Ambassadors and representatives from the nine Baltic Sea states and the EU, and HELCOM staff at the Diplomatic Lunch in Helsinki on 13 June 2018 © HELCOM
Speech by Ms Marianne Wenning, Chair of the Helsinki Commission from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2018, at the HELCOM Diplomatic Lunch on 13 June 2018
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Colleagues,
Two years ago I had the pleasure to meet you, the representatives of the coastal countries and the catchment area of the Baltic Sea, and present to you the priorities and plans for the EU chairmanship of HELCOM.
Today, I am pleased to share with you some of the accomplishments under the EU chairmanship. The past two years have included important milestones for HELCOM.
One of these is the finalization of the second holistic assessment of state of the Baltic Sea this June, a major part of our priority of reaching a healthy Baltic Sea ecosystem by 2021.
Through this assessment, we have gained a comprehensive understanding of the state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures it is affected by. Most importantly, we now have quantitative indicators in place that will help to monitor the environmental status of the sea.
The scale of the project is unique in the world. It is also a great example of well-functioning transboundary cooperation between the different Baltic Sea nations.
In addition to assessing the state of the marine environment, the State of the Baltic Sea report sheds more light on the importance of the sea to the people living around it.
Healthy ecosystems are underpinning sustainable economic growth.
This is of particular relevance for maritime spatial planning, where HELCOM has advocated for an ecosystem approach that considers both the socioeconomic benefits and the cumulative impacts on the environment.
Just as an example: according to the first results in 2017, the economic losses stemming from eutrophication – if good environmental status is not achieved – would be around 4 billion euros annually.
In other words, our welfare depends a lot on the status of the Baltic Sea.
However, from the first results, it is already clear that good environmental status of the sea has not yet been reached.
Actions aimed at reducing the pressures on the sea such as the recent designation of the Baltic Sea as a Nitrogen Oxide Emission Control Area and the increased establishment of several new marine protected areas in HELCOM countries are certainly important steps in the right direction.
Nevertheless, more work still needs to be done.
This brings me to another milestone: the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting hosted by Commissioner Vella in Brussels earlier in March.
With only three years to go towards the Baltic Sea Action Plan's goal of reaching good environmental status of the Baltic Sea by 2021, we need to step up our efforts.
We need to concentrate on fully implementing the actions that were agreed upon in the Baltic Sea Action Plan.
This fact was clearly emphasized by the Commissioner, Ministers and high-level representatives of Baltic Sea countries that were present in Brussels.
The Ministerial Meeting also recognized that – beyond known concerns such as eutrophication – we need to address emerging issues such as underwater noise, new hazardous substances such as pharmaceuticals, and climate change.
To respond to the new challenges and our global commitments like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we agreed in Brussels that the Baltic Sea Action Plan will be updated past 2021.
Our priority of encouraging concerted regional governance and cross-sectoral cooperation – notably with fisheries and agricultural bodies – will still be valid for this undertaking and for attaining sustainable use of marine resources.
Finally, I am glad to see that the priorities set by the upcoming chairmanship of Finland will make for a smooth transition.
These priorities – that include updating the Baltic Sea Action Plan, addressing climate change, and linking the Agenda 2030 to HELCOM activities – reflect the outcomes of the Brussels Ministerial Meeting and will seamlessly integrate with the current HELCOM work.
Let me assure you that the HELCOM chair will be in very good hands with Finland.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like you to join me for a toast to our continuous successful cooperation for the protection and prosperity of our Baltic Sea.