The future of the Mediterranean Marine Ecosystem under discussion in Tunisia

Tunisia, 17 February 2014 - With the kind support and hosting of the Government of Tunisia, the Steering Committee of the MedPartnership project is holding its fourth meeting from 17 to 20 February 2014.

The meeting aims to present and discuss the results of the implementation of the MedPartnership activities in 2012-2013, and define future strategies for the project. It also aims to discuss the progress made in the new sister project “Integration of climatic variability and change into national strategies to implement the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean”.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Mounir Majdoub, the Secretary of State of Tunisia for Sustainable Development, in the presence of Ms. Maria Luisa Mejias Silva, Coordinator and Executive Secretary of the Barcelona Convention, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Emin Birpinar President of the Bureau of the Barcelona Convention, Mr Kais Blouza, Director of the Agence Nationale de la Protection de l'Environnement (ANPE - National Agency for the protection of the Environment) as well as representatives of the project’s countries, executing partners and donors.

"The Mediterranean Sea is sick, sick of our practices, our behaviors, our unconsciousness, our weakness, and our reluctance to admit reality", said Mr Majdoub in his address to the participants. "We do not know what is happening in the deep water", he added, " we do not know if life will continue and for how long he underlined the need to improve governance in the Mediterranean 10 years after the elaboration of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development: 'it is about time we, think together and make governance decisions in the Mediterranean, for a global, integrated, economic, social, cultural, ecological and natural governance", he concluded. He also declared that Tunisia will be hosting the Coast Day this year.

In his address, Mr Blouza welcomed all the participants and said that this project "is of great importance as it gathers a considerable number of participating countries, regional and international, technical and financial partner, but it is specifically interesting as it targets legal and institutional reform as well as concrete actions aiming at reverting the degradation of Mediterranean ecosystems".

In his opening speech, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Emin Birpinar, President of the Bureau of the Barcelona Convention, highlighted the importance of the MedPartnership platform for the conservation and sustainability of the Mediterranean. "I hope the MedPartnership turns into the MedFriendship and cleaner Mediterranean brings peace to our world" he concluded.

Thanking the Tunisian authorities for hosting the meeting, Ms Silva stressed that the region still needs coordinated action and assistance to address its many environmental challenges. She highlighted the importance of this meeting by saying: "this is a great opportunity to discuss and agree on the necessary measures that will allow us to move from good to excellent project results.

During this 4-day meeting, a field visit to the demonstration site of Ghar el Melh, will be organized on 19 February. The Ghar El Melh aquifer, like many Mediterranean coastal aquifers, is vulnerable to contamination from land-based pollutants, seawater intrusion, and over-extraction of groundwater resources.