BSC

The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution

Permanent Secretariat

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Conference on Launching the Black Sea Environment Partnership

Conference launching the Black Sea Environment Partnership, Brussels, 15-16 March 2010

"In order to facilitate regional responses to the many challenges in the wider Black Sea area, the Black Sea Synergy, a European initiative launched in 2008, aims to identify project oriented schemes with the widest possible participation from regional stakeholders. ... "

Stefan Füle

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Agenda

15 March 2010

20.00  Dinner  
Venue: Crowne Plaza Europa Hotel
  Keynote Speaker: Laszlo Borbely, Environment Minister, Romania

16 March 2010

Venue:   European Commission, Charlemagne Building, Mansholt Room

09.30  Registration and Coffee

10.00  Welcoming address by Janez Potočnik, member of the European Commission in charge of Environment

10.15  Welcoming address by the Presidency of the European Union

10.30  Welcoming address by Laszlo Borbely, Environment Minister, Romania

10.45  Coffee Break

11.00  Speakers from Black Sea partner countries

12.00  Speakers from EU members States

13.00  Lunch

15.00  Speakers from EU member States (continued)

16.00  Adoption of the Conference documents

16.15  Coffee Break

16.45  Representatives of regional organisations and invited stakeholders

18.00  End of the proceedings

 

Speeches

Speech by Nino Tkhilava, Chairman of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution

Dear Commissioners of the European Commission
Dear Ministers of Environment
Distinguished Members of the Black Sea Commission,
Distinguished Members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation,
Representatives of International Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to address you at this Conference event initiated by the European Commission in order to take cooperation between the EU and the Black Sea region to a new, higher level.
This is a much needed step and I believe that our commitment to improve our cooperation will be of enormous benefit for the countries in the Black Sea regions, will boost and support regional agreements in place for the protection of the Black Sea environment, here I refer to the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution and its institutional structure.


In 1992, realizing the importance of the Black Sea, its fragile and unique ecosystem as well as the unique role it plays in the lives of the people in the Black Sea region, also being aware that action could not be further delayed, the governments of 6 newly emerging democracies, struggling with the transition to a market economy negotiated and signed the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution in Bucharest (the Convention is shortly referred to as the Bucharest Convention after the place it was signed). With the support of the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Development Programme, the European Community (then),the World Bank and other international donors there was quick progress in the development of an institutional structure and adoption of important strategic document – the Strategic Action Plan for the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Black Sea (1996) which further was implemented by the adoption of National Plans in the Black Sea riparian countries. The issue of environmental priorities, based on the recent developments and as a result of the previous efforts, was revisited in 2007-2009 with the major support of the European Commission, support from the Global Environmental Facility and others. This culminated in negotiation and adoption of the new Strategic Action Plan for the Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation of the Black Sea, adopted at the Ministerial Meeting / Diplomatic Conference of the Ministers of Environment of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, in Sofia 2009. Whereas the Strategic Action Plan adopted in 1996 was action oriented, the new Strategic Action Plan is eco system quality objective oriented, defining management targets, priorities, leaving the countries flexible in choosing the best strategies and means to implement them. The Strategic Action Plan adopted in 2009 converges and implements much of the goals and objectives of EU water policy as embodied in the Water Framework Directive, the Marine Strategy and other EU policies and legislation.

The results of our efforts are visible: as stated by the keynote speech of the Executive Director of the Permanent Secretariat, Prof. Ahmet Kideys, the first region wide assessment reports (the State of the Black Sea Environment Report 2002, and 2007), prepared with the support of the European Commission, noted an improvement of if the overall state of the Black Sea, not failing however to stress that the Black Sea ecosystem is fragile, improvements may easily reverse if efforts are not maintained and increased.

The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution has a solid institutional structure. Its dynamic and committed Permanent Secretariat, supported by thematic Advisory Groups and topic oriented ad hoc Working Groups  has the capacity to implement complex projects, coordinate and manage scientific studies, as well as carry out its main functions of being a secretariat to the Bucharest Convention, as evidenced by the significant donor funding from the European Commission, participation in the scientific research programmes of the EU (FP6 and FP7), the United Nations Development Programme as well as other donors and institutions. Since its establishment in 2000 the Permanent Secretariat has carried out activities to help implement EU environmental policy in the region, performed DABLAS related work as well as coordinated and managed a number of other activities.
As stated by Prof. Sarikaya previously “Synergy means more than a simple sum of the parts”  Thus I here express my confidence that with the common efforts of all of us - the European Union, the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution and other international financial institutions and the wide participation of all other stakeholders we will be able to achieve more than we can when we act separately, although driven by the purposes and goals arising from our mandate., especially knowing that pollution, eutrophication, habitat degradation and loss and other environmental problems result from human activities in the wider Black Sea catchment, the largest subcatchment of which is the Danube River Basin, which has a large contribution to pollution loads discharged in the Black Sea, the necessity for such a cooperation is evident.

