BSPC President Jörgen Pettersson and the head of the delegation of the Finnish Parliament to the BSPC, Kari Kulmala, attended the XIX International Environmental Forum “Baltic Sea Day” on 22-23 March in St. Petersburg. In his address to the Forum, Jörgen Pettersson underlined the fundamental importance of a constructive dialogue and close cooperation especially in politically difficult times as well as the crucial need for more stringent action on the national level in the BSR countries to reach the goals of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan until 2021 and thus a good ecological status of the Baltic Sea.
In particular, he said:
‘The Baltic Sea Day here in St. Petersburg each year is a crucial component of our common efforts to promote sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region.
‘Especially in politically difficult times, a constructive dialogue and close cooperation are of fundamental importance.
‘From the very beginning, the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference has dealt intensively with environmental issues. Their solution is also necessary independently from all other political disputes. Environmental problems are our common problems. Environmental pollution does not stop at our borders.
‘That is why we also have to solve them together.
‘Our aim is to be progressive and to urge governments to act progressively and also to convince those who are still hesitant in their actions.
‘Since the beginning of our cooperation – and during 17 years as an official observer –, the 27 parliaments and parliamentary organizations of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC) have actively supported the work of HELCOM and called on our governments to give HELCOM the political support it needs to execute the necessary measures. Many topics the BSPC has been dealing with refer to issues that HELCOM is concerned with, such as, to mention only a few, the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment, stricter emission regulations, stricter controls on eutrophication and the Baltic Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area.
‘And – as I already pointed out at the Ministerial Meeting of HELCOM in Brussels on 6 March – we do this because the people who elected us expect us to provide them with a good environmental status and a clean and healthy Baltic Sea. The environment is similar to peace on earth. It’s the foundation of all human life.
‘That is why it is so important to achieve the goals that we have set ourselves for example with the Baltic Sea Action Plan and to do so within the very time frame set in the plan. We are in a hurry, 2021 will soon be here, and that is why we have to implement the 2030 sustainable development goals.
‘I myself come from Åland, the self-governed, neutralised and demilitarised Islands of Peace as we are called. We have 6,700 larger islands, and we are situated in the middle of the Baltic Sea. For us, the sea is a central lifeline and living space. We see it every morning and say goodnight to it every evening.
‘That is why we have a vital interest in the well-being of the Baltic Sea. That is why we have developed a wide-ranging sustainability strategy which we hope will be acknowledged as a Best Practice and repeated by others.
‘Therefore, we consider it necessary to keep emphasizing the political will regarding a clean Baltic Sea but also a good environmental status overall. It calls for action rather than talk.
‘For that reason, I am glad about this International Environmental Forum “Baltic Sea Day”.
‘Apart from all the progress achieved by HELCOM in the meantime, the current situation shows us that appeals alone are not enough. We must act more widely and stringently and make greater efforts. The priorities from our point of view are eutrophication, marine litter, hazardous substances and underwater noise.
‘We support the agreements in the new ministerial declaration and the path the ministers have taken on this basis. At the same time, however, we call for stricter action at the national level to guarantee the achievement of the objectives that in our mind are necessary in order to reinstate the health of the Baltic Sea.
‘The crucial foundation of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference is: We want to be a political platform for cooperation, for commitment and for competence in the political dialogue of parliaments, governments and civil societies in the Baltic Sea region.
‘We should not take for granted that we parliamentarians can always find satisfactory solutions. But we have an obligation to our citizens to contribute to solving problems.
In order to achieve that, we must strengthen inter-parliamentary cooperation as well as the influence of parliaments. Their common will is of crucial importance in order to look for answers to international challenges. We parliamentarians as representatives of the citizens in our countries need to continuously work on deepening dialogue, on compromise and on cooperation related to the democratic values to face future international challenges, especially environmental problems.
‘The Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference in Åland on 26-28 August 2018 will offer dialogue, debate, solutions, friendship and a strong will to increase cooperation, prosperity, sustainability and a healthy environment in the region.
‘I invite you to come to the conference. Let us – parliaments, governments and societies – strengthen our efforts working toward a good environmental status of our Baltic Sea, which is a lifeline for all of us.
‘You are welcome to participate in order to fulfil the will of all people depending on the health of the Baltic Sea!’
In the margins of the conference, the representatives of the BSPC had talks with representatives of the Finnish government, the CBSS, HELCOM, BSSSC, WWF, the city of Turku and a number of scientists.