The Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, as well as the Danube basin, are faced with serious environmental problems such as water pollution, threats to the survival of species, a reduction in the quantity and quality of water resources, coastal deterioration etc.
Despite the significant efforts undertaken, by both the European Union for the Mediterranean and the Danube, and under the international and European programmes for the Black Sea, the results so far obtained do not provide any clear prospect of the sustainable development of the basins which will secure for the region the necessary social and economic development, peace, democracy and political stability.
Closer co-operation between the Parliamentary Assembly and the national parliaments of the countries of the two basins, on the level of the committees dealing with these problems, would establish regular and practical dialogue on common problems. The Council of Europe’s experience, expertise and instruments could make a valuable contribution to solving these problems.
Furthermore, such co-operation would not duplicate any other initiative at intergovernmental or parliamentary level but would supplement in a beneficial way the actions of the European Union and other European or international organisations.
A. the Committee of Ministers
B. National parliaments
C. Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE)
Since the beginning of the 1980s the Assembly has stressed the need for the Council of Europe to recognise the importance of the Mediterranean basin and, through specific actions and enhanced co-operation, to contribute to the peace, stability and development of this region.
Within the Assembly itself, the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities, acting on the basis that many of the problems common to the countries on the northern and southern shores of the basin could lead to fruitful forms of co-operation, had decided in conjunction with the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (now the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe), to bring together representatives of the regions bordering on the basin, representatives of the parliaments of the countries concerned, experts and governmental and non-governmental organisations in order to identify the priority problems which could be tackled through co-operation.
Accordingly, a first Conference of Mediterranean Regions was organised in Marseilles in 1985 in order to identify and discuss major issues such as economic development and the growth of tourism, interregional consultation, the role and powers of central government and local and regional authorities etc.
Three other conferences followed along similar lines: the Malaga Conference (1987), the Taormina Conference (1993) and the Cyprus Conference (1995).
In the meanwhile, however, other initiatives had been taken within the Council of Europe, and the latter’s concerns have been shared by several intergovernmental, interparliamentary or non-governmental organisations too numerous to name here. I will therefore mention only those, which I believe to be the most significant in the light of the activities implemented by the Council of Europe.
First of all in the parliamentary sphere, it should be pointed out that the Interparliamentary Union (IPU), inspired by the example of the CSCE process (Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe), initiated an Interparliamentary Conference for Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean (CSCM). This conference met for the first time in Malaga from 15 to 20 June 1992, at the invitation of the Spanish Parliament. The CSCM, the aim of which is to contribute at parliamentary level to peace and international co-operation, brings together representatives of parliaments of the Mediterranean riparian states, which have full-member status. Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States as naval powers have associate status, as do Palestine and several international parliamentary assemblies including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Two other conferences have been held since the Malaga Conference: one in Valletta, Malta, in November 1995 and the other in Marseilles in March-April 2000.
At the 104th IPU Conference (Jakarta, October 2000) representatives of the parties to the CSCM process gave further consideration to Malta’s proposal of some years ago that a Parliamentary Assembly of Mediterranean states be set up. A final decision might be taken at the meeting to be held in Malta, at the Maltese Parliament’s invitation, in early 2001.
Still at parliamentary level, under the European Union’s Barcelona Process (see below), the European Parliament is setting up an interparliamentary component which, for the time being, consists primarily in holding periodic parliamentary conferences attended by representatives of the European Parliament and the parliaments of the Mediterranean riparian countries which are not EU member states (the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Forum). The next of these conferences is due to be held in Brussels in February 2001.
A similar initiative was taken by the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Luciano Violante. It consists in bringing together at regular intervals the speakers of the parliaments of the member states of the European Union and the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean (Conference of Speakers of Parliaments in the Euro-Mediterranean Region).
At intergovernmental level and since 1995, when the Euro-Mediterranean Conference was held in Barcelona, the programmes launched by the European Union have accounted for the lion’s share of multilateral co-operation, in terms of the financial resources deployed. But it has to be acknowledged that these ambitious programmes have often lacked coherence and have not always been geared to the stated aims and the needs of the countries for which they had been designed. These programmes have therefore been reassessed and reviewed and we anticipate that they will shortly be able to satisfy the aspirations to which they have given rise.
