EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

What is the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region?

The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) is the first Macro-regional Strategy in Europe, approved in 2009. The EUSBSR is an agreement between the Member States of the EU and the European Commission to strengthen cooperation between the countries bordering the Baltic Sea to meet the common challenges and to benefit from common opportunities facing the region through three objectives: saving the sea, connecting the region and increasing prosperity. The EUSBSR is implemented in concrete joint projects and processes coordinated by Policy Area Coordinators and respective Focal Points. More:

What is Policy area „Spatial Planning”?

VASAB jointly with HELCOM are Coordinators of the Policy area “Spatial Planning”.

Policy area “Spatial Planning” focuses on encouraging the use of maritime and land-based spatial planning in all Member States around the Baltic Sea and developing a common approach for cross-border cooperation.

The overall goal of the Policy area “Spatial Planning” is to achieve territorial cohesion perspective in the Baltic Sea Region by 2030, i.e. the Region shall be better integrated and coherent macro-region that has reduced the socio-economic development divides between its individual parts and has turned the global challenges into assets.

The strategic targets of the Policy area are:

  • to increase the knowledge on land-based spatial planning in the BSR by organizing regular thematic events and other activities;
  • to draw up and apply of trans-boundary, ecosystem-based Maritime Spatial Plans throughout the BSR which are coherent across the borders and apply ecosystem-based approach.

An interactive brochure about Policy area “Spatial Planning” can be downloaded here.

* Before the revision of the EUSBSR Action Plan approved in 2021, Policy area “Spatial Planning” was called Horizontal Action.



How the Policy area “Spatial Planning” is implemented?


PA Spatial Planning has two thematic areas:

  • land-based spatial planning
  • maritime spatial planning (MSP).

VASAB CSPD/BSR acts as Steering Committee for the land-based spatial planning issues.

The joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group acts as the Steering Committee for the PA Spatial Planning concerning MSP issues.







Land-based spatial planning

Land-based spatial planning has been carried out by all BSR countries at national, regional and local level. VASAB has established a common platform, which allows partners to meet, network, exchange knowledge and experiences. VASAB sketched a first common spatial vision for the Baltic Sea region – ‘Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea 2010’ – (VASAB 2010, adopted in 1994). The VASAB Long Term Perspective for the Territorial Development of the Baltic Sea region (LTP) is the latest contribution to these efforts.

The coordinators of EUSBSR should take the LTP into account when addressing spatial objectives, conditions and impacts of their actions to overcome territorial disparities and socioeconomic divides between parts of the Baltic Sea region.

In order to implement LTP within the EUSBSR and achieve coherent development of the BSR, policy area aims to:

  • contribute to better adaptation of strategies to different types of areas and propose specific approaches for a diverse urban pattern by ensuring pan-Baltic dialogue;
  • underline the need to apply place-based approaches to territorial development policies as well as effective use of functional area’s concept and territorial impact assessment tools by acting as a platform for sharing knowledge and best practices, thereby contributing to the implementation of the Territorial Agenda for the EU 2021 on;
  • observe the territorial development processes in the BSR by using and advancing territorial development monitoring solutions, inter alia developed within projects of the ESPON programme;
  • encourage transnational actions improving accessibility and connectivity of the BSR using potential of TEN-T for regional development and observe regional effects of the European transport infrastructure development;
  • contribute to adaptation, mitigation and resilience to climate change in land-based spatial planning .process.

VASAB Committee for Spatial Planning and Development of the Baltic Sea Region (VASAB CSPD/BSR) acts as a coordination platform for the territorial development in the BSR, in close cooperation with the Council of Baltic Sea States.

Maritime Spatial Planning

Augmentation of activities in the Baltic Sea has led to increased competition for limited marine space between sectoral interests in addition to environmental concerns. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) are important processes for improved decision making.

The establishment and implementation of MSP by applying the ecosystem approach is required by the EU MSP Directive. The Regional Baltic MSP Roadmap 2013-2020 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. Transboundary coherency of maritime spatial plans implies strengthening of cooperation with non-EU countries and organizations.

Common implementation of MSP in the Baltic Sea is described as part of the regional set of MSP principles adopted by all BSR countries within VASAB and HELCOM. In addition, the Guideline 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.

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 in order to support data availability for MSP processes with regard to cross-border / trans-boundary planning issues.