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Baltic COMPASS was an agriculture-environment partnership for a healthy Baltic Sea and competitive Baltic Sea regions.

Inactive project


Project contact

Kim Andersson

Baltic COMPASS (Comprehensive Policy Actions and Investments in Sustainable Solutions in Agriculture in the Baltic Sea Region) project was funded by the EU Baltic Sea Region Programme from December 2009 to December 2012. The goal of Baltic COMPASS was to promote sustainable agriculture in the Baltic Sea Region. SEI was responsible for the development of policy adaptation and governance in COMPASS.

The partnership consisted of 22 authorities, institutions, and interest organizations in 9 riparian countries: Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Russia was integrated in the associated partnership status in order to secure all-Baltic coverage.

Project partners were national authorities, scientific institutions and interest organizations specialized in the EU policies and provision of advice to farmers. Thus, the partnership was composed to envisage both horizontal and vertical integration. The strategic role of the partnership was to enable for both agricultural and environmental interests in the communicative process.

Key focus areas of COMPASS included

  • Investments in environmental technologies
  • Adaptation of policies and governance
  • Good examples and best practice
  • Spatial planning and risk management
  • Cost-efficiency of actions
  • East and west integration

Expected long-term results

  1. Reduced loss of nutrients (eutrophication) from agriculture to the Baltic Sea.
  2. Stronger Baltic Sea Region partnership between agricultural and environmental interests.
  3. Practical solutions supporting implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.
  4. More cost-efficient policy actions and measures taken to reduce eutrophication.
  5. Widening of perspectives – from pure nutrient issues to provision of ecosystem services.
  6. Stronger integration between western and eastern countries – EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.
  7. Baltic Sea Region internationally exposed as a pilot region for innovative solutions in reducing eutrophication.


Rocky sea shore

Baltic Sea. Flickr.

Work Package 6 (WP6) was led by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and implemented in collaboration with SEI Tallinn, the Institute of Technology and Natural Sciences of Poland (ITP), the Baltic Environment Forum (BEF), the State Agency for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural areas of the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein (LLUR), the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the Lithuanian Institute of Agrarian Economics, Aarhus University, the Central Research Institute for Complex Use of Water Resources in Belarus and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE).

The work package specifically aimed to support the legitimacy of adaptive governance processes in integrated agricultural-environmental policy development in the Baltic Sea Region. The objective of the work package was to bring added value to the work of associate partners and other institutions implementing agro-environmental policies, measures and programmes in the Baltic Sea Region.

To achieve this objective, a generic roadmap was developed at the initial phase of the project by the partners involved in WP6, working with representatives from other work packages to identify opportunities for collaboration. The ultimate aim of the work was to support policy adaptation through broader and deeper dialogue between countries and sectors. The work of WP6 was based on the notion that countries and stakeholders have different interests and perspectives connected to the role of agriculture and the Baltic Sea. For this reason, the work package convened and facilitated multi-stakeholder participation in the policy analyses and the action planning processes. It should also be noted that a belief underpinning the work of WP6 was that the drivers of change are not limited to the public sector, but exist equally in the private and civil society sectors.

The work package was designed to contribute to ongoing policy processes and previously planned activities by stakeholders in the Region, which in some cases included national reporting to the European Commission on the implementation of Directives and evaluations of the Rural Development Programme, and improving the fitness of EU member states to operationalize EU policies. It also included input to the Commission and the European Parliament on ongoing EU Directives such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the Nitrate Directives, the Flood Directive and the Habitat Directive, as well as upcoming policies and the forthcoming Green Paper on Sustainable Phosphorus. A key policy input was on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The first output: Transboundary cooperation in agro-environmental governance: Lessons from past and ongoing Interreg projects, a report on the lessons learned from Interreg projects on the ability of governance systems to implement policies with an agro-environmental impact. The report reviewed past, ongoing and planned Interreg projects, in transnational sea basins or transboundary rivers, that addressed issues connected to eutrophication. It aimed to help build a body of evidence on the legacy of policy implementation, and to help establish the network of relevant actors and projects in the Baltic Sea Region required for the implementation of Baltic COMPASS.

