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Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea

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Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea

 

SUMMARY OF:

Decision 94/156/EC on the accession of the Community to the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (1974 Helsinki Convention)

Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, 1974 (Helsinki Convention)

Decision 94/157/EC on the conclusion, on behalf of the Community, of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention as revised in 1992)

Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, 1992 (Helsinki Convention revised in 1992)

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE DECISIONS AND OF THE CONVENTION?

  • The decisions enabled the European Community (now the European Union - EU) to accede to the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention).
  • The convention, which was signed in March 1974 by all the states bordering the Baltic Sea (Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia), aims to reduce pollution of the Baltic Sea area caused by discharges through rivers, estuaries, outfalls and pipelines, dumping and shipping operations as well as through airborne pollutants.

KEY POINTS

  • The Convention set up a Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) to
    • monitor the implementation of the convention,
    • make recommendations for the protection of the marine environment,
    • decide on the budget and
    • assume such other functions as may be appropriate under the terms of the convention.
  • In addition, ministerial level meetings are held every few years.
  • The Helsinki Commission meets annually, with the Heads of Delegation representing the contracting parties.
  • The Helsinki Commission adopted in 2007 a Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), which is a programme to restore the good environmental status of the Baltic marine environment by 2021. The BSAP was updated in 2013, during the 2013 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting.
  • The BSAP is the basis for the work of HELCOM and focuses on the following priorities:
    • eutrophication (when there is an excess of nutrients in the water that fuels the growth of algae),
    • hazardous substances,
    • biodiversity and nature conservation, and
    • maritime activities.
  • Each priority is accompanied by a number of actions and measures.
  • One of the main tools developed by HELCOM is the Nutrient Reduction Scheme. It is a regional approach to sharing the burden of nutrient reduction* to achieve the goal of the Baltic Sea unaffected by eutrophication agreed by the Baltic Sea countries. The Scheme has been introduced and agreed first in 2007, in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. At that time, the countries agreed on provisional nutrient reduction targets. HELCOM adopted the revised nutrient reduction scheme in 2013.
  • HELCOM has also been pursuing other actions in the context of the BSAP:
    • prevention of pollution from agriculture,
    • ensuring ecological sustainability of Baltic fisheries by 2021,
    • addressing land-based sources of pollution (waste water, pharmaceuticals, industrial releases, marine litter, etc.),
    • ensuring regionally coherent Maritime Spatial Planning processes in the Baltic Sea,
    • monitoring and assessing the marine environment,
    • cooperating on pollution preparedness and response,
    • protecting the Baltic biodiversity (red lists of species and habitats, marine protected areas, developing indicators), and
    • contributing to the regional implementation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations on shipping.
  • In 2016, HELCOM contributed to the designation of the Baltic Sea, under the IMO, as a Nitrogen Oxide Emissions Control Area (NOx ECA).
  • Lastly, HELCOM is also used as the regional cooperation structure for the implementation of Directive 2008/56/EC which established an approach for EU action in the field of marine environmental policy, for Baltic member countries.

FROM WHEN DO THE DECISIONS AND THE CONVENTION APPLY?

  • The decisions have applied since 21 February 1994.
  • The original convention entered into force in 1980 and was amended in 1992. The 1992 amendments entered into force on 17 January 2000, after the ratification instruments were deposited by all of the contracting parties.

BACKGROUND

For more information, see:

* KEY TERMS

Nutrient reduction: in the case of the Baltic Sea, the levels of air- and water-borne nitrogen and phosphorus compounds arising from a combination of a high population density, agriculture, energy and transport.

MAIN DOCUMENTS

Council Decision 94/156/EC of 21 February 1994 on the accession of the Community to the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area 1974 (Helsinki Convention) (OJ L 73, 16.3.1994, p. 1)

Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, 1974 (Helsinki Convention) (OJ L 73, 16.3.1994, pp. 2-18)

Council Decision 94/157/EC of 21 February 1994 on the conclusion, on behalf of the Community, of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention as revised in 1992) (OJ L 73, 16.3.1994, p. 19)

Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, 1992 (OJ L 73, 16.3.1994, pp. 20-45)

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) (OJ L 164, 25.6.2008, pp. 19-40)

Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning (OJ L 257, 28.8.2014, pp. 135-145)

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social committee and the Committee of the Regions - Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union (COM(2006) 275 final, 7.6.2006)

last update 23.02.2017

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