“Our Baltic” conference – contemporary problems stem from history

Nasz Bałtyk

On September 29, 2023. The “Our Baltic” conference of the ministers of environment, maritime economy, agriculture and fisheries of the EU member states from the Baltic Sea region, chaired by the European Union Commissioner for Fisheries and Aquaculture, was held in Palanga, Lithuania. Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius. The aim of the conference was to take stock of activities to date and address urgent environmental challenges in the Baltic Sea.

The main issues discussed at the “Our Baltic” conference

The “Our Baltic” conference highlighted the protection of the marine ecosystem of the Baltic Sea, with particular emphasis on the removal of World War I and World War II munitions sunk to its bottom. This is one of the biggest problems occurring in the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea basin was densely mined during warfare and became an ammunition dump during many military missions. Thanks to historical data, it has been possible to identify the main locations of such dumps and safely delineate the most important routes of the sea lanes. However, ocean currents can move unexploded ordnance, enlarging danger areas and reducing the precision of targeting them. Undetonated and dumped munitions cause significant environmental damage from chemical spills. Our Baltic Sea is still a dumping ground for some 300,000. tons of unexploded ordnance, which causes pollution and hinders the development of offshore economic activities, including those related to the blue economy, such as the construction of offshore wind farms, underwater cables and pipelines, etc.

During the “Our Baltic” conference, the ministers made joint commitments to safely remove and dispose of munitions dumped at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, making the basin more sustainable for future generations.

The European Commission, according to information provided at the “Our Baltic” conference, will allocate 2 million euros to be distributed for this purpose. The money is to be distributed through an open call for projects to identify key geographic areas and conduct appropriate risk assessments.

Wodne Sprawy 14 2023 2
"Our Baltic" conference - contemporary problems stem from history 1

Activities carried out so far in the Baltic Sea

During the first “Our Baltic” conference, held in 2020. The ministers of agriculture, fisheries and environment of the EU member states in the Baltic Sea region have adopted a declaration pledging to step up efforts to improve the marine environment. This year’s meeting was an opportunity to assess the implementation of the adopted declarations. The first progress report indicates significant successes in addressing some of the most pressing local challenges in the areas of eutrophication and marine debris.

Representatives of the Baltic countries came to the common conclusion that further sustainable measures should be taken that take into account both the environmental aspect and food security. It also stressed the need to cooperate with other sectors of government responsible for the environment and agriculture. They pointed to water management and the undertaking of EU-level research aimed at reducing waste pollution and curbing eutrophication in the Baltic Sea as particularly important.

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