WP6 then undertook an analysis of the implementability of agro-environmental targets by examining the use of various measures, programmes and policies in each country. This work used a combination of consultation and desktop review to reveal “implementability issues” from the perspective of the various implementing agencies and other stakeholders. National WP6 partners organized iterations of meetings and workshops with sub-national and national actors, and the work formed part of a learning process to inform and improve concerted action. The findings were published in a regional synthesis: The Common Agricultural Policy post-2013: a Pathway to Regional Cohesion? Lessons Learned in Implementing Agri-Environmental Measures in the Baltic Sea RegionRead about the key findings from the country-specific reports»

In addition to the reports on the implementability of agri-env measures, WP6 carried out a foresight analysis of projected changes in land use in the Baltic Sea Region, 2020–2050, with a specific focus on land use for agricultural purposes. The report served as a pre-feasibility study for the wider Baltic COMPASS project. It presented the macro trends and drivers affecting land use and agricultural production. The key trends identified were: an increasing global population and demand for agricultural products as incomes rise, populations becoming increasingly urbanized and food preferences moving towards more processed, convenience and higher value-added products. Other factors addressed were weather and climate changes, which are predicted to have adverse impacts on agricultural outputs, in particular in tropical and developing countries. Rising energy prices as a primary input to agricultural production and other associated issues, such as higher input costs and slower technology application, were also identified. The ecological pressures of finite agricultural land availability, evidenced by the expansion of agriculture into increasingly marginal land, and water use and availability, where 47% of the world’s population is predicted to face severe water stress by 2050, were also raised.


Agriculture in the Baltic Sea Region is highly diverse, with a wide range of farm sizes and a mix of intensive and extensive farming systems. Our research suggests that this diversity should be viewed as an asset, because it provides multiple opportunities to generate ecosystem services and other public goods. Policymakers should embrace approaches that support a more diverse agricultural sector – but this will require a more flexible CAP payment scheme than that which is currently envisaged.

Our national studies found an uneven playing field in the implementation of the CAP among EU member states in the Baltic Sea Region. The countries have different entitlements under the CAP, so they have different options available when using the CAP to comply with EU environmental directives. We also found a growing trend to employ CAP payments to boost national compliance, which happens at the expense of regional collective action around common water bodies such as the Baltic Sea.

Many agri-environmental measures implemented under Pillar 2 have failed to produce the expected results, or had unexpected or unintended consequences. This is partly due to the fact that the measures, which include both technological and management interventions, were not well targeted. In most of the Baltic Sea Region countries, stakeholders reported a significant mismatch between the financial incentives available and the market forces they aim to influence. In general, farmers feel they are underpaid.

There is widespread mistrust of the farm payment system among farmers and landowners, as well as civil servants, NGOs and the private sector. Other widely cited problems included the lack of measures designed for different agricultural systems and the lack of effective monitoring. Across the region, the national studies found a need for more stakeholder involvement, including the private sector and civil society, and greater cross-sectoral coordination to improve the design and implementation of measures.

Source: Powell et al (2012). The Common Agricultural Policy Post-2013: Could Reforms Make Baltic Sea Region Farms More Sustainable? Policy Brief. Stockholm Environment Institute. Sweden.

Baltic Compass Work Package 6, Governance and Policy Adaptation, has produced six national reports that examine the challenges faced in implementing agri-environmental targets in the Baltic Sea countries. The reports and policy briefs offer a situation analysis on lessons learned on the implementability of agri-environmental targets in each country. Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland have all reviewed their agri-environmental policies via the analysis of targets and measures adopted in programmes and policies, such as the Rural Development Programmes. The main findings of the reports have been derived from consultations with implementing agencies and discussed with key stakeholders in order to identify the main challenges.

Following the identification of key issues linked to the implementability of agri-env measures, WP6 invited stakeholders jointly to assess and deliberate on how these issues could be addressed through improved governance. The key purpose of this work was to support policy adaptation through broader and deeper dialogue between countries and sectors.

Based on stakeholder interests, WP6 designed activities to respond to selected priority issues linked to the harmonization and adaptation of national and regional policies and directives. The work was implemented through a series of targeted assessments and dialogues, including national and transnational workshops, to discuss issues from a regional perspective and facilitate learning and exchange between countries. The issues explored were:

The viability of biogas as an agro-environmental measure

As Denmark seeks to increase investment in renewable energy sources, it is investigating revising its biogas-related policies. This assessment on the promotion of biogas examined the ongoing policy revision, as well as the enabling and disabling factors shaping the promotion of biogas.

The work also looked into how biogas might generate multiple benefits, reconciling economic, energy, climate and broader environmental objectives. Interviews with national policymakers and other actors were supplemented by a case study of the biogas plant in Bornholm, Denmark. The assessment demonstrated some of the opportunities and challenges facing local biogas projects. The results were shared at a National Roundtable Event and are seen as relevant to the other countries in the Baltic Sea Region. Moreover, the results provide new insights for the EU to reflect on when deciding whether biogas should be included as an agri-environmental measure in the CAP.

