Speech by Ilkka Herlin, BSAG,given in the first plenary session in Baltic Sea Forum 5.4. St. Petersburg.
Honored heads of state and guests,
The Baltic Sea does well. It is a healthy, well-balanced ecosystem. It does not anymore suffer from eutrophication. It’s not damaged by chemicals. The risk of oil accident is minimal, and the sediments are full of life again.
In a world full of eco-disasters, how did this success story happen?
The answer is surprisingly simple, though it seemed revolutionary at the time. 14 different states, best companies and people decided, that this sea will be saved. And they co-operated.
This could be a speech held in 50 years. We decide, if this speech will be held. If I would have to guess today, I would definitely say these words will be heard in the future. I will state few arguments why.
The Baltic Sea Action Summit in Helsinki 2010 was a success. In addition to the governmental Commitments made in Helsinki, more than 140 Commitments were made by companies and NGOs.
Today, three years later, a historical step is being taken here in St. Petersburg as the process continues. The Baltic Sea states meet again at the Baltic Sea Forum.
Since 2010, we have received 110 new Commitments and other organizations.
Before solving a complex problem, many pre-conditions must be fulfilled.
– The problem has to be identified.
– Then it has to be made visible to decision makers and others providing solutions.
– Then the solution needs to be implemented.
All these areas are covered by Commitments. There is a booklet full of hard work for the Baltic Sea. Please, have a look.
It has been encouraging to see that the core idea works. Commitment makers have searched for cooperation with each other to cover the whole chain needed for a final solution.
Companies like Outotec, who have new technologies to handle manure and sludge, have searched for cooperation with fertilizer companies. Together they have developed sustainable nutrient recycling.
Further, fertilizer companies cooperate with farmers around the Baltic Sea to promote recycling of nutrients. Farmers associations across the borders cooperate to share best practices.
And even more, Fazer, a bakery, commits to support and even demand from farmers Baltic Sea friendly methods of cultivation.
The Vodokanal of St. Petersburg has remarkable results in treating municipal wastewaters. Now Vodokanal will share the expertise they have with the Leningrad Region and the Republic of Karelia.
In addition to Commitments, we need – in every country – adequate legislation with efficient enforcement. We need development of common agricultural and fisheries policy, especially in EU.
It is often said that Baltic Sea is an inland sea of EU. But as we know that is not the case. Russia is an important player in this area. So we need more cooperation in every level.
This forum has shown that there is a great will in Russia to move towards a healthy Baltic Sea. St. Petersburg Initiative is a symbol of this work. We in BSAG warmly support this initiative.
At the same time all this supports EU’s Baltic Sea strategy, because – logically, in my opinion – without strong aim to cooperation with Russia the strategy will become an empty phrase.
As I stated in the beginning, we are at the turning point of a long history. We and many generations before us have lived at the expence of nature. But there’s always the one generation, which faces the turning point moment.
We are the ones who either saved the sea – or the ones who did not.
Maybe not all 85 million people affecting the Baltic Sea know precisely how sick the sea is. But you, honored heads of state, know it – and you have the power to act. Thank you for using your leadership wisely and effectively.
BSAG continues to speed up the work where possible. We have noticed, that when the goal seems to be too ambitious, it is probably set at right level.