minister for EU Affairs Cecilia Malmström for 27 Ministers of the EU countries who gathered in Stockholm for a Conference on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea region. The award was personally presented by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. We are confident that this award will serve to further inspire and motivate our organization towards making the Baltic Sea area environmentally sustainable, prosperous, accessible and attractive, as well as safe and secure. Actually, this is already the second award for the action plan. In 2007, HELCOM won the European Regional Champions Award of the EU Committee of the Regions.
I would like to conclude my statement by inviting your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, to join me in a toast to the success of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan and broader and deeper co-operation between all the HELCOM countries for the protection of the Baltic Sea.