The Mediterranean is a cradle of historic cultures that have in common radical thinking, high goals and sustained action. They are the ones who have helped humanity move forward through the centuries. And this transformative influence remains powerful even today.
It is in the light of this same tradition of the Mediterranean peoples that today’s Athens Meeting, which hosts the Heads of State and Government of the South of our continent, alongside the leadership of the European Union and the European Parliament, is taking place. A forum to respond to the challenges of our common future. First among them, the climate crisis.
The Presidents of France and Cyprus, the Prime Ministers of Italy, Spain, Croatia, Malta, Slovenia and Greece and the Foreign Minister of Portugal are in the city that gave birth to the Republic to serve two universal goals: peace, security and cooperation in the Mediterranean. But also the protection of life from the vengeance of nature.
The 8th Session of EUMED is therefore a highlight at a critical juncture, which is called upon to propose solutions that will not only concern the historian of the future, but also the present and future generations. This is borne out by this summer’s experience in the Mediterranean and Europe, which have been simultaneously tested by fires and floods.
In Greece, record temperatures have already been recorded which, together with the month-long drought, have turned it into a powder keg. The same has happened in many countries. Others have lost lives and forests to fires. While others mourned victims, infrastructure and property from the rains. The climate crisis is therefore no longer an abstract concept. It has landed on our beautiful shores.
It is a visible threat to the environment, to our societies and to our economies. That is why I am confident that EUMED leaders will jointly support a plan of immediate and ambitious action. This will be multi-level, constantly coordinated and certainly spread over time.
First and foremost, we must reaffirm our commitment to limiting the global temperature increase by 1.5 degrees. Ensuring that the voice of the Mediterranean is heard more loudly on the world stage on environmental issues.
It is also urgent to align public and private investments towards climate adaptation and climate neutrality. Here too, there must be innovative collaborative schemes to implement bold ideas.
We also need to accelerate carbon-free infrastructure. And to work together with all EU countries in view of the goals and the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26).
Secondly, we see the vitality of Mediterranean biodiversity threatened by habitat loss. Our forests are burning. Soil erosion is advancing. And the characteristics of our watersheds are changing. The consequences are already enormous. And the solutions are as urgent as ever.
We must repair any damage immediately. By sharing experiences and technologies. Coordinating joint actions and means of intervention. But also by addressing risks with uniform systems of forecasting and early intervention.
On our marine environment, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Conference in Marseille set the tone. There, we agreed to protect 30% of marine and coastal areas by 2030 and to control overfishing, The role of the Blue Economy in the success of the European Green Deal in the Mediterranean is crucial.
The climate crisis, however, calls for a horizontal adjustment of all public policies. For example, the management of the post-Covid tourism recovery must be based on new models. No longer based on the number of visitors. But through an approach centred on nature and human behaviour.
This is something that is of particular interest to our unique islands and coastline. The damaging energy footprint there must give way to green initiatives. And the joy of every visitor should be integrated into their coexistence with the natural beauty of the place.
Finally, as far as civil protection and prevention are concerned, cooperation between the Mediterranean countries is a one-way street. The profile of ecological disasters is common. Therefore, defence must also be common. And that means upgrading the European Civil Protection Mechanism. And strengthening RescEU in the Mediterranean, through a dedicated European Reserve.
The EUMED, as the Mediterranean component of the European family, is now called upon to rise to the occasion of the new reality on our continent and on our fragile planet. And its 8th Session, with its decisions, is a serious opportunity to demonstrate its pioneering potential.
We must build a future of justice, where people and nature coexist harmoniously and fruitfully. A future in which future generations will look back with pride at what we have achieved. It will certainly be an uphill battle. But one that we have no right to lose./ibna
*Article by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis published today in the Spanish newspaper “El País” on the occasion of the Summit of the Southern Member States of the European Union (EUMED 9) taking place in Athens.