EUSBSR annual forum in Tallinn addressed Baltic Sea environmental challenges
Marine environmental issues were a high priority at the 9th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) held in Tallinn, Estonia from 4 to 5 June 2018. HELCOM participated in the plenary session on safeguarding the ecosystems of the Baltic Sea, as well as in other events, notably a seminar on updating the Baltic Sea Action Plan beyond 2021.
HELCOM says the overall consensus at the forum was that despite good progress on marine environmental matters in the Baltic Sea region, more needs to be done to achieve good environmental status for the Baltic Sea in a foreseeable future.
"We have to step up our efforts for the Baltic Sea. Following the recent [HELCOM] assessments, the Baltic Sea is not in a good shape. We need to reduce [our] impacts on the sea," said the Prime Minister of Estonia Juri Ratas during the opening session.
His comments resonated with the video greetings by Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner on Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries on the occasion of the opening of the third plenary session about the EUSBSR and marine environment.
The major pressure on the Baltic Sea remains eutrophication caused by excessive nutrient discharge into the sea from agriculture and other land-based sources.
New threats to the marine ecosystem were also mentioned during the event, especially stemming from hazardous substances such as micro-plastics and pharmaceutical residues, and underwater noise.
At the EUSBSR Annual Forum, HELCOM Executive Secretary Monika Stankiewicz presented the State of the Baltic Sea report, stressing that good environmental status for the Baltic Sea hasn't been achieved yet, and that the current reduction of pressures on the sea aren't enough.
The HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report assesses the state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures it is affected by. The first results were published in 2017 and the assessment will be finalized by the end of June 2018.
Stankiewicz also indicated that the Baltic Sea Action Plan, the main strategic tool to achieve a healthy Baltic Sea, will not end after its initially set deadline of 2021.
"Based on outcomes of the Brussels HELCOM Ministerial meeting and analysis of measures and results, the Baltic Sea Action Plan will be updated past 2021," she said, paving the way for future actions.
The update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan coincides with the update of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region Action Plan which gives opportunity to find further synergies between the work of HELCOM and EUSBSR.
The Forum was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia together with the Baltic Development Forum in close cooperation with the European Commission, Ministry of Environment and other partners.
About 770 participants from governments, international organisations, NGOs, universities, local and regional administrations and businesses came together to discuss developments and challenges in the Baltic Sea Region. The Annual Forum was co-financed from the programme of Interreg Baltic Sea Region.