The Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) is the governing body of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (the Helsinki Convention). This Convention was signed by all the states bordering on the Baltic Sea and the European Community in Helsinki in 1992, and entered into force on 17 January 2000.
The HELCOM's main goal is to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, and to restore and safeguard its ecological balance. The Helsinki Convention aims to prevent and eliminate pollution in order to promote the ecological restoration of the Baltic Sea Area and the preservation of its ecological balance.
The Helsinki Commission meets annually. Ministerial level meetings are also held occasionally. The Commission unanimously adopts Recommendations for the protection of the marine environment, which the governments of the Contracting Parties must act on in their respective national programmes and legislation. The chairmanship of the Helsinki Commission rotates between the Contracting Parties every two years, according to their alphabetical order in English. The working structure of HELCOM, supported by the Secretariat, consists of the meetings of the Helsinki Commission, the Heads of Delegation, and five main groups.
The Convention covers the whole Baltic Sea area, including inland waters as well as the water of the sea itself and the sea-bed. Measures are also taken in the whole catchment area of the Baltic Sea to reduce land-based pollution.
The priorities of HELCOM are:
- eutrophication, especially the contribution of agriculture;
- hazardous substances;
- land transport sector;
- maritime transport sector, including carrying out the Baltic Strategy;
- environmental impacts of fishery management and practices;
- protection and conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity;
- implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Environmental Action Programme;
- and HELCOM Recommendations;