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Barcelona Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean

The Barcelona Convention of 1976, amended in 1995, and the Protocols drawn up in line with this Convention aim to protect and improve the marine and coastal environment in the Mediterranean, whilst promoting regional and national plans contributing to sustainable development.

ACTS

Council Decision 77/585/EEC of 25 July 1977 concluding the Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution and the Protocol for the prevention of the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by dumping from ships and aircraft.

Council Decision 81/420/EEC of 19 May 1981 on the conclusion of the Protocol concerning cooperation in combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by oil and other harmful substances in cases of emergency.

Council Decision 83/101/EEC of 28 February 1983 concluding the Protocol for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution from land-based sources.

Council Decision 84/132/EEC of 1 March 1984 on the conclusion of the Protocol concerning Mediterranean specially protected areas.

Council Decision 2004/575/EC of 29 April 2004 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Protocol to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution, concerning cooperation in preventing pollution from ships and, in cases of emergency, combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea.

Council Decision 2010/631/EU of 13 September 2010 concerning the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean.

SUMMARY

Decision 77/585/EEC enables the Community to accede to the Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution (Barcelona Convention) and the Protocol for the prevention of pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by dumping from ships and aircraft. The purpose of these two instruments, together with the protocols to which the Community has subsequently acceded (by Decisions 81/420/EEC, 83/101/EEC, 84/132/EEC 2004/575/EC and 2010/631/EU), is to limit pollution in the Mediterranean region.

Barcelona Convention

The Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution was adopted in Barcelona on 16 February 1976 and amended on 10 June 1995. Over time, its mandate has been widened to include planning and the integrated management of the coastal region.

The 22 Contracting Parties * to the Convention will individually or jointly take all appropriate measures to protect and improve the Mediterranean marine environment in order to contribute to sustainable development. In order to meet this objective, the Parties undertake to reduce, combat and, as far as possible, eliminate pollution in this area.

The main aims of the Convention consist of:

  • assessing and controlling pollution;
  • carrying out the sustainable management of natural marine and coastal resources;
  • integrating the environment into economic and soci al development;
  • protecting the marine environment and coastal regions through action aimed at preventing and reducing pollution and, as far as possible, eliminating it, whether it is due to activities on land or at sea;
  • protecting natural and cultural heritage;
  • strengthening solidarity between countries bordering the Mediterranean; and
  • contributing to improving quality of life.

The Convention encourages the Parties to:

  • introduce a system of cooperation and information to reduce or eliminate pollution resulting from a critical situation in the Mediterranean;
  • establish a continuous pollution monitoring system;
  • cooperate in the fields of science and technology;
  • work out appropriate procedures for the determination of liability and compensation for damage resulting from pollution deriving from violations of the provisions of the Convention;
  • draft procedures enabling them to monitor application of the Convention.

The Convention lays down mechanisms for the settlement of disputes and for arbitration to settle any disputes between the Parties on the interpretation or application of the Convention.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) carries out secretariat functions in the framework of the implementation of the Convention (convening and preparing meetings, coordination, etc.).

The Convention was amended in 1995. The main amendments concerned:

  • the extension of the Convention's geographical field of application to the coast;
  • the application of the precautionary principle;
  • the application of the "polluter pays" principle;
  • the promotion of impact assessments;
  • the protection and preservation of biological diversity;
  • combating pollution from cross-border movements of dangerous waste;
  • access to information and public participation.

Protocol for the prevention of pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by dumping from ships and aircraft

The Protocol covers only pollution of the region of the Mediterranean Sea caused by ships and aircraft.

Dumping of certain types of waste and matter (toxic organohalogen and organosilicon compounds, mercury, cadmium, plastics, crude oil, etc.) is prohibited.

Dumping of other matter or types of waste (arsenic, lead, copper, zinc, chrome, nickel, containers, scrap metal, certain types of pesticides, etc.) is subject to the prior issue of a permit by the competent national authorities.

Such permits may be issued only after careful consideration of a number of factors (characteristics and composition of the matter, characteristics of dumping site and method of deposit, general considerations and conditions).

Ships and aircraft used for other than governmental and non-commercial purposes are excluded from the scope of the Protocol.

Since 1995, a number of amendments have been added to the Protocol. These amendments concern, in particular, the clarification of terms defined by the Protocol, waste or other matter authorised for dumping subject to the issue of a special permit, the ban on incineration at sea, and the procedure to follow in the event of a critical and exceptional situation.

Protocol concerning cooperation in combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by oil and other harmful substances in cases of emergency

This Protocol stipulates that the Parties will cooperate when a huge quantity of oil and/or other harmful substances in the Mediterranean Sea, whether accidental or cumulative, presents a serious and imminent danger to the marine environment, the coast or the economic, health or ecological interests of one or more Parties.

This cooperation focuses on drawing up emergency plans, promoting measures for combating oil pollution in the sea, monitoring and exchanging information regarding the state of the Mediterranean Sea, disseminating information on the organisation of resources and on new methods to prevent and combat pollution, and developing research programmes on the subject.

The Protocol requires all Parties facing a critical situation to carry out the necessary, precise evaluations concerning the nature and the size of the accident, take all measures likely to reduce or eliminate the effects of this pollution, and inform other Parties, either directly or through the Regional Centre for the Mediterranean Sea created by the Barcelona Convention, of these evaluations and actions undertaken.