I believe that the Black Sea Partnership on Environment, which we are inaugurating today, within the wider framework of the Black Sea Synergy is an important and key component which will have an deep effect in the future work of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution.

The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution welcomes this partnership and expresses its commitment to seek ways to coordinate strategies and policies and lend its support the projects and activities which will be carried out under it. The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution shall prioritarily strive to further cooperate and integrate with the Black Sea Partnership, establishing close collaboration with the institutional structure to be established for the implementation of this Partnership.
As Chairman of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution let me say that The Black Sea Partnership possesses its own potential for synergy in the following aspects: The Black Sea Partnership on Environment can serve as a mechanism for, at the political level, strategy and policy coordination between the EU, and the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution and its signatory countries.

The Black Sea Partnership could work closely with the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution in the defining priorities, establishing mechanisms and designing project development schemes and the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution could, in turn make available its institutions  within its legal framework to implement the strategies and policies of the Black Sea Partnership.

It goes without saying that to implement this synergy close cooperation shall have to be established during the phases of priority setting, project design and project implementation.

In conclusion let me once more express my high esteem of the work we are doing here today and wish all of us a successful meeting and future cooperation.
Thank you.

Speech by Prof. Ahmet Kideys, Executive Director, Permanent Secretariat, Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope you are enjoying your meal !.

My name is Ahmet Kıdeyş, the Executive Director of the Permanent Secretariat of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (or briefly known as the Black Sea Commission or Istanbul Commission). The title of my talk is “ACTIONS FOR THE BLACK SEA ENVIRONMENT SHOULD UNITE US”.

It is both a great honour and pleasure for me to address such distinguished audience today. It is an honour because as the Executive Director of the Permanent Secretariat, I see this as an appreciation of the dedicated efforts of Black Sea Commission. That is why I would like reciprocally thank Mr Janez Potocnik, the EU Commissioner for the environment for organising this event which is very important for the Black Sea Commission. It is a pleasure because, as a scientist, I will be talking for the protection of a sea that I witnessed again and again its wonderfulness during over 20 years of my scientific career. Therefore, my special thanks go to Mr Thierry Béchet, of the EU DG Relex for giving me this opportunity.

I have four messages to draw your attention to in my talk:

1) THE BLACK SEA ECOSYSTEM IS EXCEPTIONALLY UNIQUE AND SENSITIVE

Undoubtedly, the Black Sea is one of the most interesting seas in the world in several aspects: e.g. geological, hydrological, political etc. Its entire history is full of dramatic events.

Perhaps firstly I should tell you that it is probably the youngest sea in the world. Only 4-5 thousand years B.C., the Black Sea was a freshwater lake, until Mediterranean waters started to invade its basin through the today’s Istanbul strait. Because of the sudden massive flow, some scientists claim that Noah’s Flood took place in the Black Sea.

Since Mediterranean waters are more saline and much denser, they accumulated at the lower section of the water column. Because the Black Sea is a deep sea with an average depth of 2 km, such a density difference prevented aeration of deep waters. Thus, the Black Sea contains the largest volume of permanently without oxygen waters in the world.

However, the thin oxygenated layer of surface waters of the Black Sea are very fertile and sustain a rich fishery. In fact, its total fish production was once equal to that of the entire Mediterranean, despite being 3 times smaller in area.

One reason for this fertility is the substantial riverine input from a very large catchment area. This, coupled with the very limited water renewal from the narrow Istanbul Strait, makes the thin oxygenated layer of the Black Sea as one of the most sensitive ecosystems of the world.

2) ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE BLACK SEA ARE TRANSBOUNDARY

I would like to recite an Indian saying that I heard during the preparatory meeting for this conference about 3 weeks ago:

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,

It is interesting to see that the concern mentioned in this Indian saying persisted still, after hundreds years later, though we use somewhat different terminology nowadays. The “tree cut down” mentioned in the saying is now known as the loss of biodiversity and habitats, the “river poisoned” as the pollution be from land or from vessels and “fish caught” as the overfishing. Indeed, the reports of two Transboundary Diagnostic Analyses prepared for the Black Sea Commission in 1996 and 2007,  list them as the three main problems. I would like to underline here that all these problems in the Black Sea have transboundary character.

