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European Commission - Press release

EU moves towards stronger protection for the Mediterranean from offshore activities

Brussels, 27 October 2011 – The European Commission took an important step towards better protection for the Mediterranean Sea today, with a proposal for the EU to accede to a Protocol of the Barcelona Convention that protects the Mediterranean against pollution from offshore exploration and exploitation activities. Such activities are increasing in the Mediterranean, and the area is particularly vulnerable due to its semi-closed configuration and significant seismic activity.

The "Offshore Protocol" requires a number of conditions to be met before activities are allowed to begin. In particular, the construction of platforms and rigs must respect international standards and practice, and operators must prove that they have the technical competence and the financial capacity to carry out the activities. Authorisation will not be given if the activities are likely to cause significant adverse effects on the environment. The location of platforms and rigs should also ensure that damage to existing pipelines and cables is avoided. The Protocol also provides for liability and compensation requirements.

European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "This proposal complements the legislative proposal for the safety of offshore oil and gas activities. It will allow us to work hand in hand with our non-EU Mediterranean partners, ensuring better protection of this sea for all its users. "

EU ratification of the Protocol is likely to stimulate ratification by other Parties to the Barcelona Convention, bringing the waters of the Mediterranean closer to good environmental status, the ultimate goal of the EU Marine Framework Directive. It will also strengthen cooperation with Mediterranean partners.

The European Union is a Contracting Party to the Barcelona Convention for the protection of the marine environment and the coastal region of the Mediterranean, as are Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus, together with 14 other Mediterranean countries which are not EU Member States. The "Offshore Protocol" aims to complement the Barcelona Convention as regards exploration and exploitation activities. It covers a wide range of exploration and exploitation activities and touches upon permit requirements, the removal of abandoned or disused installations, the use and removal of harmful substances, and safety, contingency planning and monitoring.

Background

After the oil spill accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the European Commission adopted a Communication on the safety of offshore oil and gas activities in October 2010 identifying international cooperation as one of the means to promote offshore safety and response capabilities. The ratification of the "Offshore Protocol" by the EU and the Regulation for offshore safety in the EU, proposed in parallel (see IP/11/1260 and MEMO/11/740, are key measures to protect the marine and coastal environment of the Mediterranean from possible negative consequences of offshore exploration and exploitation activities.

The Mediterranean offers home to 8 % of known marine species in 0, 8 % of global sea surface and the effects of an oil spill could be direct, severe and irreversible on the fragile marine and coastal ecosystems and the Mediterranean economy.

See also:

For more information on the Barcelona Convention and the proposal see:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/marine/barcelona.htm

For more information on EU marine policies see:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/marine/directive_en.htm

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)


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