Country studies

Comparative study of national laws

The research team have initiated a study together with Danish, Estonian and Polish researchers based at the Universities of Copenhagen, Tartu and Gdansk, each carrying out an individual country study that was conducted in the second half of 2012 and reported in 2013. The resulting country reports are made available digitally below, as well as on the Stockholm Centre for Environmental Law and Policy (SMC) web page to provide opportunity for further use of the data by the project group members, and other researchers.

The country studies were carried out and reported in accordance to a common template, thus ensuring comparability of the reported data. Consequently, all country base studies will show the following contents:

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the national legal system, and the environmental problem from the national perspective. This introduction provides a context to the further study, and possibility for understanding differences and similarities. Such understanding can become important in further comparative analyses.

Chapter 2 shows how, when and where the central international law is implemented in the national legal order. This links the national regulations to the relevant international law, and provides materials for more structural comparison and assessment for the level and method of implementation. It also provides a guide for further and more functionally oriented investigations of the regulation of nutrient emissions control. The chapter covers BSAP and other HELCOM documents, the WFD, the MSD, the Nitrate Directive, and the Waste Water Directive, etc.

In the following parts (Chapter 3 and 4) of the study, the regulation of the sources of nutrients pollution chosen for this study are described. Together with Chapter 5 on river basin management, these parts are central for the study. The purpose here is both to describe the regulatory system and to assess its potential for ecosystems approach, or lack thereof. First of all, the relevant regulatory order is to be described, including law on substantive standards and regulatory instruments for controlling compliance, and realizing the objectives and aims (which should have been mentioned above). The authors have been asked to note observations of legal and practical problems in such regulation, to not only describe “black letter law” but also “law in action”.

Chapters 3–5 importantly also present reflections and some analytical observations pertaining to the presence and the realization of ecosystems approach in the relevant areas of national environmental law and management. The authors have looked for four characteristics or indicators of ecosystems approach, and have been asked to comment on a series of matters:

  1. Ecological standards in regulating agriculture. How are such standards prescribed, monitored, enforced, etc.?
  2. Adaptiveness. Is regulation adaptive to the status of the ecological systems and how?
  3. Stakeholders involvement. Are stakeholders effectively involved in the regulatory procedure, and are the effects on different kinds of stakeholders considered?
  4. Legal measures in response to poor ecological status. Is regulation flexible, so as to intervene and adjust to observed poor ecological status or changed environmental circumstances? Can stakeholders trigger such flexibility?

The reports are concluded with a closing chapter 6 (for the Estonian report some added information about other relevant legal measures have been presented under Chapter 6, leaving concluding remarks for Chapter 7).


Swedish Law

- on Controlling Emissions of Nutrients in the Baltic Sea Region

Marine environment is well established on the Swedish political agenda. The government’s “new generation of marine policy” aims for sustainable use of the resources of the sea and coastal areas, ecosystem preservation and restoration, as well as development and growth of business related to the sea.
Sweden is one of the main contributors of nutrient pollution to the Baltic Sea, with about 19 % of the nitrogen load, and 13 % of the phosphorous load. The main sources are agriculture, industry and municipal wastewater treatment plants. A wide range of measures have been taken to reduce the output, which has led to some, but far too little reduction in the anthropogenic loads. It is argued that fulfilment of the BSAP reduction targets is far away.

Download the report Sweden (729 Kb)

Danish Law

- on Controlling Emissions of Nutrients in the Baltic Sea Region

The Danish legal system for regulation of nutrients leaching from agriculture and wastewater facilities establishes a comprehensive set of measures in accordance with a number of national political agreements and action plans elaborated since the mid-80’ies. Although significant reduction of nutrient pollution has been achieved, the expected improvement of in particular the marine aquatic environment has not yet been achieved. New reduction targets have been established and additional measures are now being implemented as part of the river basin management process according to the Water Framework Directive.

Download the report: Denmark (542 Kb)

Polish Law

- on Controlling Emissions of Nutrients in the Baltic Sea Region
Eutrophication is a well-recognised problem of Baltic States. Although many instruments of cooperation have been established, which include international law (eg. Helsinki Convention 1972/92) and European Union law, still little progress is visible in this area. Poland is considered to be one of the biggest sources of nutrients introduced in the river waters of the Baltic Sea. It is also one of the biggest countries of the region with biggest population. Multiple actions are being undertaken in Poland in order to solve the eutrophication problem. Most of them are located inlands as the land source pollution plays the dominant role in Baltic Sea pollution. Despite many efforts and objectively seen improvement of statistics in this area, still lot has to be done in order to achieve goals of Poland stemming from Helsinki Convention 1992 and European Law.

Download the report: Poland (694 Kb)

Estonian Law

- on Controlling Emissions of Nutrients in the Baltic Sea Region

Estonian regulation on agriculture for water protection purposes generally does not reflect the ecosystems approach. In the water management plans, neither regional targets nor concrete measures have been set to the reduction of nutrients to move towards achieving environmental objectives for water bodies affected by activities of relevant farms. Assessment of cumulative impacts of agricultural pollution from rivers on the Baltic Sea has not been undertaken. Very detailed rules to regulate agricultural activities have been enacted. Much emphasis is placed on implementing good agricultural practice, but it is mostly legally non-binding on farmers. The Water Act does not provide an operational and flexible legal mechanism to implement location or farm-specific measures.

Regulation on controlling pollution from domestic wastewater is not sufficiently dynamic to allow proper application of the ecosystemsapproach. There is no assessment in water management plans as to how wastewater directed into rivers may cumulatively affect the coastal sea. The Water Act provides only for the possibility to apply more stringent limit values in order to protect the concrete water body into which wastewater is directed.
Regarding water quality planning and management, Estonian law reflects ecosystem approach because it is based on the EU law. The national law is not sufficient for effective implementation of EU law. River basin management plans are inadequate for ensuring effective ecosystem based management. The monitoring system is weak. Marine issues are not sufficiently integrated.

Download the report: Estonia (836 Kb)

Project frame

The research about the 'legal approaches to controlling emissions of nutrients in the Baltic Sea region' was initiated in January 2012 by Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy Centre (SELPC) at the Faculty of law, Stockholm University. The project is funded by the research programme BEAM and carried out by the legal scientist Annika K. Nilsson. 

Key researcher
Annika K. Nilsson
, Faculty of Law, Uppsala University, Uppsala universitet


Results from the analysis of the country studies was presented at the Conference: Towards an ecosystem-based legal framework for the Baltic Sea, hosted by the Stockholm Environmental Law and Policy Centre (SELPC)  and Baltic Sea Ecosystem Adaptive Management (BEAM), at Stockholm University, in cooperation with the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (HaV).

Filmed lectures available!

Video summary

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