On 1 July Germany took over the chairmanship for two years of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), also known as the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission. During this time, Germany will address key environmental problems in the Baltic Sea: excessive nutrient inputs, warfare material, marine litter, underwater noise and climate change. Another goal is to improve the protection of marine species and habitats and to further develop the network of marine protected areas and its effective management for this purpose. Germany also wants to use the economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis to ensure progress on marine protection and climate issues.
Federal Environment Minister Schulze commented: "If our oceans are sick, it is bad news for people. A polluted marine environment worsens our quality of life, the basis of our livelihoods and our economic power. In the Helsinki Commission, I will be advocating, in particular, better protection of marine species and habitats. The economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis cannot neglect climate action and marine protection. Ecosystems need to be resilient to withstand the stresses of climate change and human intervention. Future HELCOM decisions will therefore be specifically reviewed for their relevance to the climate and biological diversity and for their suitability."
Under the heading "Working together for our sea – the Baltic Sea", Germany will work closely together with the other Baltic Sea countries and the European Union to further advance the protection of the Baltic Sea. "Working together" also means intensified cooperation with NGOs, stakeholder groups and science. One important task will be to harmonise the HELCOM goals with the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Furthermore, ties between HELCOM and other stakeholders in the Baltic Sea region, for example the Council of the Baltic Sea States, but also BALTFISH, the Baltic Sea regional fisheries body, are to be strengthened. Germany will be pushing for closer links between HELCOM's work and global processes and goals like the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the EU work together in HELCOM. This cooperation is based on the legally binding Helsinki Convention of 1992 on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution from land, air and sea. The convention also commits all signatories to take measures to conserve habitats and marine biological diversity and for the sustainable use of marine resources.
The Federal Environment Ministry holds lead responsibility for the HELCOM chairmanship. The chairmanship functions will be carried out by a federal government- federal state team. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is the designated Chair of HELCOM and representatives of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will each hold the Vice-Chair position for one year.