Doc. 8772
16 June 2000

State of the environment of the Baltic Sea

Motion for recommendation

presented by Mrs Dromberg and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only

the members who have signed it

1.        The Baltic Sea is a truly European sea surrounded by countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden) that are all members of the Council of Europe. Regional cooperation in the field of environment protection (HELCOM) was initiated already in the 1970s when the first Convention on the protection of the marine environment of the Baltic Sea Area was signed in 1974. A new political cooperation structure - the Council of the Baltic Sea States - was established in 1992, and environmental matters become one of the priorities of this cooperation.

2.       Considerable efforts have thus been made during several decades to improve the state of the Baltic Sea but the ecological degradation is continuing at an alarming rate. The state of the Baltic Sea is today clearly declining and the Baltic Sea is unfortunately one of the most polluted seas in the world today. The Baltic Sea is today surrounded by industrialised countries whose levels of investments in environment protection measures vary greatly. The environment protection measures cannot be successful unless all countries are equally committed to the common aims.

      The pollution of the seas is already a threat to the economic activities in many parts of the Baltic area. For instance, the fishing industry, including fish farming, and the tourism sector are threatened by the pollution problems in most parts of the region.

3.       In 1992 HELCOM adopted the Baltic Sea Joint Comprehensive Environmental Action Programme (JCP) for the Baltic Sea Area, which identified the main problem areas ("the hot spots").These include inter alia municipal wastewater treatment and industrial pollution mainly from the eastern shores of the Sea. Efforts have been focussed in the initial stage on the major towns but need to be pursued and strengthened. More efforts are in the future also needed in smaller municipalities.

4.       One of the main objectives in the future should be to increase research into the causes, sources and remedies of the pollution. One of the main aims of the Northern Dimension concept adopted by the European Union in 1999 is to enhance sustainable development of the economy in the region. The environmental issues are of paramount importance in this connection. It is important also to guarantee sufficient financing for acute environmental projects around the Baltic Sea Area. It is important that the European Union takes an active part in environmental priority projects together with other financiers. Environmental activities should be focussed on the main problems areas (hot spots) of the HELCOM Joint Comprehensive Action Programme.

5.       The question of the "general obligations of states to apply the precautionary principle and promote sustainable development, protect the environment and prevent transfrontier pollution" was raised in Recommendation 1431 (1999) adopted by the Standing Committee in November 1999. This recommendation should be followed up separately in the various regions of the Council of Europe area (such as the Baltic Sea area) paying particular attention to the special regional features. The efficient implementation of existing legal instruments should be discussed and the elaboration of follow-up mechanisms considered, whenever appropriate.

6.       The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers

-       urge all Council of Europe member states to engage their environment authorities in long-term environment protection measures that will support sustainable development in the region;

-        support studies and projects concerning the Baltic Sea region that aim at including environmental considerations in sectors of cooperation such as energy and transport;

-        draft recommendations and, whenever appropriate, commitments and stricter follow-up mechanisms in relation to existing legal instruments;

-       urge the countries around the Baltic Sea to increase efforts in environment projects, including projects related to the conservation of the biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources;

-       appeal to the European Union and relevant financing institutions to support research and the financing of acute environmental projects in the Baltic Sea region, inter alia within the framework of the Northern Dimension, in particular the development of the St Petersburg water supply and sewage treatment systems.

Signed: 1

Dromberg, Finland, EDG

Akcali, Turkey, EDG

Ciupaila, Lithuania, LDR

Duka-Zolyomi, Slovak Republic, EPP/CD

Gibula, Poland, SOC

Kalkan, Turkey, EDG

Kurucsai, Hungary, EPP/CD

Lotz, Hungary, LDR

Luczak, Poland, EPP/CD

Mikaelsson, Sweden, UEL

Minkov, Bulgaria, LDR

Pollozhani, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", EDG

Tiuri, Finland, EDG

1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group