In view of the commitments entered into by the European Union and the bilateral programmes which many European countries are carrying out with the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, and in view also of the initiatives taken under other European or international programmes, it is clear that the action taken by the Council of Europe at intergovernmental level no longer – with a few exceptions to which I shall refer below – corresponds to the Organisation’s primary role.
And yet, it is inconceivable that the Council of Europe should remain indifferent to the problems of the Mediterranean basin. Is it not the case that the specific nature of this Organisation makes it particularly well placed to promote co-operation in these regions and thereby help bring about the peace, democratic stability and development, which everybody would like to see?
When the Parliamentary Assembly and the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) decided to combine their efforts in the Conferences of Mediterranean Regions, their aim was to create the right conditions for dialogue between and amongst the riparian countries, but in addition – and perhaps above all – to encourage dialogue amongst the regions along these shores so that they could identify more effectively the problems which all – or virtually all of them – encountered, and agree on possible joint solutions.
The first conference brought home two points: first of all, closeness to the citizens was such that it was now the local and regional authorities’ responsibility to devise themselves the programmes of action which would ensure sustainable development in these regions. Second, it was clear that decentralisation varied considerably from one country to another and that the political, administrative and budgetary differences between regions often hampered interregional co-operation.
The three conferences which followed (Malaga 1987, Taormina 1993, Cyprus 1995) were devoted to different themes relating to sustainable development and democratic stability in the Mediterranean basin, such as water resource management, demographic development, the growth of tourism and transport policies. All these themes called for the application of the principle of subsidiarity and greater inter-territorial co-operation.
In September 1995 in Cyprus, the 4th conference concluded with the adoption of a Final Declaration in which the Council of Europe was asked to become actively involved in Mediterranean co-operation through its various bodies.
Two months later (November 1995) the European Union organised the 1st Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona. One of the results of this conference was the setting up at intergovernmental level of a comprehensive partnership with the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. This partnership comprised three main aspects: strengthened political dialogue, balanced and sustainable economic development and the promotion of better cultural and human understanding.
The aim of what is now called the “Barcelona Process” was to lay the foundations of a multilateral and lasting framework for relations, which, as a supplement to bilateral relations, would help make the basin an area of dialogue and co-operation in order to guarantee peace and stability.
The Barcelona conference led to the adoption of a Final Declaration and a significant financial programme comprising non-repayable aid and loans granted by the European Investment Bank and the EU member countries.
Although the conference stressed the fact that the European Union initiative should not replace other activities and initiatives to the same end, the need for new action by the Council of Europe at intergovernmental level was, clearly, less essential.
For its part, in the context of the enlargement of the Council of Europe, the Committee organised in Istanbul in 1997 the 1st Interparliamentary Conference on the Environmental Protection of the Black Sea. This conference first of all highlighted the ecological unity of the Black Sea and Mediterranean basins. Secondly, it was clear that the countries on the shores of the Black Sea, almost all of which were Council of Europe members, also shared a large number of problems with the countries on the shores of the Mediterranean basin.
Accordingly, on a proposal from our colleague Mr Recoder (Spain, EPP/CD), acting on behalf of the Committee, the Parliamentary Assembly decided in January 1998 that in future the Conferences on the Mediterranean Regions would also cover the Black Sea and that they would be called “Conferences on Interparliamentary and Interregional Co-operation in the Mediterranean and Black Sea Basins”, usually referred to as “Conferences on the Mediterranean and Black Sea Basins”.
In accordance with the decision taken by the Parliamentary Assembly and shared by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, the fifth conference in the series was therefore attended by representatives of the national parliaments and local and regional authorities of the countries on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea basins, and by representatives of parliamentary, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations working in those areas.
The aim of the conference was to study Interparliamentary co-operation and local and regional partnerships in order to come up with concrete proposals, which could contribute to peace and democratic stability in the region.
The Final Declaration comprised proposals addressed to the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.
