26 April 2023

How Interreg projects help shape regional policies


Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky, Special Advisor to the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, also known as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), explains how Interreg project have been helping push the HELCOM agenda forward. 

Eeva Rantama: What associations do you have when you hear the word Interreg?

To me, it has always been a tool for interregional cooperation, an important tool that supports HELCOM activities. Not only is it about financial support for experts but it is also about being a networking platform, integrating experts from different countries around the Baltic Sea.

How has HELCOM benefitted from Interreg Baltic Sea Region?


We largely utilised the results under the Interreg umbrella. First of all, all HELCOM policy decisions have always been based on the best available knowledge. And how the Programme selects projects, how these projects are built from expert groups – or project consortiums as Interreg calls them – it all has provided us with perfect, solid scientific background for respective decisions taken by HELCOM.

I can name a large number of examples of project outputs directly integrated into the regional policy framework. The first one is the recommendation on sludge handling. It was largely based on the PURE project. What’s more, the expert group which worked on it continued to work after the recommendation was created.

Another one was the HELCOM recommendation on stormwater management. That is almost a direct outcome of the BSR Water project platform.

Then there is the work on pharmaceuticals: some recommendations of CWPharma project laid basis for actions adopted in the Baltic Sea Action Plan 2030. Actually, even today, my colleague asked about the background of that project and other work for the implementation of those actions.
When HELCOM was working on the regional strategy on nutrient recycling, it integrated a synthesis of outputs from several Interreg projects. We cooperated closely with EUSBSR policy area Nutri on making that happen.

One of the latest projects implementing the HELCOM actions is the project EMPEREST. It largely contributes to the implementation of the HELCOM action on PFAS, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances; it is also about testing equipment and some investments in capacity building. This project documentation is on my desk at the moment.

It’s a lot of impacts, how do you think it was possible?

A good feature of the whole system, not only the Programme, is the trilateral cooperation between HELCOM and HELCOM working bodies, EUSBSR policy areas and Interreg as one of the supporting tools. The whole system allows for efficient information flows. Not only does the system provide information from the grass root, from the expert communities to the policy level, but it also allows for the reverse way and influence from the policy level down to the expert community. It is about well-functioning identification of interests and priorities.

You’ve highlighted the project PURE, can we say that the project influenced the environment?

One project cannot affect the environment directly but it can put additional five cents into the common work. We can see it everywhere, we can see the declining input of hazardous substances that were being investigated in the project. In practice, it means that the countries took a closer look at their national standards and changed their national legislation. They also analysed permitting systems addressing these particular substances. What’s more, the technologies tested in the project PURE to treat wastewater are in regular use now. Demonstrating to large investors that certain technologies are economically feasible and environmentally efficient is also a very important part of the Programme.

What are your best memories related to the Programme?

For me, the policy maker in this science-policy interface, the BSR Water project platform was a super fruitful experience.

It was a great pleasure to build on the outputs of many already implemented projects and to produce really crispy policy messages which can be converted into the policy framework. That was an excellent team and it was really a pleasure to work.

What would you like to wish for the Programme on its 25th anniversary?

I have mainly been a consumer of outputs rather than an applicant. I think some project results could be better visible in the longer run. It mainly concerns publications buried somewhere in trails of the Internet. It would be nice if project outcomes would be wrapped up in a format of visible publications, like policy messages. They can also be attached to existing communities. For example, as an associated organisation, we often helped projects promote their results by publishing them with HELCOM resources. It would be beneficial for projects to give thought to this type of sustainability.

I would like to wish long life to the Programme, and more successful projects as the coordinator of EUSBSR policy area Spatial Planning. We have already a handful of projects in the region for instance in maritime spatial planning but we would like to further cooperate with the Interreg Programme on new project ideas. The Programme really brings a lot to the expert community and the policy-making of the region.


This year, our Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme is celebrating its 25th anniversary. For more examples of #MadeWithIBSR project results and testimonials of great people who have helped shape the regions with us,  visit our birthday celebrations page!

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