Fostering regional cooperation for improved phosphorus management and reuse

In recent years, there has been mounting awareness that phosphorus is not only essential for agriculture/food production, but also a limited resource. New governance measures are required to ensure its use is sustainable. More effective reuse of fertilizer nutrients could potentially save agricultural communities significant sums of money, reduce the dependence of the Baltic Sea Region on fertilizer imports, lessening vulnerability to price shocks, and benefit the environment and citizens’ well-being.

In the September 2011 Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, the European Commission received approval to explore future governance alternatives for promoting effective recycling across sectors in society. A European Green Paper on Phosphorus is being prepared by the European Commission.

In recognition of the opportunity to contribute to new European policy developments in the area of phosphorus management and reuse, WP6 convened stakeholders in the Baltic Sea Region to derive a collective set of messages from a regional perspective. The work included a regional “pre-consultation” among government representatives, farmer federations and civil society to elicit views on potential policy changes on phosphorous. The insights resulted in the report Governance Innovations for Improved Phosphorus Management and Reuse: Voices from the Baltic Sea Region, Synthesis from a “Pre-consultation for EU Green Paper on Sustainable Phosphorus. The findings were shared at a Conference on the Nitrates Directive and Phosphorus, held on 10–11 May 2012, convened by the Danish EU Chairmanship, and contributions were made to Danish governmental preparations for the second day of the conference, which focused on phosphorus management.

The long-awaited Green Paper on Sustainable Phosphorous, which is expected to set out proposals for new EU policy to promote phosphorous management and reuse, remains blocked within the European Commission. Meanwhile, a group of member states, research institutions and businesses (the so-called frontrunners) mobilized to convene the European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference(ESPC) in order to maintain political momentum and raise awareness.

WP6 took the opportunity to convene a Roundtable Session to explore how innovations on phosphorous reuse could be adapted to the diversity of farming systems in Europe, and promote rather than compromise regional cooperation.


Key documents:


River Basin Management Plans: linking water and agriculture

River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) focus on the protection, improvement and sustainable use of the water environment. The Water Framework Directive sets out a requirement for EU member states to develop RBMPs for the planning and implementation of measures to improve water quality.

The objective here was to describe the role and priorities of RBMPs in limiting agricultural pollution, with special reference to diffuse pollution. The measures in the RBMPs to limit pollution from agriculture were analysed, as well as the respective budgets in the Programme of Measures. In addition, five pilot areas in Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden, were selected for detailed analysis. The work generated five country reports, a summary report and two policy briefs.

The key findings of the work on RBMPs are:

  • A majority of the farmers in the five areas around the Baltic Sea are aware of the problems with water quality in surface water.
  • Farmers understand that water pollution might be a consequence of their own behaviour and are aware of the importance of different abatement measures.
  • Estonian and Polish farmers regard manure storage as one of the main sources of contamination of water. According to the farmers, there is a need for special support to modernize storage systems. Raising environmental awareness was also considered very helpful in protecting the waters.
  • Diffuse pollution due to improperly timed or applied fertilizers was seen as a serious problem, but nutrient load from the fields was mainly seen as a secondary issue.
  • RBMPs are well placed in environmental policy, but poorly integrated with the other policies needed to meet the targets on good water status.
  • Agriculture is usually the second biggest sector when it comes to budget allocations in the River Basin Management Plans.
  • Diffuse pollution from agriculture is the priority of agricultural measures in the Programmes of Measures of the RBMPs.
  • The institutional interplay between the agricultural and the environment sectors is rather weak, leaving decision-making and sources of funding split between authorities.
  • Measures to reduce agricultural pollution are poorly targeted at the high risk areas.


Multifunctional wetlands and flood risk management

Some countries in the Baltic Sea Region have embraced wetlands construction as a way to make agriculture more sustainable. Sweden has made great efforts, but it only achieved 60% of its target of adding 12,000 hectares of wetlands between 2000 and 2010. Various reforms could help these programmes attract more participants, put more wetlands in high-priority areas and yield greater environmental benefits.

Wetlands are considered particularly valuable as they have great potential to generate multiple benefits. Thus, the importance of work focused on exploring the role of multifunctional wetlands and flood prevention in the context of Sweden, Finland and the Bug basin connecting Poland and Belarus. The work led by WP6 in collaboration with WP5 included assessments of multifunctional wetlands and the role of flood prevention in Sweden, Finland and the Bug basin in Poland and Belarus.