At the end of these five conferences and bearing in mind geopolitical developments in Europe, the growing investment of the European Union, and the enlargement of the Council of Europe since 1989, one thing is clear: it is important for the Council of Europe to develop co-operation at its different levels of competence, and in particular where its potential specific role is undeniable: interparliamentary and inter-territorial co-operation.
However, it has to be noted that although parliamentary structures are – to all intents and purposes – virtually the same in all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, the situation is quite different with regard to local and regional authorities.
Indeed, in this connection, the conclusions of the first Malaga Conference in 1985 are still by and large relevant: the level of decentralisation is very variable, the powers of and financial resources assigned to the various authorities are very unequal and in certain areas such as environment, the division of powers between central government and local and regional authorities is very unclear.
Even though progress has been made in the field of local democracy and even though the experience, know-how and the instruments available to the Council of Europe are considerable, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that the right conditions are not yet in place for genuine inter-territorial co-operation.
Consequently, it is imperative that structures be set up, that powers and responsibilities be better defined. It is also essential that the financial resources allocated result in a genuine exercise of democracy, which will enable all the local and regional authorities in these regions to define, assume responsibility for and implement the policies of direct concern to them.
With regard to parliaments, however, the structures, potential and mechanisms for interparliamentary co-operation exist already.
Accordingly, the Committee has decided to focus exclusively on interparliamentary co-operation and has suggested that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe do the same at the level of local and regional authorities. The two bodies could liaise at a subsequent stage to take stock of the results.
Thus the Committee decided that the sixth conference in the series would be exclusively interparliamentary in nature, and it brought together representatives of the committees, which in the parliaments of the countries of the shores of both basins were responsible for the subjects addressed by the conference, relating to sustainable development.
The Committee’s aim was therefore to set up a forum for dialogue in which equivalent committees in the various national parliaments could provide one another with information, share their experiences and possibly derive some benefit. A further aim was to identify the contribution, which the Council of Europe could make through its experience, know-how, methods of co-operation and legal instruments.
As Mr Briane pointed out in his introductory address, the topics (cf Appendix 2, Programme) had been selected in order to respond to the concerns of the competent national committees and identify practical ways of furthering multilateral parliamentary co-operation.
The first session was devoted to the problems of the Danube and the Black Sea. The main report presented by Mr Ivanov and the contribution from Professor Shulman highlighted the unique and vulnerable nature of the Black Sea ecosystem, which was extremely sensitive to pollution because of the low level of oxygenation. Mr Zierer emphasised the need for a coherent approach to management of the Danube basin, which was the main source of pollution in the Black Sea, and referred to the Assembly’s efforts in this field. Ms Maneva, the Bulgarian Minister for the Environment, presented the main aspects of Bulgarian sustainable development policy, placing the emphasis on the potential of international co-operation.
From the geobiochemical point of view, the Black Sea forms a single system together with the Mediterranean, but it is extremely isolated, has a high and stable level of stratification, and a number of hydrological and hydrochemical properties which make vertical water turnover difficult. It is heavily dependent on inflows from the large rivers which collect the water of rivers from a considerable part of Eastern Europe and the European territories of the former Soviet Union and has an extremely shallow life-supporting surface zone. Its consequent extreme vulnerability compared with oceanic basins is exacerbated by its tendency to hypoxia even in aerobic zones.
At the same time, the Black Sea is subject to heavy pollution from its tributaries, including the Danube and the Dnieper. This is a result of inappropriate economic development policies, with too radical action being taken at the river mouths, pollution from products used in industry or agriculture, radioactive fall-out from the Chernobyl disaster and pollution resulting from the extraction and transport of oil. The effects of the high level of human activity have led to a serious deterioration of the Black Sea ecosystem, particularly in the shelf area. The oxygen deficiency has led to the reduction, and indeed the elimination of essential elements in the food chain.
Clearly, this pressure reduced in the 90s as a result of the slowing down of economic activities in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but with the economic revival in these countries, it will begin to rise once again.
