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Environment strategy for the Mediterranean

The Commission outlines the essential features of a coordinated strategy for the Mediterranean basin to protect the marine environment and the coastline of this region and to reduce pollution by 2020. This strategy is based on enhanced cooperation between the countries concerned in the political, financial and technical arenas, and provides for the accomplishment of targeted activities, planned within a common initiative known as "Horizon 2020".

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 5 September 2006 entitled: "Establishing an environment strategy for the Mediterranean" [COM(2006) 475 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

SUMMARY

The Mediterranean is the largest European sea and is bordered onto by seven Member States of the European Union (EU), two accession countries and more than a dozen third countries.

This grouping around the Mediterranean creates clear interdependence between the countries bordering it. Pollution has a direct impact on neighbouring countries, and natural resources (water, air, soils and biodiversity) are connected in complex ecosystems whose use and conservation are matters affecting every one of the Mediterranean countries.

The Mediterranean environment is fragile and continues to deteriorate in spite of all the efforts made. For several of the countries bordering the Mediterranean, this deterioration costs billions of euros a year. The initiatives and strategies which have been developed over the last thirty years are not being properly implemented, or are not being implemented at all. This situation is due not only to the limited funding available but also the low political priority given to the environment, the lack of inclusive environmental governance, and the limited public awareness of the issues at stake.

Environmental action in the Mediterranean therefore needs to be strengthened by means of a coordinated strategy between the EU and the various countries concerned. This strategy focuses mainly on the Mediterranean countries which are covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria and Tunisia). For their part, EU Member States and the accession countries must apply EU environment legislation.

Objectives of a regional strategy

The regional cooperation strategy for the environment proposed by the Commission is aimed in particular at:

  • helping partner countries to create appropriate institutions, develop an effective policy and establish a legal framework that enables environmental concerns to be integrated into other sectors of activity;
  • reducing levels of pollution and the impact of uncontrolled activity;
  • preparing local administrations to react to emergencies as well as to one-off and long-term issues;
  • making more sustainable use of land and sea areas;
  • increasing information, awareness and the participation of the public;
  • encouraging regional cooperation amongst partner countries.

Means of action

To achieve these objectives, the countries concerned will be able to secure financial aid from, inter alia, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and the thematic programme Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources including Water, loans from the International Financial Institutions (IFI), contributions from donors, and national resources. The limited scope of the financial resources available means that these funds will be targeted at sites which give most cause for concern and the use of these resources will be coordinated.

Furthermore, political dialogue will be strengthened within the framework of the official structures of meetings for cooperation between the EU and third countries (Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, European Neighbourhood Policy) or at international level (New Partnership for African Development, African Union). The Commission also plans to support the creation of networks of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and contacts between NGOs, and will make sure that all appropriate partners are associated with the development and implementation of the environment policy.

The Commission will also pursue its cooperation with various partners, such as the organisations linked to the 1976 Barcelona Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean environment, with in particular the implementation of the joint Mediterranean Action Plan/European Commission Work Programme signed in 2005. The memoranda of understanding with certain international financial institutions (World Bank, European Investment Bank) will be fully exploited and contacts will be strengthened with other funding providers (Global Environment Facility and Strategic Investment Fund). These links will moreover be boosted by setting up a "Horizon 2020" steering group.

The EU has wide experience in combating pollution and addressing sustainable development, in particular from the LIFE and SMAP programmes and the research framework programmes. This experience will be shared with partner countries, in particular through instruments such as the Tourism Sustainability Group set up by the Commission and TAIEX (Technical Assistance Information Exchange Office), which is now open to countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Horizon 2020 and beyond

In November 2005, at the summit held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, the leaders present agreed to increase efforts to reduce pollution of the Mediterranean Sea. As a result, the Commission launched "Horizon 2020" which is intended to reduce pollution substantially by 2020. This initiative will be based on existing environmental instruments and will help to fulfil the commitments entered into under the Barcelona Convention. It is accompanied by a proposed timetable for the measures planned.

Horizon 2020 consists of four parts:

  • projects to reduce pollution which chiefly cover the sectors regarded as priorities, namely municipal waste, urban waste water and industrial emissions;
  • capacity-building measures, in particular the development of legislation and institutions, and support for local authorities and civil society;
  • research, in particular in the fields of health, food, agriculture, energy, climate change, soil and transport. Major importance will be attached to disseminating the relevant knowledge acquired by means of the LIFE programmes, the research framework programmes, the actions of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and other international activities;
  • monitoring and management of the initiative, in particular by developing a scoreboard to measures the progress made and setting up a consultative steering committee responsible for ensuring the implementation of the initiative.

Complementary activities will also need to be developed to meet the objectives not covered by Horizon 2020, including, among other things, full implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy action plans, further integration of environmental concerns into the relevant economic sectors, combating global threats such as climate change and biodiversity loss, addressing regional risks (coastal zone management, drought, flooding, etc.), the use of impact and environmental assessments, and the production of indicators.

RELATED ACTS

Commission Green Paper of 7 June 2006: "Towards a future marine policy for the Union: a European vision for the oceans and seas" [COM(2006) 275 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 24 October 2005 "Thematic strategy on the protection and conservation of the marine environment" [COM(2005) 504 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

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 [Official Journal L 240 of 19.9.1977].

Last updated: 04.12.2007
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