How can the agricultural sector become more sustainable by providing the ecological services needed for flood mitigation? A regional workshop was organized in Sweden with the aim of sharing practical and scientific knowledge on how to achieve sustainable agriculture in flooded environments, through win-win solutions and considering multiple risks, functions and benefits. The workshop explored the feasibility of stakeholders from the different sectors involved in flood mitigation and wetlands considering solutions from outside their traditional remit, in particular the ecosystem services provided by wetland environments.  A regional synthesis was produced in preparation for the meeting, based on the reports from Sweden, Finland and the Bug Basin.

The results of the workshop indicated a need for exchanges of experience between countries, linked to multifunctional wetlands and the role of flood prevention. Moreover, the need for tools to create synergies in policy implementation linked to the WFD, the Nitrate Directive, the Flood Directive and the CAP was shared by all country representatives.

Key insights based on work in Sweden

  • Sweden may be focusing too narrowly on the role of wetlands in containing and removing nutrients (i.e. nitrogen and phosphorus) from agricultural runoff. Wetlands can bring many other benefits: increased biodiversity, flood risk reduction, recreational opportunities and increasing the availability of irrigation reservoirs, among others. The full range of benefits should be valued and promoted.
  • The structure of financing mechanisms is very important. Sweden’s main source of funding for wetlands projects, the Rural Development Programme, focuses on individual farmers, and to date the results have been weak and disjointed. Larger-scale initiatives led by groups of farmers or municipalities can achieve greater impacts, but governance and financing changes are needed to encourage such projects.
  • Wetlands initiatives must recognize that farms are businesses and cannot be expected to invest in wetlands or forgo income without proper compensation. Adjustments at both the national and the EU levels may be needed to ensure that farmers do not have to incur losses or take needless financial risks.
  • It is essential to enhance collaboration in order to achieve integrated multi-sectoral water basin management. The implementation of the Flood Directive within the EU provides an important window of opportunity to enhance synergies through coordination with the Water Framework Directive. The implementation of measures for nutrient and flood management needs to take a broader view, to ensure the engagement of all relevant sectors and actors. A challenge for the agricultural sector is how to adapt RDPs to facilitate and support better integrated basin management.


Exploring opportunities and challenges connected to payment for ecosystem services and the use of an outcome-based approach for monitoring and evaluation

A recent Baltic COMPASS report highlighted the diversity of farming systems in the Baltic Sea Region as an opportunity to recognize and value environmental public goods under different modes of agricultural production (Powell et al. 2012). When viewed at the European scale, the production systems in the Baltic Sea Region are less intensive and use fewer external inputs than the European average. In the process of “greening” the CAP, payment for ecosystem (PES) services offers a way to recognize the value of farms that generate a considerable amount of ecosystem services. Seeing this as a potential “win-win” solution, Baltic COMPASS has coordinated an assessment and facilitated dialogues among key stakeholders. The assessment included a report on outcome-based approaches – based on Lithuania and Latvia. A further report was produced on the implementability of outcome-based approaches in Latvia and Lithuania.

The assessment reports served to facilitate a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the effectiveness of different policy instruments in supporting agricultural practices that also generate ecosystem services. The specific aim was to develop a methodology for an outcome-based approach to assess ecosystem service provision as a prerequisite for the introduction of schemes providing payments for ecosystem services. The Baltic Environment Forum (BEF), in collaboration with Dr Gerald Schwarz, also conducted case studies in Lithuania and Latvia. These provide background information about ecosystem services, PES and outcome-based approaches. The aim was for the dialogue to assist in the sharing of lessons learned between countries and across sectors, and generate new insights in the context of different agricultural practices. To share experiences between countries and find a way forward on outcome-based approaches in agri-environment payment schemes and PES, WP6 organized a regional meeting together with Järki, a Finnish agri-environmental project, in Lohja, Finland, on 30 November 2012.

In order to communicate some of the core lessons from the work of WP6 to a wider audience in the Baltic Sea Region, WP6 worked with a production company to produce an animated film. The film, Farming for sustainable futures: a Baltic tale, builds on the joint endeavours by the partners involved in WP6 and demonstrates the complex reality of addressing eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. The issues explored are based on the findings from the WP6 reports and stakeholder dialogues. The film is intended to trigger a discussion on how to bridge the environmental and agricultural sectors. It is expected that it will help with the process of determining appropriate pathways for the Baltic Sea Region that are relevant to all the different stakeholders.


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