Consequently, if its unique resources are to be saved, it is essential for there to be a co-ordinated policy and international co-operation in the management and protection of the Black Sea. Scientists in the riparian countries have already set to this task, taking part in joint research projects to monitor the state of the water and the food chain. A number of initiatives have also been taken at intergovernmental level, including within the “Black Sea Economic Co-operation” (BSEC). However, the declarations of intent are not always translated into practical action.
Management of the Danube basin is a perfect example. This basin covers a large part of Europe and, with its 80 million inhabitants, represents not only an enormous economic potential but also a natural environment, which requires protection measures going beyond national frontiers. The river, once again an essential communications route between central and south-east Europe, is the ideal link between several regions. However, while the river provides the latter with a means of subsistence, their activities also have negative effects. The recent cases of pollution of the Danube and the Tisza, and the consequences of the war in the Balkans, have made it abundantly clear that only through co-operation between the states in the basin will it be possible to protect this region and develop it in a balanced way, thereby contributing to the protection of the Black Sea as a whole.
The European Charter of the Danube Basin proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly could have been a political response to this challenge. It is therefore extremely regrettable that governments have not lent their support to this Assembly project. The purpose of the Charter was to provide a legal framework for the co-ordinated management of the basin, both in individual countries and at inter-regional level, thereby contributing to its sustainable development, with economy and ecology not in conflict but joining forces for a rational use of resources. Concerted parliamentary action could prove effective in making progress in this field.
Interparliamentary co-operation can also make a significant contribution to helping the countries of the region introduce legislation for the effective protection and management of natural resources. In this connection, Bulgaria, thanks to its bilateral co-operation and multilateral projects, recently introduced new environmental legislation covering, amongst other things, the management of water resources.
In introducing the second session, Mr Besostri highlighted the need to establish a close and ongoing link between democracy and development; parliamentary dialogue has much to contribute to this. The sustainable development of the Mediterranean basin is possible only in the context of a fair partnership between the two shores in which Eurocentrism has no part to play. Such development must be based on a forward-looking vision of regional planning. In this connection, several speakers stressed the importance of the coherent development of infrastructures, in particular transport corridors, which facilitate trade between the two basins.
Among the development problems of the Mediterranean basin, an emphasis was placed on the possibilities of co-operation in the fields of tourism policies and the prevention and management of ecological disasters. The discussions revealed a genuine interest on the part of the representatives of the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean to take part in parliamentary exchanges in these areas where international co-operation and the pooling of experiences can prove extremely useful.
Tourism policies and the concept of sustainable tourism development were looked at through the examples of Greece and Morocco, presented by Ms Zissi and Mr Rachidi, Deputy Speaker of the Moroccan Chamber of Representatives. Strategies in this field should promote tourism practices, which respect and preserve natural, cultural, social and human resources.
However, the relationship between tourism and economic development is not a straightforward one and often leads to difficult choices in certain regions mapping out their future. If the decision-makers are to be fully informed when making these choices, it is necessary to have a long-term view of the use of space and resources, including the geographical situation, climate and natural, cultural and historic heritage of the region.
Coherent regional/spatial planning – entailing in particular monitoring coastal urbanisation, compliance with accommodation capacities and saturation thresholds, and the management of protected zones – is a key part of sustainable tourism strategies. Environmental impact studies should be carried out before any economic development and investment projects, including those relating to the promotion of tourism, are embarked upon. Here, local and regional authorities have a crucial role to play.
The requirements of sustainable development show clearly how necessary it is for the environment that this issue be addressed from a world perspective. All long-term policies can be envisaged only in an international context. This leads us to the concept of “resources”, i.e. a common heritage that constitutes the basis of sustainable development. If resources are not renewable, then we come up against the problem of rational use, preservation and conservation.
Sustainable tourism presupposes, in addition, a change in the behaviour of the users of tourist services. Raising public awareness of the need to respect the natural and cultural heritage, with specific action aimed at all the stakeholders involved, becomes an increasingly more urgent task, to which members of parliament and local elected representatives can make a useful contribution.
This reflection on sustainable development was pursued by Mr Benbada, Chair of the Algerian parliamentary committee on agriculture, fisheries and environmental protection, who said that environmental problems were gradually being taken on board in his country. This was reflected in (i) the setting up of an institutional facility which should provide a response to the complexity of the environmental problems linked to the rapid development of urban centres and industrial activities, and (ii) the new internationally recognised environmental requirements.
