There are up to six layers of regulation acting in parallel in the Baltic Sea region. Yet these layers do not always interact well. The norms of different regulatory layers display both overlaps and gaps and are interrelated through a complex and constantly evolving relationship which needs to be assessed case by case. The relationship and hierarchy depends on, among other things, the subject matter, the EU’s internal and external competence in the matter and, of course, the national laws of the state(s) concerned.
Another remarkable feature about the Baltic Sea is the number of transnational bodies and organisations involved in its well-being. In particular, the end of the Cold War period brought along a variety of new institutions and formal and informal frameworks, which address the matters of common concern in the region. However, the legal basis of these bodies tends to be quite ‘soft’, which reduces their capacity to contribute to solutions with a normative impact, such as the adoption of new rules and the effective enforcement of existing ones. Out of the multitude of governmental co-operation bodies and platforms that operate specifically in and for the Baltic Sea region, only one, the Helsinki Commission (Helcom), is a clear-cut intergovernmental organization based on a classical founding treaty (Helsinki Convention), which at least in theory provides a solid platform for further regulatory developments. Other key organisations, such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States, have not been established by treaty and have no legislative or regulatory powers in a formal sense.
Such a multi-layered and multi-institutional regulatory setting provides fertile ground for researchers interested in multi-level governance and regulation and the hierarchy and conflict of different kinds of norms. This is one of the main focuses of BALEX.
Henrik Ringbom's article ”Regulating the Baltic Sea” on Baltic Rim Economies (Issue 4/2014, page 36-37).
Saara Ilvessalo’s and Henrik Ringbom’s article “BALEX - a new legal network for the world’s most regulated sea” on Baltic Rim Economies (Issue 6/2016, page 10).