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The VASAB CSPD/BSR is supported by a Secretariat with permanent staff. It was initially located at Karlskrona, Sweden, from 1994 to 2006 - in Gdansk, Poland.

Since January 2007 VASAB Secretariat is located in Riga, Latvia. The State Regional Development Agency of Latvia is hosting VASAB Secretariat until 31 December 2024.

As decided by the Third Ministerial Conference in 1994 in Tallinn, the main tasks of VASAB Secretariat are the following:

  • to perform Secretariat functions for the CSPD/BSR,
  • to push forward the approved actions and assist in the preparation of Ministers' meetings, support common activities decided by CSPD/BSR,
  • organise the on-going concertation process with other institutions,
  • promote the concept of co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region,
  • promote and accompany research and pilot projects,
  • identify new required common actions,
  • organise the mutual information among the BSR countries and regions.
The Head of VASAB Secretariat is responsible for:
  • the execution of tasks according to the CSPD/BSR guidelines and decisions;
  • economic and effective spending of funds in accordance with the approved budgetary lines.
Rules of Operations of the VASAB Secretariat are adopted by the 75th VASAB CSPD/BSR meeting on 19 May 2017.

BSP logoThe € 3,7 m project BaltSeaPlan (2009-2012) accompanied the EU Maritime Policy by supporting the introduction of Integrated Maritime Spatial Planning and preparation of National Maritime Strategies within Baltic Sea Region. It also contributed to the implementation of the HELCOM recommendation on broad-scale Maritime Spatial Planning and the VASAB Vilnius Declaration.


a) Improve the joint information base / stocktaking
b) Include Spatial Planning in National Maritime Strategies
c) Develop a Common Spatial Vision for the Baltic Sea
d) Demonstrate MSP in 8 pilot areas: Danish Straights / T-Route (DK), Pomeranian Bight (DE/DK/SE/PL), Western Gulf of Gdansk (PL), Middle Bank (SE/PL), Lithuanian Coast (LT), Western Coast of Latvia (LV), Pärnu Bay (EE), Hiiumaa and Saaremaa Islands (EE)
e) Lobbying and capacity building for MSP

Project web page:

On 19 March 2012 VASAB CSPD/BSR acknowledged the BaltSeaPlan Vision 2030 as important input towards common understanding of MSP in the BSR. Press release: VASAB supports BaltSeaPlan Vision 2030

Maritime Spatial Planning

Baltic Sea has been and remains to be key factor that forms political, cultural, environmental and economic identity of the Baltic Sea Region. The most prominent cities of the region have grown as ports on the coast of the Baltic Sea or on the waterways immediately connected to the Sea. Many of these cities continue to function as important sea ports serving the ever increasing flows of goods through the Baltic Sea Region.
Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea Region has evolved over many years.

The VASAB Stockholm Ministerial Conference in 1996 introduced "Recommendations for Spatial Planning of the Coastal Zone in the BSR". Since then coastal areas and islands have been one of the pillars of VASAB spatial concepts.

The VASAB Wismar Ministerial Conference in 2001 passed "VASAB 2010 PLUS Spatial Development Action Programme" where the sustainable development of coastal zones and islands is one of the six key themes for transnational spatial planning cooperation extending spatial planning also to off-shore side.

Between 2002 – 2005 the BaltCoast project developed recommendations on the role of spatial planning in ICZM. Based on the recommendations the VASAB Gdansk Ministerial Conference in 2005 suggested "sea use planning as a tool to prevent conflicts in intensively used offshore areas".

Within East West Window project VASAB Working Group on sea use planning and ICZM was established in 2006. The Working Group was chaired by the Polish Ministry of Regional Development. The work of the Working Group in October 2008 resulted with the elaborated concept of sea use planning in the BSR. This required first of all elaboration of the vision for long term development of the Baltic Sea space, a as well as principles and priorities upon which such vision can be implemented. Afterwards, the system of joint sea planning and management can be established using new governance methods and adequate tools. The Working Group also produced Compendium on MSP Systems in the BSR countries. 

