International cooperation

Principles for maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea (HELCOM-VASAB) 

1) Sustainable development

2) Ecosystem approach

3) Long term perspective and objectives

4) Precautionary Principle

5) Participation and transparency

6) High quality data and information basis

7) Transnational coordination and consultation

8) Coherent terrestrial and maritime spatial planning

9) Planning adapted to characteristics and special conditions at different areas

10) Continuous planning

The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive and the Land Use and Building Act require cooperation with the neighbouring states to coordinate maritime spatial plans. Maritime spatial planning in the Member States is progressing according to a similar timetable, as the maritime spatial plans are due to be completed by the end of March 2021. The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive also requires cooperation with third countries, as far as possible, through existing international institutions. The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for ensuring international cooperation.

HELCOM-VASAB maritime spatial planning working group

In 2010, the Baltic Sea countries established a joint HELCOM-VASAB maritime spatial planning working group within the framework of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area and regional planning cooperation. The working group is responsible for the further development of maritime spatial planning and the coordination of maritime spatial plans in the Baltic Sea. The Åland Islands also participate in the working group, in addition to mainland Finland. Legislation concerning maritime spatial planning in Russia is currently under way, so the preparation of the Russian maritime spatial plan for the Baltic Sea has not yet started. However, Russia is actively participating in the work of the HELCOM-VASAB working group.

The working group has prepared common principles for maritime spatial planning, as well as a recommendation on the application of the ecosystem approach (2015), a recommendation on international cooperation and participation in maritime spatial planning (2016) and recommendation on a knowledge base for maritime spatial planning (2018). The working group is currently preparing a common knowledge base for maritime spatial plans, criteria for the compatibility of plans and opportunities for developing the ecological network. 

The working group also serves as the Horizontal Action Leader for the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, in which capacity the group can influence maritime spatial planning projects implemented in the Baltic Sea and create favourable conditions for cooperation and exchange of information, as well as organising an international maritime spatial planning forum every two years.

Maritime spatial planning contributes to the implementation of Finland’s Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

Project cooperation in maritime spatial planning

Several maritime spatial planning development projects have been implemented between the Baltic Sea countries since the mid-2000s. In the most recent major projects, the Baltic SCOPE and the Pan Baltic SCOPE, implemented under the supervision of Sweden, designers have discussed maritime spatial plans under preparation, as well as their preparation methods and coordination opportunities. 

When preparing its maritime spatial plans, Finland has engaged in bilateral cooperation with Sweden and Estonia in particular. In addition, international consultation events have been organised during the start-up phase of maritime spatial planning in May 2018 and after the completion of the draft in April 2020. 

EU cooperation in maritime spatial planning

The EU Directorate-General for maritime affairs supports the preparation of maritime spatial plans in the Member States through the EU MSP Platform and by targeting funding at maritime spatial planning development projects. The Platform provides the Member States with expert assistance and manages the exchange of information between them. The Platform also develops a European knowledge base for maritime spatial planning.