EU “Offshore protocol” to protect the Mediterranean

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.
A press release said the "Offshore Protocol" aims to complement the Barcelona Convention for the protection of the marine environment and the coastal region of the Mediterranean, signed by the EU,  Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus, as well as 14 other non-EU Mediterranean countries, 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.
"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 ", said European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik.
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.
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.
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, are key measures to protect the marine and coastal environment of the Mediterranean from possible negative consequences of offshore exploration and exploitation activities.
In the framework of its European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), the EU funds the programme “Sustainable Water Management and De-pollution of the Mediterraneanwhich aims at enforcing sustainable water management policies, disseminating good practices in the region and supporting the initiative for the de-pollution of the MediterraneanIt has also launched the “Horizon 2020 Initiative”which aims to de-pollute the Mediterranean by the year 2020 by tackling the sources of pollution that account for around 80% of the overall pollution of the Mediterranean Sea: municipal waste, urban waste water and industrial pollution. (ENPI Info Centre)
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Press release
Barcelona Convention
EU Marine Strategy Directive to save Europe's seas and oceans
ENPI Info Centre - Euro-Mediterranean maritime cooperation press pack
ENPI Info Centre - Environment

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