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