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Procedure : 2021/2567(RSP)
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Tuesday, 27 April 2021 - Brussels
Chemical residues in the Baltic Sea based on petitions 1328/2019 and 0406/2020 under Rule 227(2)

European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2021 on chemical residues in the Baltic Sea, based on Petitions Nos 1328/2019 and 0406/2020 (2021/2567(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Petitions Nos 1328/2019 and 0406/2020,

–  having regard to Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union, Articles 4 and 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and Articles 35 and 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to its resolution of 18 September 1997 on the ecological problem of the Baltic Sea(1), the objective of Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy(2) to reduce pollution and hazardous substances, and the commitment of the Member States to monitor underwater chemical munitions under Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive)(3),

–  having regard to the commitments to ‘save the sea’ and make the Baltic Sea Region a world leader in maritime security under the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, and the commitment of the EU Member States to eliminate sea-dumped chemical munitions and unexploded ordnances under the EU Maritime Security Strategy Action Plan,

–  having regard to the Commission’s zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment as set out in Chapter 2.1.8 of its communication of 11 December 2019 on the European Green Deal (COM(2019)0640), and the EU’s commitment to halt biodiversity loss and become a world leader in addressing the global biodiversity crisis in accordance with its Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 and Biodiversity Strategy for 2030,

–  having regard to the obligations undertaken by the states parties pursuant to Article 2 of the 1992 UN Economic Commission for Europe Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and Article 4 of the 1999 Protocol on Water and Health thereto,

–  having regard to the Commission’s upcoming Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme for 2021-2027,

–  having regard to the 1992 Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, the Baltic Sea Action Plan and the findings of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) on sea-dumped chemical munitions,

–  having regard to the commitments of states under the UN Sustainable Development Goals, namely target 3.9 to reduce deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and contamination, target 6.3 to improve water quality by eliminating dumping and minimising the release of hazardous chemicals, and targets 14.1 and 14.2 to prevent marine pollution and protect marine and coastal ecosystems,

–  having regard to resolution 1612(2008) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on chemical munitions buried in the Baltic Sea, and to the accompanying report of 28 April 2008,

–  having regard to the deliberations on Petitions Nos 1328/2019 and 0406/2020 during the meeting of the Committee on Petitions held on 3 December 2020,

–  having regard to Rule 227(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas at least 50 000 tonnes of conventional and chemical weapons containing hazardous substances (such as mustard and tear gas and nerve and choking chemical agents) have been dumped into the Baltic Sea since the end of the Second World War;

B.  whereas these munitions degrade slowly and leak toxic substances into the water, posing a danger to human health by contaminating food and causing severe burns and poisoning upon direct contact, damaging marine ecosystems and biodiversity, and jeopardising local economic activities such as fishing, the extraction of natural resources and the generation of renewable energy from power plants;

C.  whereas owing to its geographical situation, the Baltic Sea is a semi-enclosed sea with a slow turnover of water and very low self-cleaning capacity; whereas it is considered one of the most polluted seas in the world, with oxygen levels falling in its deep waters, which is already putting marine life in danger;

D.  whereas valuable research has been carried out by the ad hoc HELCOM Working Group on Dumped Chemical Munitions (CHEMU), the EU-funded project entitled ‘Modelling of Ecological Risks related to Sea-Dumped Chemical Weapons’ (MERCW), and the ad hoc HELCOM expert groups to Update and Review the Existing Information on Dumped Chemical Munitions in the Baltic Sea (MUNI) and on Environmental Risks of Hazardous Submerged Objects (SUBMERGED);

E.  whereas the need for greater cooperation was expressed during the Colloquium on the Challenges of Unexploded Munitions in the Sea held in Brussels on 20 February 2019;

F.  whereas the international community lacks reliable information about the volume, nature and locations of the disposed munitions owing to poor documentation of these activities and insufficient research on the seabed of the Baltic Sea;

G.  whereas no consensus has been reached on the current state of the munitions, the exact danger they pose and the possible solutions to this problem;

