Baltic Sea of restrictions and tensions

National description

SOCIETY AND POLITICS

The power struggle between global superpowers has escalated into a trade war and geopolitical tensions also increase. The uncertain security situation reduces investments. There is friction between the western countries and Russia in particular. The restrictions to funding caused by sanctions also make it difficult to execute environmental cooperation projects in Russia. The likelihood of the military threat becoming realised is small, but the Finnish Defence Force still has strong interests with regard to the maritime area. Tight cooperation and increased integration between the EU countries stabilise Finland’s situation, however. No global climate treaties have been reached, but EU still tries to lead by example and significantly tightens its environmental politics. EU’s Water Framework Directive is interpreted more extensively from the perspective of sustainable development while also considering the perspectives of social and economic sustainability.

ENERGY

A joint energy union of the EU is created and energy self-sufficiency on the European level is emphasised. Security of supply and joint ambitious emission targets are emphasised in the harmonised energy market. The European Union subsidies renewable energy production forms, which in the Baltic Sea means direct subsidies to offshore wind power and the construction of wind power stations alongside the transmission cables. Coal is still, however, used in the production of energy to balance the variation of production in other countries. As the situation is tense, energy production is decentralised in order to minimise vulnerability.

MARITIME TRANSPORT

With the increased political tension, the Baltic Sea area more and more becomes a strategic playing field, and the strategic significance of logistics routes is emphasised. Maritime routes are possibly also used as a means of geopolitics and using in the Northern Sea Route becomes more difficult. Certain safe growth corridors are emphasised (such as Turku–Åland–Stockholm), and the ports of the west coast gain strength. Passenger traffic reduces substantially especially in the south. Recreational boating also becomes more difficult due to repeated cable projects especially in the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea. Prevailing cyber threats and distrust between national operations slow down the development of autonomous maritime transport.

CITIES AND POPULATION

Mobility increases within the EU and Europe continues to urbanize as the ageing population moves to nearby cities. People pack into cities also in Finland, and the biggest coastal cities keep their vitality. Ageing people in particular move to coastal cities due to the declining infrastructure of the archipelago. Vital operations of the society are faced with more and more cyber threats as a part of hybrid influencing.

THE ENVIRONMENT AND CONDITION OF THE MARITIME AREA

As the tensions grow, also maritime areas are reserved increasingly for defence use. Environmental cooperation with Russia is challenging and interaction is reduced, which has a negative impact on the state of the maritime environment. EU takes on a strong role in climate action. Attempts are made to stop eutrophication by means of regulation, decelerating the weakening of the state of the marine environment. Microplastics are banned in the EU, but this does not solve the problem as there are no global treaties on the matter. Signs of climate change can be observed in the weather conditions, but the Baltic Sea is still a favourable environment for many sources of livelihood.

FISHING AND AQUACULTURE

As EU’s environmental politics become tighter, the taxation of meat is increased and a fish and vegetable-based diet becomes significantly more common. Meat is a luxury product, whereas aquacultured fish is everyday food. The interests of the Finnish Defence Force impede trawling in the open sea and fishing focuses on the coast. EU’s agricultural policy relies on more productive areas and aquaculture in the Baltic Sea is subsidised. Efforts to reach self-sufficiency in the production of protein and the improved state of water due to stricter regulation increase aquaculture and production becomes multifold, focusing on the Bay of Bothnia and the Archipelago Sea in particular. The use of domestic fish and the utilisation of side streams generated by it as well as processing (e.g., bio-oil) increase significantly. Various blue bioeconomy innovations also increase the demand for raw materials from the Baltic Sea (such as cosmetics and the medicine).

TOURISM AND RECREATIONAL USE

The citizens’ feeling of security suffers from the increased tension and information influencing. Tourism becomes more difficult, and hardly any tourists visit the Baltic Sea anymore. Cruises to Russia also decrease. The political tensions (such as flyover bans) are a part of the reason, but also personal travel emission budgets reduce tourism. Local recreation becomes a trend and tourism is the luxury of few wealthy people (a seascape becomes a privilege). Many cultural heritage sites are held by the Finnish Defence Force. There is increased pressure of use in popular tourism and recreation destinations such as the Suomenlinna sea fortress. Instead of the Gulf of Finland, tourism potential focuses on the safe and peaceful Bay of Bothnia (incl. branding of silence and darkness). 

