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News|10 Jun, 2009

WWF: “Don’t miss this chance to save the Baltic Sea!”

The poor state of the Baltic Sea environment has received attention this summer because of the extensive algal blooms caused by eutrophication and for recent scientific reports on the vast “dead zones” on the sea bottom
The poor state of the Baltic Sea environment has received attention this summer because of the extensive algal blooms caused by eutrophication and for recent scientific reports on the vast “dead zones” on the sea bottom

WWF today urges the Swedish government not to miss the opportunity given by the EU Baltic Sea Strategy. The Strategy is today presented by the EU Commission in a communication to the European Council. As Sweden takes over the EU presidency 1 July, it will be the Swedish government who will have the responsibility for implementation of the Baltic Sea Strategy.

The Baltic Sea region has for many years posed complex regional problems and challenges, for the environment as well as for economic development. With the Baltic Sea Strategy, an internal EU strategy for a specific geographic macro-region is created for the first time. The Strategy is intended to provide a model for regional problem-solving and identity-building for the entire European Union.

“WWF has been active in the development of this strategy and believes that the strategy, as currently envisioned, creates a unique opportunity to secure a more integrated approach to the management of the sea and its resources”, says Åsa Andersson, Programme Director Swedish Nature and Baltic Sea Programme, WWF Sweden. “We therefore urge the Swedish Government, who will now be the ones to take the strategy forward during their EU presidency, to use all the tools it has available to ensure that the strategy will go far beyond its rhetoric and implement the strategy as a model for the rest of Europe to follow.”

The Baltic Sea Strategy aims to make the Baltic Sea region a prosperous, accessible and attractive, safe and secure and environmentally sustainable place. The added value of the Baltic Sea Strategy, beyond that of existing agreements, is its aim to achieve a more integrated approach to the management of the Baltic Sea.

“There is an urgent need to overcome the chaos of multiple and overlapping competencies and authorities in the Baltic Sea. It is obvious to everybody by now that regional challenges can only be properly addressed through regional approaches and solutions. WWF believes this approach is not only urgently needed, it is also essential – as it is only by involving all sectors at all levels in an integrated sea use planning and management process that we can achieve the goals set out in the Strategy”, says Pauli Merriman, Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

According to the communication today, there is no new or extra funding included in the Baltic Sea Strategy. “We think governments should use at least part of all that funding that is already around to create financial incentives for farmers, fishermen and others to adjust their business to align better with the long-term health of the Baltic Sea and the region surrounding it”, says Pauli Merriman.

Information to editors:

The European Commission has prepared an EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region on the request of the European Council. The aim of the Strategy is to coordinate the efforts of various actors in the Region (Member States, regions, financing institutions, the EU, pan-Baltic organisations, non-governmental bodies etc.) so that by working together they would promote a more balanced development of the Region.

After the 2004 enlargement, the potential and the challenges of the Baltic Sea Region have attracted more attention. There are wide differences in economic development between the EU Member States. The whole region is also facing major challenges like the demographic change and the pollution of the Sea. The common problems of the Region call for cooperation of the whole Region.

The Strategy aims at four main objectives:

  1. to improve the environmental state of the Baltic Sea Region and especially of the Sea;
  2. to make the Baltic Sea Region a more prosperous place by supporting balanced economic development across the Region;
  3. to make the Baltic Sea Region a more accessible and attractive place for both its inhabitants, for competent labour force and for tourists;
  4. to make the Baltic Sea Region a safer and more secure place.

WWF supports the intentions of the Strategy but cautions that these good intentions may never be implemented unless the Swedish government, under its presidency of the EU, takes its task regarding the EUSBSR seriously and delivers a truly integrated solution to the problems facing the Baltic Sea. WWF believes the Swedish government must therefore help ensure that

  1. the strategy recognizes that a healthy Baltic Sea is the basis for a prosperous and attractive Baltic Sea region;
  2. the Baltic Sea Strategy takes an ecosystem-based approach to the management of the sea, i.e. all our uses of the sea must be governed by what the Baltic Sea can sustain;
  3. the Strategy addresses key challenges to the Baltic Sea, such as the depletion of fisheries and the nutrient pollution through agriculture, through the relevant European policies: the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP);
  4. the strategy recognizes that marine spatial planning is a critical tool when planning for and managing our uses of the sea

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