In parallel, the 2007 HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) introduced MSP as a process aiming at more coherent management of various human activities taking place in the Baltic Sea. BSAP requires contracting parties to jointly develop by 2010, as well as to test, apply and evaluate by 2012, in cooperation with other relevant international bodies, broad-scale, cross-sectorial, MSP principles based on the Ecosystem Approach. VASAB chairmanship statement on cooperation with Helsinki Commission on marine spatial planning issues in the Baltic Sea Region, November 2007 welcomed HELCOM initiative and proposed expertise and knowledge of spatial planning for the implementation of the HELCOM BSAP.

The importance of MSP as a key instrument for an Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU was highlighted by European Commission in the "Roadmap for Maritime Spatial Planning Achieving Common Principles in the EU", announced in November 2008.

VASAB Expert and Stakeholder Workshop on Maritime Spatial Planning Challenges in the Baltic Sea, in Vilnius, on 15 October 2009 was organized to propose further steps towards development of MSP in the BSR in dialogue with experts and stakeholders. It underlined the role of VASAB as promoter and knowledge base of MSP in the Region. Outcome of the workshop was reported to the VASAB Ministerial Conference on the next day, 16 October, 2009. See Final Key Messages to High Political Level.

The Baltic Sea environment and the sustainable use of the sea resources needs to be supported through an integrated land and sea space planning and management. A common Baltic approach for MSP is discussed and tools and methods of such planning are being developed.

The VASAB Long Term Perspective for the Baltic Sea Region (LTP) envisages that in 2030 the Region should have integrated land and sea space planning, the understanding is reached that sea is a common asset and a development resource of all the countries, and the MSP alleviate the potential sea use conflicts.

The VASAB LTP defines several policy guidelines towards enhancing MSP in the Region:

  • Protecting the Baltic Sea environment and securing sustainable use of the sea resources requires integrated planning and management actions by all BSR countries and relevant sectors of economy (common approach for Baltic MSP and demonstration projects);
  • The Baltic Sea Region has a potential to become a model region for the implementation of the EU Maritime Policy. Joint capacity building actions should be initiated to ensure exchange of experience, promote education availability and to increase competence in MSP.

Full text of the VASAB LTP is available here.


The following steps have been taken to implement VASAB LTP:

  • Joint HELCOM-VASAB MSP WG established in 2010
  • Baltic Sea Broad-Scale MSP principles adopted in 2010
  • Knowledge exchange on good practices in MSP is taking place
  • Best practices and minimum requirements for MSP in the Region discussed in 2012
  • Experience gained of existing cross-border pilot activities (Plan Bothnia, BaltSeaPlan)
  • Education courses on MSP developed in cooperation with Baltic University Program in 2013

Please, watch this five-minute film “Marine Spatial Planning – in a nutshell” that explains MSP simply and dynamically.

This film has been financed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety through its International Climate Initiative. It has been jointly produced by the global Blue Solutions Initiative and the MARISMA project in the Benguela Current region.


Urban-rural relations

The urban-rural divide presents one of the major challenges for the cohesion of the Baltic Sea Region. This divide becomes more and more detrimental for the rural areas in effect of the population ageing and outward migration.

The VASAB Long Term Perspective for the Baltic Sea Region (LTP) envisages that in 2030 the Region should feature a well-balanced setup of metropolitan centres, which act as the global and the BSR gateways, and small and medium-sized cities and towns, which secure a high-quality of life for their residents in both urban and rural areas.

The VASAB LTP defines several policy guidelines towards promoting urban networking and urban-rural cooperation:

  • Metropoles need to play a strategic role in mobilising the Baltic Sea Region's potential for stronger international services;
  • Breaking the East-West divide pattern in the innovation performance requires a joint network action of the BSR metropoles and stimulation of cluster development in more peripheral areas;
  • Integration processes in the BSR will be strengthened by making use of strategic plans of Saint Petersburg to become a world city;
  • Potential of small and medium-sized cities and towns in the metropolitan areas should be better exploited to connect the Baltic Sea Region with the global networks more efficiently;
  • While institutional and cultural cooperation between all BSR countries is on the good track, a key solution for integrating North West Russia into the economic system of the Baltic Sea Region is to provide incentives for creation of economic clusters as the sub-regional scale;
  • Overcoming the urban-rural divide in the BSR is only feasible through enhanced cooperation and partnership, and through the local capacities for change.

The VASAB LTP envisages nine Action Agendas for the implementation of the mentioned policy guidelines. Full text of the VASAB LTP is available here.