Why transboundary? Because, the strong, basin scale anticlockwise currents in the Black Sea transport any kind of pollution from any area to all other areas. Actually I wanted to show you how dynamic the coastal currents using a short movie, that illustrates how several drifters/buoys released in the northern Black Sea (27 Oct 2001) which were traced by the satellites, following all around the Sea arrive back to the north within 4 months (6th Mar 2002). Pollutant would be also transported everywhere. It could be marine litter, oil pollution or nutrients. In the late 1980’s, especially the shallow NW shelf of the Black Sea was suffering badly from too much nutrients brought by rivers, especially via Danube River. As a result of that, it was not unusual then seeing mass fish mortalities along the Romanian and Bulgarian shores due to eutrophication related hypoxia.

Not only pollution but also invasive species could be easily transported from one region to another. Indeed, the Black Sea is one of the worst affected marine regions of the world impacted by the ship-mediated transfer of invasive species. One of the most notorious examples for the world oceans is the impact from the jellyfish Mnemiopsis leidyi, in the early 1990’s causing the collapse of the fishery in the Black Sea.

Transboundary problems require basin wide actions. One or two countries’ efforts only will never be sufficient to protect even their own exclusive economic zones, let alone the entire Black Sea ecosystem.

3) ECOSYSTEM INDICATORS ARE SHOWING IMPROVEMENT AND INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION IS AT A VERY HIGH LEVEL

Compared to the 1980s and 1990s, the Black Sea ecosystem is now in a better condition. I am saying this based on the most comprehensive assessment study undertaken for the Black Sea, contributed by over 60 prominent scientists, for the period of 2002-2007.

For example, no mass fish or dolphin mortalities reported along the Black Sea coasts in this period. The number of low oxygen (hypoxic)  events was much lower in the shallow northwestern shelf.

In this period, the phosphate loads from the Danube River was halved compared to the previous 5 year period, thanks to the efforts of the Danube countries, the EU, International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), and the DABLAS Task Force. Unfortunately, the inorganic nitrogen load on the other hand showed increase trend which must be due to increased flow of the Danube.

The Black Sea region is now for example better prepared for the oil spill accidents, as evidenced by the regional exercises in 2007 in Turkish coasts and in 2009 in Romanian coasts, thanks to the involvement and support of many organisations. The legal institutional structure of the Black Sea coastal countries setup for the protection of the marine environment is now very active.

Unfortunately we have no time to present many more positive examples reported but those who would like to know more could download the State of Environment Report from the Black Sea Commission’s webpage or we can mail you a copy.

Public awareness is now at a much higher level due to the efforts of the governments and of organizations dedicated to the protection of the Black Sea Environment, as well as the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution to inform, sensitize and reach all concerned stakeholders and the general public.  Celebration of the Black Sea Day on the 31st October each year is now a regular event in coastal communities as well as region wide.

In addition the joint efforts of the Contracting Parties of the Bucharest Convention, in this improvement of the Black Sea ecosystem, there have been an important role of the international cooperation. Indeed, in the last years, the Black Sea Commission became the focus for joint cooperation involving different institutions of EU, UNEP, UNDP, BSEC, PSC MoU, ICPDR, IMO, other sister regional organisations, private sector, NGOs and others.

4) NOTHING SHOULD STOP THE STRONGER COOPERATION NEEDED FOR THE BLACK SEA ENVIRONMENT

It’s less than one year since the adoption of the SAP and LBSA protocol to the Bucharest Convention, but already we see exciting progress on actions envisaged there. There are 65 concrete actions in the new SAP, requiring not only more active involvement of the Black Sea countries but also wider and strengthened cooperation especially with EU to create the synergy needed. Some of these actions (i.e. Monitoring, dealing with hotspots, ICZM, Marine Protected Areas etc) were identified as priority issues to deal during the preparatory meeting of this conference 3 weeks ago.

Since the membership of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, the EU is bordering the Black Sea. We are fully aware that the EU is following a very proactive policy towards the Black Sea. I personally believe that the knowledge and experience of the EC will be invaluable on the area of environment for the Black Sea. EU is changing us in better way! There are so many projects on the Black Sea ecosystem supported by EU and they are very valuable towards the protection efforts!

The time has come now that the environmental decisions should affect the other aspects of politics, rather than the other way round. As “we are all in the same boat”, the environmental issues have also the potential of helping to improve the relationship on other aspects of politics among countries. I could reiterate that ACTIONS FOR THE BLACK SEA ENVIRONMENT SHOULD UNITE US. I trust that the “Black Sea Partnership on Environment” could be a step for achieving this.

I would like to finish with the Indian saying which was mentioned above, which had actually one more line:

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

Instead, I am hoping that increased amount of money will be spent for the environment as a result of this meeting, so that we will be able to eat lots of sea products for many decades to come.

Thank you for your attention