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"Life gets better after 40" - HELCOM celebrates 40th anniversary of protecting the Baltic marine environment (5 March 2014)

Despite the Baltic Sea region’s growth in economy, wealth and maritime transport over the past decades, carrying with them risks of more (or new) pressures to the sea, the polluting nutrients reaching the Baltic Sea environment have decreased with over 40% during this period of time. HELCOM claims its share for the achievement, having well succeeded in keeping up regular cooperation between all the coastal states and developing environmental policies.

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The HELCOM Convention

The Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area adopted in 1992

The Baltic Sea is protected by the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment in the Baltic Sea Area".

In 1974, for the first time ever, all the sources of pollution around an entire sea were made subject to a single convention, signed by the then seven Baltic coastal states. In the light of political changes, and developments in international environmental and maritime law, a new convention was signed in 1992 by all the states bordering on the Baltic Sea, and the European Community.

The Convention covers the whole of the Baltic Sea area, including inland waters as well as the water of the sea itself and the sea-bed. Measures are also taken in the whole catchment area of the Baltic Sea to reduce land-based pollution.

The governing body of the Convention is the Helsinki Commission - Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission - also known as HELCOM. The present Contracting Parties to HELCOM are Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden. The European Union is also a party to this convention.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56/EC requires that, in developing their marine strategies, Member States use, where practical and appropriate, existing regional cooperation structures, to co-ordinate among themselves and to make every effort to coordinate their actions with those of third countries in the same region or sub-region. The HELCOM Moscow Ministerial Meeting held on 20 May 2010 also noted this issue and the Ministerial Declaration contains the following: “[We...] DECIDE to establish, for those HELCOM Contracting States being also EU Member States, the role of HELCOM as the coordinating platform for regional implementation of the EU MSFD in the Baltic Sea including striving for harmonised national marine strategies for achieving GES...”.

In 2007 the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan was adopted, with four areas of priority:

  • Eutrophication - towards a Baltic Sea unaffected by eutrophication
  • Hazardous substances – towards a Baltic Sea with life undisturbed by hazardous substances
  • Biodiversity – towards a favourable conservation status of Baltic Sea biodiversity
  • Towards a Baltic Sea with maritime activities carried out in an environmental friendly way, all countries are now implementing the actions.

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and HELCOM

The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region covers a wide range of issues including prosperity, safety, accessibility, but foremost is the recovery of the Baltic Sea environment. The environmental actions are directly supporting the work in HELCOM, but also actions on sustainable agriculture and fishery, maritime safety and Baltic Sea research are closely linked to HELCOM.

cover publication

Useful links

Documents

  • "Hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea – An integrates thematic assessment of hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea (2010")
  • "Biodiversity in the Baltic Sea – An integrated thematic assessment on biodiversity and nature conservation in the Baltic Sea (2009)": Executive Summary and Report

Other HELCOM publications can be found here.

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