Under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership process, the EU and 12 non-EU Mediterranean countries are working towards establishment of a regional free trade zone by 2010. NGOs fear that the process will damage fragile Mediterranean environments. At Monday's meeting they complained of inaction on the part of the European Commission despite earlier commitments to undertake a formal sustainability assessment.
According to a study presented at the conference by FoE Middle East, trade liberalisation could have a number of detrimental effects, including increased pressure on scarce water resources and probable increases in transport and industrial pollution. The researchers stressed that southern Mediterranean countries were not in a position to take advantage of environmental opportunities such as organic farming and ecolabelling due to a lack of infrastructure and institutional support. FoE called on the Euro-Med process to support these aspects.
Participants in the conference - including officials from the European Commission - "committed themselves to closely monitor the social and environmental impacts of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership," according to a statement released by FoE. FoE Middle East added a demand for the Partnership to create a new Euro-Med Sustainability Commission to ensure that the eventual free trade zone supported sustainable development.
Friends of the Earth Europe, tel: +32 2 542 0180.
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