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IP/07/1715

Brussels, 18 November 2007

Oil pollution in the Black Sea – European Commission responds

The European Commission has responded to a request for assistance from Ukraine through its Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which is the office responsible for civil protection and marine pollution actions. Ukraine requires expertise to assist its own authorities in evaluating the environmental impact of the oil pollution in the Kerch Strait.

Stavros Dimas, Commissioner responsible for the Environment and Civil Protection stated "This situation has led to a tragic loss of life and has caused environmental damage. I would like to express sympathy to those families that have been affected. We are ready to respond to Ukraine in providing the experts it requires. By assisting the Ukrainian authorities we will work to address the environmental damage caused by the impact of the disaster in the Kerch Strait."

The experts, made available to the MIC by Denmark, Latvia, Italy, France and Portugal will both assess environmental impacts and advise on immediate remediation needs. The team, which will be joined by a liaison officer from UN OCHA/UNEP, is scheduled to arrive in Kiev today, less than 48 hours after the Ukrainian request for assistance.

The MIC has been monitoring the development of events in this maritime region that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov. Violent storms have dispersed oil pollutants affecting communities living in the region as well as the environment. The pollution was caused by the sinking of several ships containing oil and sulphur, and in addition to human casualties has also directly affected fauna and flora, with possible long-term impacts on the ecological quality of the affected natural habitats. The MIC has also been in contact with Russia.

Over the last number of years, the MIC has gained considerable experience in combating marine pollution incidents, having been involved in crises such as the Prestige accident in Spain and the oil pollution caused by hostilities in Lebanon.

The European Commission has signed Administrative Arrangements on civil protection with Russia and Ukraine in May 2005 and in May 2007 respectively.

The European Commission has also been active in supporting multilateral initiatives on the protection of the Black Sea against pollution. For instance, it actively encourages the work of the Parties to the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (Bucharest Convention), and the related Strategic Action Plan for the Rehabilitation and Protection of the Black Sea, working together under the auspices of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (the Black Sea Commission or BSC), in the light of the ambitions of the European Marine Strategy.

For more information on European civil protection and marine pollution visit:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/civil/index.htm


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