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International cooperation to protect Baltic Sea continues without Russia

Ministry of the Environment
Publication date 25.4.2024 12.31 | Published in English on 25.4.2024 at 14.32
Press release
Matalia saaria Itämeren horisontissa. Saarille lankeaa sateita.

At the Ministerial Meeting of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission in Riga, Latvia on 25 April, the Parties to HELCOM, Russia excluded, sent a strong message on how important it is to continue the cooperation on the Baltic Sea. “The difficult geopolitical situation must not prevent us from working for the benefit of the marine environment. The protection of the Baltic Sea cannot wait for the war to end,” Minister of Climate and the Environment Kai Mykkänen says. He attended the meeting online.

Ministers of the Baltic Sea coastal states and other high-level representatives gathered at the 50th anniversary event of the Baltic Sea Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission, HELCOM) to discuss the progress made in the protection of the marine environment, key priorities for HELCOM’s future work and the geopolitical situation of the region.

HELCOM is an intergovernmental organization of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention). HELCOM monitors and promotes the implementation of the Helsinki Convention and gives recommendations to the governments of the contracting states. All coastal states around the Baltic Sea and the European Commission participate in the work of HELCOM. In practice, however, there has been a ‘strategic pause’ in the cooperation because of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

At the meeting in Riga Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden gave a statement where they called on Russia to withdraw all military forces from Ukraine’s territory. They also confirmed that at the moment they have no cooperation with Russia. However, the changed circumstances do not mean that HELCOM would not continue its work.

According to Minister Mykkänen, the Baltic Sea coastal states must prepare for new threats arising from the geopolitical situation, including the shadow fleet of Russia composed of ageing and uninsured vessels, and the deliberate disturbance of the marine environment.

“At least one stand-by vessel of the European Maritime Safety Agency is needed to operate in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea to support the member states in preventing environmental damages. Eventually, we must also find solutions that will restrict the use of tankers with no appropriate insurance policies or expertise in winter navigation for transporting oil in the Baltic Sea,” Minister Mykkänen says.

The Parties also discussed the third holistic assessment summarized in the State of the Baltic Sea 2023 report, according to which the state of the sea is poor in all marine areas. In the Declaration, Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden confirmed that they are still committed to the Baltic Sea Action Plan, which was updated in 2023. The Parties also made the committed to implement, by 2027, the targets concerning the limits for nutrient pollution in the whole marine area and the nutrient pollution reduction target allocated to each state.

“Finland is committed to having nutrient load from agricultural sources in the catchment area of the Archipelago Sea removed from the list of significant pollution sites, the HELCOM Hot Spots, by 2027,” Minister Mykkänen says.

The Parties will also continue to carry out holistic assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea, with the next assessment to be completed by 2029.


Sara Viljanen
Senior Ministerial Adviser
[email protected]
tel. +358 295 250 315