HELCOM Chairman briefs the Ambassadors of the Baltic Sea countries on the preparation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan

Pressmeddelande   •   Nov 07, 2006 10:03 CET

Helsinki, 6 November (HELCOM) – The Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Prof. Mieczyslaw Ostojski, hosted an annual diplomatic working lunch for the Ambassadors of the Baltic Sea countries, EU, as well as the countries in the Baltic Sea catchment area accredited to Finland, earlier today to discuss issues having effect on the international co-operation for the protection of the Baltic marine environment. Finland was represented by the Minister of the Environment, Jan-Erik Enestam.

This was already the sixth annual meeting of the HELCOM Chairman with the Ambassadors of the Contracting States to the Helsinki Convention. The topmost issue at this year’s meeting was the preparation of the environmental Baltic Sea Action Plan which HELCOM decided to draw up in 2005 to reduce pollution and reverse the degradation of the marine environment. The basis for the decision to draw up this new strategy was the present unsatisfactory state of the Baltic Sea, and the fact that in spite of environmental protection successes over the last three decades, the measures currently in place will not be enough to cope with mounting pollution and other environmental problems.

“The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is an opportunity to pull together different activities at different levels and join forces to have a healthy Baltic Sea with balanced eco-systems able to support a wide range of sustainable economic activities, including shipping, for the benefit of present and future generations and we should do our best to use this opportunity to restore our common sea,” said Prof. Ostojski. “This environmental policy will not only be a promoter of a healthy environment but also a guardian for growth and prosperity of the Baltic Sea region.”

HELCOM’s Chairman briefed the Ambassadors on the latest progress to draw the plan.

Prof. Ostojski said that an international ad hoc Task Force for the development of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is currently working to identify the kind of actions needed to achieve agreed environmental objectives and goals within a given timeframe for each of the main environmental priority issues: combating eutrophication, curbing inputs of hazardous substances, ensuring maritime safety, and halting decline in biodiversity and habitat destruction.

According to the latest information, the Task Force has already agreed upon a preliminary outline of possible actions for the plan. Earlier this year, HELCOM approved the first key elements of the plan - a general vision of a healthy sea and a set of strategic goals and ecological objectives to work towards so as to fulfil this vision.

HELCOM’s Chairman pointed out that the concept of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, which is the forerunner in incorporating an ecosystem approach adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992 and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, has already been widely supported by the Baltic Sea politicians at various forums, and heralded as a model to follow for the European seas under the newly drafted EU Marine Strategy, as well as for the Regional Seas Programmes established under UNEP auspices. The HELCOM action plan, which is being developed with Russia’s participation, in many ways will also correspond and will be instrumental to the implementation of the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation, said Prof. Ostojski. He underlined that “close co-operation with Russia which is the only HELCOM country outside the EU in the Baltic Sea region is crucial for any further progress to be made in rescuing the troubled Baltic marine environment.”

“But first and foremost we must view the new HELCOM action plan as a joint regional policy with common objectives, common actions, and common obligations, despite the fact that we have different Marine Strategies and Doctrines,” said HELCOM’s Chairman. “The future success of the plan will largely depend on how all the coastal countries – EU and non-EU members - can co-operate to achieve the goal of a healthy Baltic marine environment. And I would like to ask you all here today to send a clear message to your Capitals that HELCOM needs political support to ensure the successful implementation of this action plan. It is crucial that your Governments show a strong commitment and determination.”

Prof. Ostojski confirmed HELCOM’s intention to have the Baltic Sea Action Plan adopted by the end of 2007. “The elaboration of the plan, which was officially kick-started at the Stakeholder Conference on 7 March 2006 in Helsinki, will continue until late next year. After a series of meetings and a final Stakeholder Conference in March 2007, which will review a preliminary draft of the plan, the finalised environmental strategy will be adopted at a HELCOM Ministerial meeting currently scheduled to take place on 15 November 2007 in Krakow, Poland,” said HELCOM’s Chairman.

Note to Editors:

The Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental co-operation between the countries bordering the sea - Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and also the European Community.

HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.

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