Regarding urban-rural relations in 2010 VASAB has organised 2 expert and stakeholder events. Outcomes are available here:

VASAB Expert Workshop on Urban-Rural Relations in the Baltic Sea Region in Minsk on 21 September 2010 VASAB Expert and Stakeholder meeting on Demographic Trends and Labor Market Development in Kaunas on 8 June 2010







Accessibility links within the Baltic Sea Region are still missing because of the former East-West divide. The situation should be improved to positively influence spatial development of the Eastern part of the Region and territorial cohesion of the Region. There is a particular need for fast road and rail connections between the Region and Central and Western Europe, above all - by Rail Baltica and Via Baltica. There is also a need of improving connectivity in the Northern parts of the Region and connections to the South and East. Rapid implementation of the Motorways of the Baltic Sea is necessary in order to make full use of the potentials of an integrated and sustainable transport network.

The VASAB Long Term Perspective for the Baltic Sea Region (LTP) envisages that in 2030 the Region should account for fast, reliable and environmentally efficient technologies of transport, information and communication that link the territories along and across the Baltic Sea, making the community of the Region well-connected and highly accessible in the contacts both internally and with the outside world.

The VASAB LTP defines several policy guidelines towards improving internal and external accessibility:

  • Inefficient transport connections across the borders impede a tighter integration of the regional and national economies around the Baltic Sea and ability of the Baltic Sea Region's infrastructure to serve the intercontinental flows;
  • Air and maritime transport complement each other well in securing transfer of goods and people-to-people contacts in the Baltic Sea Region, yet some missing or inefficient connections should be placed on the pan-Baltic political agenda;
  • On par with more connections between the eastern and western electricity transmission grids, also a better assessment of the territorial capital of the Baltic Sea Region with regard to renewable energies is necessary to succeed with an integrated energy network;
  • While the digital divide in access to the information and communication technologies (ICT) between and within the BSR countries has in general been mastered, the target of 100% of the local population covered by mobile phone, affordable ICT infrastructure and access to on-line services should be set as the norm.

The VASAB LTP envisages ten Action Agendas for the implementation of the mentioned policy guidelines. Full text of the VASAB LTP is available here.

icon Assessment of European Commission proposal for development of Trans-European Transport Network vs. VASAB Long-term perspective for the territorial development of the Baltic Sea Region, 2011

icon VASAB welcomes the proposal of the European Commission on further development of the trans-European transport network, 25 May 2012

Maritime Spatial Planning

Augmentation of activities in the Baltic Sea has led to increased competition for limited marine space between sectoral interests, such as shipping and maritime transport, extraction of gravel and minerals, offshore energy, ports development, tourism, fisheries and aquaculture in addition to environmental concerns. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) are important tools and processes for improved decision making. They help various users to balance sectoral interests that compete for marine space, and contribute to achieving sustainable use of marine areas to the benefit of economic and social development as well as the marine environment.

The establishment and implementation of MSP by applying the ecosystem approach is required by the EU MSP Directive. Other regulatory frameworks and policy initiatives in the Baltic Sea, addressing both MSP and ICM, can be further facilitated by common cross border cooperation for the implementation of MSP in the Baltic Sea according to the regional set of MSP principles adopted by all BSR countries within VASAB and HELCOM. 

Several Baltic Sea states have already implemented a regime for MSP at national level and some others are in the process of doing so. In order to have a fully functioning planning system at regional (Baltic Sea) level, it is important that all coastal states have national activities for planning in place, and will work together on key transnational topics.

The Regional Baltic MSP Roadmap 2013-2020, adopted by the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in 2013 and endorsed by the VASAB Ministerial Conference in 2014, includes the necessary steps to achieve the goal to draw up and apply maritime spatial plans throughout the BSR which are coherent across borders and apply the ecosystem approach.

In addition, the Guidelines for the implementation of ecosystem-based approach in MSP in the Baltic Sea area and Guidelines on transboundary consultations, public participation and co-operation in MSP process have been adopted in 2016. 

The joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group, established in 2010, is the regional platform for cooperation between BSR countries to ensure coherent MSP processes in the cross-border context and pro-active implementation of the EU MSP Directive as far as EU countries are concerned.

In 2015 the BSR MSP Data Expert Sub-group was established as an expert group under the joint HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group. The aim of the sub-group is to support data, information and evidence availability for MSP processes with regard to cross-border / trans-boundary planning issues.


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