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Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea

The 1974 Helsinki Convention aims to help reduce pollution in the area around the Baltic Sea.


Council Decision 94/156/EC of 21 February 1994 on the accession of the Community to the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (1974 Helsinki Convention).

Council Decision 94/157/EC of 21 February 1994 on the conclusion, on behalf of the Community, of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention as revised in 1992).


These two decisions enabled the Community to accede to the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention). The Convention, which was signed in March 1974 by all the States bordering the Baltic Sea (Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia), aims to reduce pollution of the Baltic Sea area caused by discharges through rivers, estuaries, outfalls and pipelines, dumping and shipping operations as well as through airborne pollutants. The Convention entered into force in 1980.

The Parties to the Convention undertake to ban the use of a series of hazardous substances: dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and its derivatives (DDE and DDD), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated triphenyls (PCTs) - in the Baltic Sea area.

They must also take all appropriate measures and work together to control and minimise pollution from land-based sources (mercury and cadmium, chrome, copper, lead, hydrocarbons, pesticides, radioactive materials, acids, oils and petrochemical waste, materials and substances which may float, etc.). Large quantities of the substances referred to may not be introduced without a prior special permit issued by the appropriate national authority.

With regard to pollution from ships, the Parties must take a series of measures to protect the Baltic Sea area against pollution linked to spillage of hydrocarbons and other harmful substances and the discharge of waste water and sewage from ships (establishment of international rules, assistance with ship inspections, application of standard rules on the transport of harmful substances and the discharge of waste water, etc.).

They must adopt specific measures applicable to pleasure craft, notably to ensure the creation of adequate waste reception facilities.

The Contracting Parties must ban the dumping of waste in the Baltic Sea area, except for:

  • dredged material, provided a special permit has been issued by the appropriate national authority;
  • cases where the safety of human life or of a ship or an aircraft at sea is threatened by the complete destruction or total loss of the ship or the aircraft, if dumping appears to be the only way of averting the threat.

Each Contracting Party must take all the necessary measures to prevent pollution resulting from exploration or exploitation of the sea bed or the subsoil thereof.

The signatories must adopt measures and cooperate to minimise pollution by hydrocarbons and other harmful substances.

They must cooperate in the field of scientific and technological research, and undertake jointly to adopt rules concerning responsibility for damage resulting from infringements of the Convention.

The Convention sets up a Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission to monitor the implementation of the Convention, make recommendations on measures and assume such other functions as may be appropriate under the terms of the Convention.


ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision 94/156/EC21.2.1994-OJ L 73, 16.3.1994
Decision 94/157/EC21.2.1994-OJ L 73, 16.3.1994


Commission Green Paper of 7 June 2006 entitled: Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European Vision for the Oceans and Seas [COM(2006) 275 final- Not published in the Official Journal].
This Green Paper sets out several aspects of a future EU maritime policy. It first highlights Europe's maritime identity and leadership, which is worth preserving at a time when environmental pressures are threatening the future of maritime activities. Consequently, maritime policy must aim to promote a maritime industry that is innovative, competitive and environmentally-friendly. In addition to maritime activities, it also proposes that the approach include the issue of quality of life in coastal regions. With this aim in mind, the Green Paper considers what new tools and modes of maritime governance should be developed.

Last updated: 05.10.2006
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