MEPs demand action over threat posed by chemical weapons in Baltic

According to the historical information available, sulfur mustard is the most abundant chemical warfare agent in the dumped munitions. This chemical agent poses a risk to humans who come into contact with it, and to organisms within its immediate vicinity, taking into account both short- and long-term effects. Helcom

A group of MEPs have written to the president of the European Commission demanding urgent action to neutralise unexploded chemical and conventional weapons lying on the bed of the Baltic Sea.

After the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union dumped thousands of tons of captured German weapons into the Baltic.

"We are deeply concerned by the risk still posed today by chemical and conventional munitions dumped on the Baltic seabed after World War II," said the letter, which was signed by 39 MEPs.

It went on to say that the unexploded ordnance is one of the main causes of pollution in the Baltic, and that leaks caused by corrosion represent a threat to the economy, society, health and the environment of the sea’s region.

The MEPs went on to state that the Baltic countries could not tackle the threat alone and called on the EC to ensure appropriate funding.

The politicians also want a comprehensive action plan to be drawn up on making old WWII ordnance safe.

This is not the first time the dangerous legacy of the war that lurks in the Baltic has caught international attention.

In January, the German foreign ministry said that old WWII-era shipwrecks in the sea pose an environmental threat.

At least 100 wrecks have been classified by Poland's Fundacja Mare, an organization established to protect marine ecosystems in the Baltic, as a “high priority” because they contain significant amounts of fuel that poses a threat to the natural environment.

A 2015 survey showed that the contamination area from one such sunken ship, the Stuttgart, had grown five-fold since the leak was discovered, and measured 415,000 square meters with the condition of the environment in the immediate vicinity being described as a local ecological catastrophe.

See also: German WWII shipwrecks off Polish coast pose environmental threat, says Germany