Transnational cooperation combats chemical warfare leakage in the Baltic Sea
13 Oct 2015

The 13th European Week of Regions and Cities (Open Days) takes place in Brussels on 12-15 October 2015. It is an annual four-day event during which cities and regions showcase their capacity to create growth and jobs, implement European Union cohesion policy, and prove the importance of the local and regional level for good European governance.

Susanne Scherrer, who is the director of the Managing Authority and the Joint Secretariat of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region speaks at a workshop on 13 October on transnational cooperation.

In her address Ms Scherrer highlights a project that dealt with chemical munitions. The CHEMSEA project, led by the Institute of Oceanology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, sought to close knowledge gaps on this topic that haunts the Baltic Region still today.

At least 50,000 tonnes of chemical munitions have been dumped in the Baltic Sea since the Second World War, many of them containing poisonous substances. Uncertainty still exists about the location of all dumping areas, the content and condition of the munitions or how they behave under Baltic Sea conditions.

Chemical munitions, ecological risk assessment, sediment pollution, Baltic dumpsites, risk management with an adjacent contingency plan were all topics that were included successfully in the project.

The project managed, by its end date in 2014, to have mapped and characterised these dumping sites, as well as having developed guidelines in order to reduce potential threats to both the environment and to fishermen, and by preparing a region-wide contingency plan to deal with cases of leakage. The project involved all levels of stakeholders, from science to those directly affected but also policy decision makers.

The project managed to turn scientific results to practical tools to answer the identified risks and to change behaviour. Scientific results were also pushed forward to stimulate a political debate. The OPCW (Organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons), IDUM (The International Dialogues on Underwater Munitions), HELCOM MUNI and many other responsible national authorities closely collaborated with the project. The project produced inter alia, a Baltic Sea Region contingency plan, after assessing the national procedures concerning reactions against threat posed by chemical warfare agents. This plan has been disseminated to the relevant authorities during on-the-spot trainings and information events. The particular cooperation showcased in the projects was successful very much due to the relevance of the topic itself. The project has addressed a challenge that is highly relevant for all countries situated by the Baltic Sea.