Description of the plot

2019-2025

  • The trade war between USA, China and Russia escalates, import duties are elevated and deliveries denied. Geopolitical tensions increase, slowing down the economic development in Europe as well.
  • Stronger confrontations. The western countries bring out the unfair competition in China, for example, and areas increasingly need to choose the political camp with which they identify themselves.
  • Resource protectionism increases, adding to the uncertainty of the availability of energy and minerals.
  • As the foreign policy tensions increase, EU’s internal cooperation grows tighter in order to ensure the security of supply in the region, and integration between EU countries increases.
  • Cooperation with Russia in terms of the Baltic Sea also becomes more difficult when the security environment weakens (incl. the implementation of environmental cooperation projects).
  • A fatal extreme weather phenomenon puts pressure on climate policy actions in Europe, and EU substantially tightens its environmental politics. Microplastics are banned in the EU, for example.
  • As EU’s environmental politics become tighter, the taxation of meat is increased and a fish and vegetable-based diet becomes significantly more common. The Water Framework Directive is interpreted more extensively from the perspective of sustainable development while also considering the perspectives of social and economic sustainability.
  • Investors seeking sustainable targets invest heavily on aquaculture and large facilities are built in increasing numbers in the open sea, especially in the Gulf of Bothnia.
  • The citizens’ feeling of security suffers from the increased tension and information influencing. Regional tourism and recreation becomes a trend.

2025-2035

  • The geopolitical hybrid influencing between superpowers increases and military tensions increase also in the Baltic Sea. As the tensions grow, also maritime areas are reserved increasingly for defence use.
  • The Baltic Sea area more and more becomes a strategic playing field, and the strategic significance of logistics routes is emphasised. Safe growth corridors are emphasised (such as Turku–Åland–Stockholm), and the ports of the west coast gain strength.
  • Due to the crisis of the foreign policy, energy self-sufficiency on the European level is emphasised even more and a joint energy union of the EU is created. Energy security is increased with strong control towards low-carbon economy.
  • New energy infrastructure is built in the Baltic Sea (marine cables). Offshore wind power is supported and transmission cabling is constructed to offshore wind farms.
  • EU’s increasing environmental regulation focuses on the meeting of climate goals, and the diversity and good condition of marine nature receives less attention.
  • Load to the waters becomes a part of food policy control from the perspective of the total load caused by food production. In addition to tax control, load quotas are distributed/bought between agriculture and fishery within catchment areas.
  • Fishing opportunities decrease in the Gulf of Finland especially and import of fish to Russia decreases.
  • Fish farming in the open sea increases globally as production methods and the competitiveness of production improve. Efforts to reach self-sufficiency in the production of protein, the longer growing season and the improved state of water due to stricter regulation increase aquaculture and production becomes multifold.

2035-2050

  • EU focuses on strengthening the internal market and hybrid defence in the politically and economically uncertain global situation. Floating weapons depots gain popularity in international maritime areas.
  • Europe continues to urbanize as the ageing population moves to nearby cities. People pack into cities also in Finland, and the biggest coastal cities keep their vitality.
  • EU and Scandinavia aim more and more at self-sufficiency in terms of energy and food production.
  • Carbon neutrality, i.e., the balance between carbon dioxide emissions and carbon sinks, is achieved by 2050 by many Baltic Sea countries thanks to active climate policy.
  • As the water temperature increases due to climate change, the Baltic Sea stays unfrozen almost the entire winter, which increases fish farming on the sea.
  • The use of domestic fish and the utilisation of side streams generated by it as well as processing (e.g., bio-oil) increase significantly. Various blue bioeconomy innovations also increase the demand for raw materials from the Baltic Sea (such as cosmetics and the medicine).
  • Increased rainfall, poor environmental cooperation and structural loads continue to eutrophicate the Baltic Sea. More and more plastic trash, chemical residues and environmental toxins accumulate in the sea. The diversity of flora and fauna is reduced.
  • Tourism decreases and focuses on the safe and peaceful Bay of Bothnia. Tourism becomes the luxury of few wealthy people and a seascape becomes a privilege. Many cultural heritage sites are held by the Finnish Defence Force.

impacts on MSP’s objectives

BLUE GROWTH

  • The general uncertainty and fear of conflicts weaken the economic growth and reduce investments and jobs.
  • The biggest cities on the coast are doing fine, while the smaller ones are withering away.
  • Operations and transport increase in the northern maritime areas as the highest tensions are focused on the Gulf of Finland. This may bring opportunities for livelihood and create synergies in the northern areas, but also lead to conflicts.
  • The Finnish Defence Force expand their operations to cover even larger maritime areas and islands. This restricts the construction of wind power. Areas with limited access also restrict tourism and recreation.
  • Ensuring the security of supply is emphasised in energy production. EU’s energy politics may allow a better overall security of supply in the EU. Transmission cables shared with Sweden become possible and the need for domestic clean energy may also be emphasised.

STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

  • The tense operating environment reduces environmental protection. Environmental risks and the risk of accidents increase. On the other hand, ecological values may become stronger in the areas of limited access.
  • The increased activities in the northern maritime areas cause increasing negative impacts on the environment due to the dredging of new fairways, for example.
  • The growth in logistics increases the risk of accidents at sea and causes more dredging of fairways and the related impacts. The increased extraction of sand from the sea may threaten diversity.

PEOPLE’S WELL-BEING AND PARTICIPATION

  • The opportunities to participation decrease and democracy declines.
  • The significance of local communities may grow.
  • The restrictions of access decrease everyman’s rights.

Indicative opportunities of scenario 3 identified based on the workshops with regard to the state of the environment, blue growth and people’s well-being and participation.