H.  whereas the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme provided funding for the 2011-2014 Chemical Munitions Search and Assessment (CHEMSEA), 2016-2019 Decision Aid for Marine Munitions (DAIMON) and 2019-2021 DAIMON 2 projects for a total of EUR 10.13 million (EUR 7.8 million of which – 77 % – came from the European Regional Development Fund); whereas these projects studied the dumping locations and the content and state of the munitions and how they react to Baltic conditions, and provided administrations with decision-making tools and training in technologies used for risk analysis, remediation methods and environmental impact assessment;

I.  whereas the issue of conventional and chemical munitions dumped in the sea is being addressed by NATO, which has adequate tools, instruments and experience to resolve this problem successfully;

J.  whereas the CHEMSEA project, which came to an end in 2014, concluded that while chemical munition dumping sites do not represent an immediate threat, they will continue to be a problem for the Baltic Sea;

K.  whereas the high transport density and high rate of economic activity in the Baltic Sea Region render this not only an environmental issue, but also one with considerable economic implications, including for the fishing industry;

1.  Underlines that the environmental and health dangers posed by the munitions disposed of in the Baltic Sea after the Second World War is not only a regional, European issue, but a serious global problem with unpredictable short- and long-term transboundary effects;

2.  Urges the international community to embrace a spirit of cooperation and genuine solidarity to step up its monitoring of dumped munitions in order to minimise the possible risks for the marine environment and activities; urges all sides party to classified information about the dumping activities and their exact locations to declassify this information and to allow the countries affected, the Commission and the European Parliament to access it as a matter of urgency;

3.  Calls on the Commission and the Joint Programming Committee of Interreg Baltic Sea Region to secure adequate financing for research and actions required to resolve the dangers posed by the munitions dumped in the Baltic Sea; welcomes the dedicated efforts and constructive research undertaken by HELCOM and within the frameworks of the CHEMSEA, DAIMON and DAIMON 2 projects financed by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme;

4.  Calls on all sides involved to comply with international environmental law and provide additional financial contributions to the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme for 2021-2027; welcomes the 2021-2027 transnational Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme, which will fund measures to reduce the pollution of the Baltic Sea;

5.  Stresses the necessity for regular monitoring of the state of corrosion of the munitions and an up-to-date environmental risk assessment on the impacts of the contaminants released on human health, marine ecosystems and the region’s biodiversity;

6.  Welcomes the efforts made at a national level, such as mapping the locations of the dumped munitions and monitoring and removing hazardous materials;

7.  Emphasises the importance, in this connection, of interstate and interregional cooperation mechanisms, free access to public information, and the efficient exchange of scientific knowledge and research;

8.  Calls on the Commission, for the purposes of its zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment, to establish an expert group with the Member States affected and other stakeholders and organisations, tasked with the following mandate: (i) studying and mapping the exact locations of contaminated areas; (ii) proposing suitable environmentally friendly and cost-effective solutions for monitoring and cleaning the pollution with the ultimate aim of removing or fully neutralising hazardous materials where extraction is impossible; (iii) developing reliable decision-making support tools; (iv) conducting an awareness-raising campaign to inform the groups affected (such as fishers, local residents, tourists and investors) of the potential health and economic risks; and (v) developing emergency response guidelines for environmental disasters;

9.  Regrets the fact that none of the EUR 8.8 million allotted under the European Neighbourhood Instrument was used for the DAIMON or DAIMON 2 projects under the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme;

10.  Calls on the Commission to engage all the relevant EU agencies and institutions, including the European Defence Agency, to utilise all the available resources and to make sure that the problem will be reflected in all the relevant EU policies and programming processes, including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Maritime Security Strategy Action Plan;

11.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the issue of munitions dumped in European seas is included in the horizontal programmes in order to enable the submission of projects covering regions affected by the same problem (the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, North Sea and Baltic Sea) and facilitate the exchange of experience and best practices;

12.  Asks the Commission to devote concerted efforts to tackling pollution in the Baltic Sea and to foster all types of regional, national and international cooperation to this end, including through its partnership with NATO;

13.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and other states concerned.

(1) OJ C 304, 6.10.1997, p. 147.
(2) OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 164, 25.6.2008, p. 19.

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