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IP/08/553

Brussels, 10 April 2008

Helping protect the Mediterranean Sea from pollution

The European Commission and the European Investment Bank today are presenting the results of a study on potential investments addressing pollution hotspots in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries. The study, undertaken as part of the Commission's Horizon 2020 Initiative designed to tackle the major sources of Mediterranean pollution by the year 2020, recognises the need for a programme to help the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean reduce the pollution they release into the sea. The decline of the Mediterranean threatens the health of the 143 million people living on its shore and jeopardises the long-term development of key economic sectors such as fishing and tourism. The proposed Mediterranean Hot Spot Investment Programme (MeHSIP) and the Horizon 2020 initiative are part of the European Union's cooperation with the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries involved in the Barcelona Process and covered by the EU's Neighbourhood Policy.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "It is imperative that the European Union work with its Mediterranean neighbours to safeguard the environment of one of the world's major seas. We must all cooperate to provide the appropriate resources to reserve the degradation of the Mediterranean."
European Investment Bank Vice President Philippe de Fontaine Vive who is in charge of FEMIP said: "The Hot Spot Investment Programme (MeHSIP) is an important starting point for a joint effort of international and bilateral financing institutions in order to implement the pollution reduction component of the Horizon 2020 initiative. To this end, FEMIP is ready to take action in order to support Mediterranean partner countries with the necessary financial investments."

A worsening Mediterranean environment

The Mediterranean Sea is home to more than 400 million people spread across 22 countries, of which 143 million people live on the coast, and about another 175 million visit the region each year. The well being of all these people depends on the health of the environment of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Mediterranean environment is one of the richest and at the same time one of the most vulnerable in the world as its marine and coastal environments are exposed to a combination of pressures, 80% of which come from land-based pollution.

More than half of urban areas on the Mediterranean with a population over 100,000 do not have waste water treatment plants and 60% of the wastewater produced in these areas is directly discharged into the sea. More than 80% of landfills in southern and eastern Mediterranean countries are not monitored. The marine environment of the Mediterranean is especially exposed to agricultural waste, airborne particles and river run-off, which carries pathogens, heavy metals, organic pollutants, oils and radioactive substances into the sea.

Rapid urbanisation coupled with increasing and unsustainable development of tourism in the Mediterranean Sea’s coast has contributed to significant environmental and health problems. Pollution from industry, shipping and households, the loss of open areas, and the destruction of coastal ecosystems for construction projects are also taking their toll.

The Mediterranean Hot Spots Investment Programme

In November 2006 a timetable of action for the Horizon 2020 Initiative was launched. One of these actions called on the European Investment Bank or World Bank to work with donor countries to identify projects which are having the largest impact on Mediterranean pollution levels - upstream and downstream pollution - across the Mediterranean Region.

The study presented today is the result of this effort.

The identification of priority hotspots investments were conducted by the European Investment Bank (EIB) in cooperation with the United Nation's Environment Programme's Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP). The activities of the MeHSIP will primarily focus on providing support to the Horizon 2020 initiative and partner countries in implementing priority pollution reduction investment projects.

The EIB will now proceed in finalising a list of projects under the Mediterranean Hotspot Investment Programme based on the 44 projects already identified in seven Mediterranean countries. Among the criteria for determining the potential investment in projects are the projects' importance for the country or the Mediterranean region, how significantly they reduce pollution, the sustainability of the operations, and the loan repayment capacity of the projects' promoters and the amounts required from donors.

The MeHSIP will also contribute to closer collaboration between the European Investment Bank and other donors and initiatives in the region designed to integrate the environment in different sector policies in the Mediterranean.

Background: the Horizon 2020 initiative

Horizon 2020 is a central part of the European Union's policy to tackle environmental problems in the Mediterranean. The initiative aims to address many of the inadequacies of past efforts to protect the Mediterranean by financing projects to reduce the most significant sources of pollution, support the creation or reinforcement of national environmental authorities, promote research on Mediterranean environmental issues, and develop indicators to monitor the success of the initiative.

For more information:

The Mediterranean Hot Spot Investment Programme (MeHSIP):

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/enlarg/med/pdf/mehsip_report.pdf

The Commission's Horizon 2020 webpage:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/enlarg/med/horizon_2020_en.htm


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