Improvement of cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region – especially protection of the seas – is one of the top priorities of the Finnish Government. Finland participates in the first regional programme of the EU, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The so-called BSAS process was started during the Baltic Sea Action Summit, held in Finland in February 2010, to give momentum to actions to protect the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic Sea, a unique and ecologically terribly vulnerable marine area, is one of the most polluted waters in the world. The gravest threat facing the Baltic is the ongoing eutrophication - caused by excessive amounts of nutrients dumped into the water.
The alarming state of the Baltic has negative effects, both direct and indirect, on the ways the sea is utilized. However its current condition can be turned around through the cooperation among the Baltic Sea states and the collaboration of various public and private partners.
In November 2007, the Baltic Sea States adopted the Baltic Sea Action Plan prepared by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, also known as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), which outlines the measures required to save the Baltic Sea. The environmental pillar of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy largely builds on the BSAP. To boost the implementation of the Action Plan, President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen together with the Baltic Sea Action Group headed by Mr Ilkka Herlin, presented a new approach to this protection scheme on 19th May 2009. This initiative led to the Baltic Sea Action Summit in Helsinki on 10th February 2010.
The main idea of the BSAS process is to invite public and private actors to make sustainable decisions that will benefit the state of the Baltic Sea. Actions or processes undertaken by states, municipalities, companies, organisations or other actors will be gathered and formulated into commitments that will be monitored.
All countries in the Baltic Sea Region took part of the Summit – mainly at head of state level. All in all there were about 400 participants representing governments, private companies, civil society organisations, and other actors responsible for such fields as harbours, energy production, and waste management and waste water. Those who were invited to the Summit had made a solemn commitment to act for a healthier Baltic Sea.
Different companies, for example, participate in the Baltic Sea cooperation by donating their expertise, products or funding to the projects, and by making their own processes friendlier to the Baltic environment.
Civil society organisations and financial institutions, which are central from the point of view of the protection of the Baltic Sea, were also invited to the Summit and they have entered in new projects, for example in the implementation of the EU's Baltic Sea Strategy. (HELCOM; European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD; Nordic Investment Bank NIB).
Commitments for the Baltic Sea as a part of the BSAS process have made also after the Summit. At the end of the year 2010 as many as 160 actors had given their commitments for the Baltic Sea. On 10th of February 2011, the first anniversary of the summit, a follow-up meeting will be organised in Helsinki, where priority will be given to reporting of the progress of governmental commitments made in 2010.