Protocol for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution from land-based sources

The purpose of this Protocol is to combat pollution in the Mediterranean Sea caused by discharges from rivers, outfalls, canals or other watercourses, or pollution emanating from any other source or activity within the territory of the States Party to the Protocol.

The Protocol lists the substances of which discharge is prohibited, and the factors which should be taken into account in order to eliminate pollution from these substances. It also lists substances for which discharge is subject to authorisation by the competent national authorities. This authorisation must take particular account of the characteristics and composition of the waste, the characteristics of the elements in the waste in terms of harmfulness, the characteristics of the place where the waste is discharged and the marine environment it is entering, the techniques available to manage the waste, as well as possible damage to marine ecosystems and its effect on sea water usage.

The Protocol also stipulates cooperation regarding research and information, and the adoption of appropriate programmes, measures and standards aimed at reducing or eliminating the targeted substances.

Since 1996, a number of amendments have been added to the Protocol. These amendments concern, in particular, the application of the precautionary principle, the extension of the scope of the Protocol to airborne pollution of land-based origin, the regulatory system for waste discharge, the continued monitoring of pollution levels, and technical assistance to developing countries.

Protocol concerning specially protected areas and biological diversity in the Mediterranean

The Protocol concerning specially protected areas in the Mediterranean, to which the Community acceded in 1984, protects natural resources in the Mediterranean region, preserves the diversity of the gene pool and protects certain natural sites by creating a series of specially preserved areas.

The Protocol as amended in 1995 makes a distinction between specially protected areas (already provided for in the former Protocol) and specially protected areas of Mediterranean importance. It stipulates that the Parties develop guidelines for establishing and managing protected areas and lists a certain number of appropriate measures which the Parties must adopt, including:

  • prohibiting the discharge or unloading of waste;
  • regulating shipping operations;
  • regulating the introduction of any non-indigenous or genetically modified species;
  • any other measures protecting the ecological and biological processes and the countryside.

Furthermore, it introduces national or local measures which the Parties must take in order to protect animal and plant species throughout the Mediterranean area.

The Protocol also provides for exemptions to be granted because of traditional activities carried out by local populations. However, these exemptions must not compromise the preservation of the protected ecosystems, nor the biological processes making up these ecosystems, nor must they cause the extinction or a substantial fall in numbers of any species or animal or plant populations included within the protected ecosystems.

The annexes to the new Protocol include a list of common criteria which the Parties must respect when choosing which marine and coastal areas are to be protected under the system of specially protected areas of Mediterranean importance. The annexes also list threatened or endangered species as well as including a list of species whose exploitation is regulated.

Protocol concerning cooperation in preventing pollution from ships and, in cases of emergency, combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea

This Protocol updates the legal mechanisms in the Barcelona Convention by incorporating in it measures concerning cooperation between Parties regarding prevention and, in cases of emergency, combating pollution in the Mediterranean caused by ships. It also endeavours to promote the development and implementation of international regulations adopted in the framework of the International Maritime Organization.

Cooperation focuses on maintaining and promoting emergency plans and other means for preventing and combating pollution from ships, adequate monitoring of the Mediterranean Sea, efforts to recover harmful and potentially dangerous substances, as well as disseminating and exchanging information.

The Protocol also stipulates operational measures which the Parties must take in the event of pollution caused by ships (evaluation, elimination/reduction, information measures), as well as emergency measures which must be taken on board ships, in offshore installations and in ports (in particular the availability of and compliance with emergency plans).

Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean

This Protocol, which aims at establishing a common framework for Integrated Coastal Zone Management * (ICZM) in the Mediterranean, entered into force on 24 March 2011. It is the first instrument of international law to be entirely and solely devoted to ICZM.

ICZM has six aims:

  • sustainable development of coastal zones by rational planning of activities;
  • preservation of coastal zones;
  • sustainable use of natural resources;
  • preservation of ecosystems and coastlines;
  • prevention and reduction of natural disasters and climate change;
  • improvement of cooperation.

Furthermore, the Protocol defines the general principles of ICZM, the coordinating procedures required for its implementation, its founding pillars, and the instruments of ICZM.

Key terms of the Act
  • Contracting Parties: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cyprus, the European Community, Croatia, Egypt, Spain, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Monaco, Montenegro, Slovenia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey.
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management: a dynamic process for the sustainable management and use of coastal zones, taking into account at the same time the fragility of coastal ecosystems and landscapes, the diversity of activities and uses, interactions between the latter, the maritime vocation of some of the latter, and their impact both on land and sea.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Decision 77/585/EEC

25.7.1977

-

OJ L 240, 19.9.1977

Decision 81/420/EEC

19.5.1981

-

OJ L 162, 19.6.1981

Decision 83/101/EEC

28.2.1983

-

OJ L 67, 12.3.1983

Decision 84/132/EEC

1.3.1984

-

OJ L 68, 10.3.1984

Decision 2004/575/EC

29.4.2004

-

OJ L 261, 6.8.2004

Decision 2010/631/EU

13.9.2010

OJ L 279, 23.10.2010

Last updated: 06.04.2011

See also

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