Parliamentarians, journalists and NGOs agree to work hand in hand towards the depollution of the Mediterranean

on 04 December 2012.

More than a 120 Members of Parliament, journalists and NGOs from 22 Mediterranean countries met in Athens, Greece on 22 and 23 October 2012 and pledged to accelerate their efforts towards a depolluted Mediterranean by the year 2020. The two-day workshop was organized within the framework of the Horizon 2020 Capacity Building/ Mediterranean Environment Programme and constituted the first international meeting of Mediterranean MPs after the events of the Arab Spring.

The workshop entitled "How Members of Parliament can better contribute to the effective De-pollution of the Mediterranean" was opened by Prof. Stefan Schennach, Chairman of the Committee on Energy, Environment and Water of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean (PA – UfM) who acknowledged the integrating role of Horizon 2020 in bringing together the multiple projects and initiatives currently underway in the region. Prof. Schennach highlighted the potential role of environmentally friendly policies and technologies in addressing problems of unemployment and low productivity, which are prevalent in the region.

The Coordinator of UNEP/ Mediterranean Action Plan, Ms. Maria Luisa Silva Mejias, followed suit highlighting that "In the current context of combined political and economic crises throughout the Mediterranean, the leadership of members of Parliament is essential to achieve our objectives. The main difference between the current downturn and previous ones is that it occurs in a context of increased fragility of our natural capital. Parliamentarians will be key actors in ensuring that the development strategies that will lift us from the current situation are not at the expense of our already depleted resources".

Horizon 2020 Team Leader, Prof. Michael Scoullos stressed the pivotal role of MPs in encouraging Governments to coordinate their national strategies with the regional agreed priorities on environmental issues. Furthermore, he urged all participants to promote the Strategy for Water in the Mediterranean as well as the Mediterranean Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development. Prof. Scoullos invited all countries of the Mediterranean to join the Aarhus Convention for access to environmental information and public participation.

On its second day (Tuesday 22 October 2012), the workshop was hosted by the Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection of the Hellenic Parliament and was held at the Greek Parliament. At the Parliament, the workshop was addressed by the Deputy Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Kourkoulas, the General Secretary of the Hellenic Ministry of Environment Energy and Climate Change, Ms. Evangelidou, the Heads of the Greek Delegations at the PA of the UfM and at the Parliamentary Assembly for the Mediterranean, Mr. Gerontopoulos and Mr. Orfanos respectively, the President of the Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection, Ms. Avgerinopoulou and numerous other MPs.

Implemented in a truly participatory mode, more than 70 participants from all the 22 participating countries took the floor to present their national efforts regarding the priorities of Horizon 2020, to express their views and actively participate in the dialogue. Throughout the meeting participants expressed the need for increased training within the framework of Horizon 2020 in order to further enable themselves to act more effectively towards the protection of the Mediterranean environment. A fruitful discussion, which at times culminated in a heated debate, ensured that participants remained focused on how best to pursue environmental protection and coordinate their efforts for the Mediterranean.

By the end of the two day workshop participants increased their understanding of the main challenges and urgencies to be addressed in the Mediterranean and the regional frameworks, initiatives and cooperation opportunities such as Horizon 2020, the MedPartnership and SWIM. Also in an effort to address the need for policy based on sound scientific information, participants gained knowledge on the available resources and the ways these can be used throughout the process of the development and implementation of policies. In addition, they were informed of regional platforms for dialogues between Parliamentarians such as COMPSUD (Circle of Mediterranean Parliamentarians for Sustainable Development), which also held its 9th Meeting on the afternoon of the 23rd of October at the University of Athens. The MPs who participated in the COMPSUD meeting elected Ms. Dionusia – Theodora Avgerinopoulou, President of the Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection of the Hellenic Parliament, as the new COMPSUD president and Mr. Antonio Ramos Pretto, President of the Environment Committee of the Portuguese Parliament and Mr. Mohammed Ameur, Member of the Moroccan Parliament and former Minister as the new COMPSUD Vice Chairs.

Participating countries included: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Jordan, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, occupied Palestinian territory, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.