Germany hands over HELCOM chairmanship to Latvia

For a healthy and sustainably used Baltic SeaClick to enlarge
For a healthy and sustainably used Baltic Sea
Source: HELCOM

Latvia will assume the two-year rotational chairmanship of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) on 1 July 2022. Germany’s Chair focused on biodiversity and climate, sought solutions for unexploded ordnance and underwater noise and extended measures to combat pollution of the Baltic Sea through eutrophication, hazardous substances and marine litter.

Dr. Lilian Busse, Vice-President of the German Environment Agency and HELCOM Chair in 2020-2022, delivered a positive summary of Germany’s chairmanship, saying, “In 2021, the HELCOM Contracting Parties adopted an ambitious ten-year plan to restore good condition to the Baltic Sea. We were able to agree measures related to German strategic priorities such as eutrophication, hazardous substances, unexploded ordnance and underwater noise. An important step in future is to integrate climate and marine protection and to strengthen ecosystems such as seagrass beds, which can sequester carbon, for the benefit of biodiversity and the climate.“

The Baltic Sea Action Plan's commitments include putting 30% of the Baltic Sea under protection, one third of which will be under strict protection, and halving beach litter by 2030. Updated reduction targets for nutrient inputs and numerous measures echo HELCOM members' determination to tackle eutrophication, mainly from agriculture, and its consequences for the Baltic Sea. The new, ambitious Baltic Sea Action Plan must now be implemented in an ambitious manner.

German chairmanship coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Lilian Busse expressed her gratitude for the spirit of cooperation among the HELCOM Contracting Parties which enabled successful negotiation of critical decisions on policy such as the Baltic Sea Action Plan. Cooperation in the Baltic Sea region faces great challenges as a result of the war against Ukraine. It is important to balance the political, societal and economic effects of the war with protection of the Baltic Sea and to implement the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Germany acted as HELCOM chairing Party from 1 July 2020 until 30 June 2022. Dr. Lilian Busse of the German Environment Agency acted as Chair, together with Vice-Chair Dr. Johannes Oelerich, Head of the Department “Water Management, Marine and Coastal Protection” in the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalisation of the State of Schleswig-Holstein from 1 July 2020 until 30 June 2021. Dr. Andreas Roepke, Head of Division for Freshwater and Marine Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment in the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, became Vice-Chair from 1 July 2021.