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The Baltic Sea is a brackish inland sea, a branch of the Atlantic Ocean, that is enclosed by the scandinavian peninsula and the north-east of central european landmass. It is the top largest body of brackish water in the world (beside the Black Sea and Hudson Bay). Bordering countries are: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden. Through its connection to the Nort Sea via the Skagerrak Strait (part of the North Sea) and the Kattegat Strait (part of the Baltic Sea) as well as through the artificial Kiel Canal (Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) between the Elbe Estuary in the west and the Kieler Förde in the east of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, the Baltic Sea is a portal to the world's oceans.


average depth


max. depth

surface area

377.000sq. km



average salinity


Geological features

The Baltic Sea occupies a basin the more or less final shape of wich was formed by glacial erosion and pressure during the most recent Ice Age, called the Weichsel Ice Age. Its end is dated back to 12 000 years ago and left over this unique geological formation. Due to its creation through glaciers on land, the Sea bottom of the Baltic Sea consists of  continental crust instead of volcanic oceanic crust as most parts of the world's oceans do. This circumstance explains its comparatively shallow depth. As high pressure deforms rocks and changes their mineral composition, many interesting metamorphic stones can be found in the coastal area.

The term "Baltic" stems from Medieval Latin "Balticus", perhaps attributed to the Lithuanian term "baltas" (white) or Scandinavian "balta" (belt, strait).

The Baltic Sea, in ancient sources referred to as Mare Suebicum (or Mare Germanicum), is also known by the equivalents of "East Sea", "West Sea", or "Baltic Sea" in different languages: in Germanic languages, except English, "East Sea" is used in: Danish (Ostersoen), Dutch (Oostzee), German (Ostsee), Norwegian (Ostersjoen), and Swedish (Östersjön).


"Baltic Sea" is also used in the Slavic languages: Polish (Morze Bałtyckie or

Bałtyk), Belarusian (Baltyjskaje Mora), Russian (Baltiyskoye Morye) and also in the Hungarian language (Balti-tenger). 

In Baltic-Finnic languages it is either "East Sea" in Finnish (Itämeri) or

"West Sea" in Estonian (Läänemeri), with the correct geography (the sea is west of Estonia and Finland). In the Baltic languages it is known as "Baltic Sea": Latvian (Baltijas jura) and Lithuanian (Baltijos jura) and in the Romance languages as follows: French (Mer Baltique), Italian (Mar Baltico) or Spanish (Mar Báltico).

State of and EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR)

Covering almost one third of the EU's area, but only 17.9 % of the EU population, the Baltic Sea region encompasses a group of countries characterised by a high degree of interdependence, with a tradition of cooperation dating back to the late Middle Ages and the Hanseatic League. This shared identity was cemented further through the EU accession of the Baltic States and Poland in 2004, increasing to eight the number of EU Member States in the Baltic region (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden). Yet despite the introduction of common EU rules and policies, opening up new prospects for improving growth and living standards through closer coordination, persistent differences have remained between the prosperous northern and western seaboards of the Baltic and its less developed southern and eastern countries.

Concerns over the deteriorating state of the Baltic Sea itself, and a sense that the region had failed to make best use of the opportunities of EU membership, led to calls for action and the adoption of the first-ever EU dedicated macro-regional strategy in 2009 (EUSBSR), launched following a European Parliament initiative. The strategy's three key objectives (save the sea; connect the region; increase prosperity) are implemented through an action plan, revised in 2021. This revision reduced the number of actions, and introduced closer cooperation among stakeholders and a new Baltic Sea strategic point (BSP). According to analysts, the strategy is a success, has brought significant results in diverse areas – including environmental issues – and has increased cooperation and networks across the region. Challenges remain, including monitoring the deliverables and results, which are often neither tangible nor easy to communicate.

It remains to be seen if the changes introduced through the new action plan will be sufficient to improve the implementation of the EUSBSR, and if the strategy will seize the opportunities represented by the new rules introduced through the 2021-2027 cohesion policy framework.

Briefing - An EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR)

Enrico D’Ambrogio (October 2022)

Published by: European Parliament

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