Monday

26th Aug 2019

Opinion

Eco-cooperation with Russia vital for Baltics despite sanctions

  • Continuation of the environmental cooperation regardless of the political situation in the Baltic Sea region is a legitimate demand (Photo: Mikko Itälahti)

Ministers of all nine Baltic Sea states and the European Union meet in Brussels (6 March) for the Helsinki Commission's, HELCOM, ministerial meeting. This meeting is of utmost importance.

From 1997 to 2017 about €1bn, of which approximately one-third comprise international loans and grants and two-thirds domestic Russian resources, have been designated to environmental projects in St Petersburg.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Finnish politician Christina Gestrin: Political tension in the Baltic region has serious negative consequences for environmental cooperation, (Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org)

The results are visible in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, where the ecological state of the sea has improved as the discharge of pollution from St Petersburg has significantly decreased.

But the long era of positive development ended abruptly in 2014 with the political conflict that emerged when Russia invaded Ukraine.

The political tension in the region has continued since then, and it has had serious negative consequences for environmental cooperation.

Due to the sanctions it was decided that EU institutions were not to facilitate or finance new environmental projects and investments in Russia.

The Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) has followed the same strict principles as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Consequently, only project agreements that were signed before the crisis in 2014 have been or will be implemented and completed.

Wastewater and sewage

Many challenges will therefore remain unresolved, including 184 sites in the Leningrad region (as the area around St Petersburg is still called) that are without properly working wastewater treatment plants and sewage systems.

Rapidly growing agricultural industries of cattle, pig and poultry production are serious, unresolved environmental threats.

The greatest danger in the Baltic Sea is associated with Krasny Bor, a landfill for hazardous waste situated close to St Petersburg.

A major leakage of toxic compounds would have a profound impact on the freshwater supply in this city of over five million inhabitants.

Southwest of St Petersburg is Sosnovy Bor, one of Russia's nuclear towns with four old nuclear power plants of the Chernobyl-type still operating, and four new nuclear power plants under construction. It is also a testing site for nuclear reactors for submarines and large amounts of radioactive waste.

EU citizens at risk

The objective of the sanctions against Russia is to weaken economic interaction with Russia.

It seems like common sense to make an exemption for action that reduces the environmental risk for millions of EU citizens living the Baltic Sea region; to allow European and Nordic financial institutions to contribute to projects carried out within the area.

Otherwise, interactions between environmental authorities will weaken and the exchange of information and communication in the Baltic Sea region will be hampered.

This will in the long run result in an increased number of critical situations, risking the security of people and the environment in the whole Baltic Sea region.

Continuation of the environmental cooperation regardless of the political situation in the Baltic Sea region is a legitimate demand.

The positive development of the environmental cooperation in the Baltic Sea region is at stake, and we, the people living in the Baltic Sea region, cannot allow a deterioration of the cooperation.

Christina Gestrin has been a member of the Finnish parliament, member of the Nordic Council, observer in HELCOM and chaired the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference 2008-2001. The Nordic Council has recently published her report Environmental Co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Baltic Sea co-operation may show Europe at its best

Two decades after the Iron Curtain was lifted, the Baltic is once again - as was the case for centuries - a sea that binds the region together, in part thanks to the EU Baltic Sea Region Strategy.

Focus

Baltic Sea strategy yields few results after one year

One year into its existence, the EU's first 'macro-regional' policy around the Baltic Sea has few results to show, as it uses no fresh money and has no new institutions or legislation in place to implement it.

Baltic Sea strategy to combat pollution and regional disconnections

The European Commission on Wednesday is set to present a strategy and action plan for the Baltic Sea region aimed at cleaning up the heavily polluted sea, interconnect power grids and transport networks, tear down trade barriers and combat trafficking and organised crime along the borders, according to two draft documents seen by EUobserver.

The Baltic 'Big Sea' strategy

The Baltic Sea is almost an inland European lake - it borders Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kaliningrad and Russia. It also has an EU strategy - and an action plan.

Facebook has to answer some tough questions about Libra

German MEP and member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Markus Ferber, warns of four separate threats from Facebook's Libra. A good moment to kick off the debate would be this week's G20 summit.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Western leaders disagree on Russia, Iran, and Brazil
  2. Belgium: Parties clash on Reynders as EU commissioner
  3. Spain heading for yet another general election
  4. EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires
  5. 'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires
  6. What happens when trafficking survivors get home
  7. EU states and Russia clash on truth of WW2 pact
  8. EU considers new rules on facial recognition

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us