Eliminating Micro-Pollutants from Effluents for REuse STrategies

EMPEREST in Brussels for the European Ocean Days

15 March 2024
EMPEREST was represented widely at the largest water-oriented event in Europe this spring! The European Ocean Days on 4–8 March 2024 hosted EMPEREST on the Mission Ocean stage, in addition to several poster exhibitions and extensive networking with hundreds of participants.
Technical details

During the first week of March, Brussels welcomed to town water-related projects, experts, businesses and policy makers for the European Ocean Days. Within this event umbrella, a series of events were organized by different key actors in the field.

Representatives of EMPEREST Lead Partner Union of the Baltic Cities Sustainable Cities Commission Mariia Andreeva and Lotta Lehti were actively networking throughout the week, raising awareness of PFAS, introducing the project – and encouraging experts to follow it as the year of piloting unravels. EMPEREST was prominent in two poster exhibitions of the Ocean Days – with a digital poster for the EU Mission Ocean Forum’s stakeholders, and a physical poster in the exhibition of the European Commission’s event on future priorities for Europe’s Seas.

2nd Annual Forum of the EU Mission Ocean

The week started with the 2nd Annual Forum of the EU Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters” on 4–5 March. Among other EU Missions related to climate neutrality, climate adaptation and soil protection, the Mission Ocean’s aim is at protecting and restoring the health of waters especially in major basin areas: Atlantic-Arctic, Mediterranean Sea, Baltic-North Sea, and Danube-Black Sea. The core idea of all Missions is to find new ways of combining research, innovation, new forms of governance, collaboration, and citizen engagement.

The EMPEREST project is a signatory of the Mission Ocean charter and was invited to present its activities at the event. Piia Leskinen from Turku University of Applied Sciences took the stage on a panel “Preventing and eliminating pollution”. In her remarks, Piia highlighted that sustainable change starts from the sources; but in order to preserve and restore the beautiful maritime nature, also wastewater must be more efficiently treated. Results may not be immediate, and a lot of patience is needed.

“Regarding PFAS, municipalities are the ones who will have to do the job of putting new pollution regulations into practice.”
— Dr. Piia Leskinen, Principal Lecturer and researcher at Turku University of Applied Sciences

Photo: Piia Leskinen (TUAS) presenting EMPEREST at the panel discussion. Credits: Julie de Bellaing for the Mission Ocean

To help local authorities as well as water utilities come up with solutions that really work, we need to be ready to put time and effort to understand their realities and challenges. In EMPEREST, we work directly with these stakeholders, and aim to translate scientific knowledge into concrete actions on the local level.

Future of Europe’s seas and ocean literacy

EMPEREST Lead partner also joined the next events in line to exchange ideas, learn about the developments in other sea regions, and share the innovations from the Baltic Sea Region with different target groups.

Throughout the week, presentations, panels, and posters reflected the variety of water-related pressures in Europe, including underwater ecosystems, pollution, climate neutrality and circular economy, marine data and digital solutions, fisheries and aquaculture.

”The only way to tackle a complex change is to work together.”
Charlina Vitcheva, Director-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries at the European Commission

Photo: Charlina Vitcheva (DG MARE) greetings the participants. Credits: Julie de Bellaing for the Mission Ocean

But working together doesn’t only mean the experts in the room – the topic of engaging citizens to increase the awareness of individual actions was overarching and prominent in all sessions. It was also the main theme of the concluding day, narrowing on ocean literacy, hosted by DG MARE together with EU4Ocean Coalition, and with the support of IOC/UNESCO.

With youth representatives on each panel, discussions were held in true understanding of the steps needed for better introduction of the ocean literacy at every level, starting from early education in schools, but spreading the education also among the rest of the community through city-level decision-makers and media. This is important to raise the next generation passionate about the sea and aware of the complicated challenges that it faces, and not the least, to attract young professionals into the water sector jobs.

At the heart of Europe

The European Ocean Days were organized at a time when the EU is getting ready for next elections. The upcoming change of political cycle was mentioned by many speakers. In addition, the Mission signatories, including EMPEREST, were invited to visit the European Parliament where we were able to deliver our messages to a delegation of MEPs and leaders of the Mission Ocean. The politicians expressed a deep appreciation to our work, with some calling for a “Blue deal”, as an inherent part of the Green deal.

In the closing words, the MEPs wanted to underline hope – even if the next parliamentary season might be difficult for the environment, good work will not cease and protecting waters will remain a high priority.