Improving the state of Baltic Sea

Publication date:
October, 2009

The Baltic Sea Region connects the states having different historical backgrounds, distinct economic development and political experience. They have divergent past, but what unites them all is the future of the Baltic Sea. The prosperity of each state surrounding the Sea directly depends on the ecological state of the Baltic Sea. The importance of the Baltic Sea and the influence of its region especially increased after the great EU enlargement in 2004, when the Baltic Sea became the inland EU sea. Its development strategy has already been elaborated being the first EU macroregional strategy and it manifests the importance of this region to the Community.

In the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, a lot of attention is especially devoted to the most significant problems of the Baltic Sea all the countries around the Sea face - ecology and environmental sustainability. The shallow and almost closed Baltic Sea has been characterised as a polluted one already for a long time. The situation is being aggravated by frequent oil spills, the chemical weapon buried in the Sea, the factors of climate change. Problems may arise because of Nord Stream, the gas pipeline planned to lay in the Sea, as well as due to other kinds of economic activity. In order to improve the state of the Baltic Sea, there are priority areas singled out in the Strategy. One of them is combating eutrophication, which is now the most relevant. In order to solve it, it is necessary to minimize point-source and nonpoint-source pollution, to renovate and develop municipal wastewater treatment systems, as well as to implement other measures envisaged in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Lithuania approves other priorities foreseen in the Strategy and related to environmental activities to improve the state of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania follows them taking specific actions, such as conserving biodiversity in the sea, preserving ecosystems, reducing threats posed by noxious and hazardous substances, adapting to the impact of climate change and mitigating it. The ecology and environment of the Baltic Sea rise concerns not only to one or several EU states, but all the countries of the region jointly care about it. We hope that this Strategy and the Action Plan envisaging

specific measures to implement it, will help to overcome the fragmentation of EU states in the Baltic Sea Region and to join their efforts for the common purpose. This document foreseeing versatile increase in the competitiveness and quality of the region, emphasising the promotion of ecological sustainability, economic prosperity, availability, accessibility and security, should become the basis of the national and municipal action plans.

It is very important not only for the states of the region to cooperate and work as a mechanism precisely tuned, but every country should coordinate their plans and actions with state and municipal institutions, science research establishments, and private sector. The EU states in the region differ in their level of economic development and financial capabilities. However the Strategy does not offer quick and simple decisions. The measures envisaged in it are long-term and can and have to present new opportunities, form prerequisites for restructuring of economy branches, as well as assuring greater social and economic needs of the public. The Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is like a pilot project to promote cooperation in the first EU macroregion. The initiation of other similar projects at EU level may depend, to a greater extent, on its success and outcomes.

Gediminas Kazlauskas
Minister for Environment of Lithuania