The principles set forth at the Rio de Janeiro conference make it possible to reconcile the economy and the environment in a sustainable development strategy. But the environmental protection process must be coherent and logical and must not challenge the validity of development.
Nonetheless, the danger to the environment represented by industrial installations is very real. Frequently located in areas, which are very exposed to different types of natural hazards, such as earthquakes, floods or desertification, they are vulnerable to both natural phenomena and accidents of technological or human origin. Given the disastrous consequences, which industrial hazards can have on the fragile environment of the Mediterranean basin, there has to be a coherent disaster prevention and management policy. International co-operation in this field is not only desirable but essential.
In the same context, Mr Elsharafi, a member of the Palestine Legislative Council, expressed his concern about risks from radioactive waste and nuclear installations in Israel, and deplored the fact that they were not subject to international safety controls.
The role played by the Council of Europe in this field was presented by Mr Kolev, Director of the European Centre for School-Level Training on Risk Prevention. The aim of the EUR-OPA major hazards partial agreement is to prevent and handle major natural disasters. This is a process open also to countries, which are not Council of Europe members, and at present 23 countries is part of it. The agreement seeks to strengthen co-operation in the event of natural or industrial disasters through contacts and exchanges between signatory states and the opening of specialist centres when such disasters occur. Co-operation takes place at political level, through regular contacts between the relevant ministers, and also at scientific level with a European network of 22 centres.
During the 3rd session, the Conference looked at practical ways of improving interparliamentary co-operation on environmental protection in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins.
Mr Guellouz, Chairman of the Tunisian Parliament’s Committee on Equipment and Services, thought that multilateral co-operation, based on general principles, was better adapted to major issues of concern to several countries, whether on an international or regional scale. Multinational co-operation should therefore complement and not replace bilateral co-operation, which was better suited to address in greater detail the problems of vital concern to neighbouring countries.
The practical contribution of bilateral projects to solving environmental problems was highlighted by Mr Samoylenko, Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s Environment Committee. The main issue here concerned implementing international agreements and drawing up the necessary legislative framework. Although these agreements were normally intergovernmental in nature, national parliaments could make them more effective by drawing up the appropriate legislative framework and also by monitoring their application.
In addition, parliamentarians are able to influence the attitude of governments with regard to acceding to international instruments, particularly those drawn up by the Council of Europe. The Assembly could play a more active role by organising activities aimed at raising the awareness of the competent committees of national parliaments, which are often insufficiently informed of the Council of Europe’s activities in the field of sustainable development.
Reciprocal bilateral and multilateral information on current and planned legislation is an important aspect of parliamentary exchanges and facilitates the harmonisation – made necessary by the transfrontier nature of environmental problems – of legislation in the environment field. Here too, the possibilities offered by the Parliamentary Assembly should be better exploited in order to facilitate the exchange of relevant information.
The activities of the Parliamentary Assembly for Economic Co-operation in the Black Sea (PABSEC), presented by Ms Yaneva, member of the Economic Committee of that assembly, are a practical example of regional parliamentary co-operation. As a forum for discussing problems common to the countries of the Black Sea basin, PABSEC attaches considerable importance to implementing the principles of sustainable development, and addresses to the governments of its member states recommendations on environmental priorities. PABSEC also works with other parliamentary bodies such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Interparliamentary Union, and with local authorities.
Other European and regional institutions such as the OSCE and the Central European Initiative also comprise a parliamentary dimension. In order to enhance the effectiveness of efforts in the field of sustainable development, their activities have to be co-ordinated. In this respect, Mr Besostri, speaking on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Central European Initiative, stressed the importance the latter attached to the development of pan-European transport corridors. This is a subject, which is also important to the Council of Europe through its activities in the field of regional/spatial planning at the level of Greater Europe.
Greater complementarity between the action of the Parliamentary Assembly and parliamentary activities carried out at national and regional level would make it possible to keep in closer contact with current events and to provide a more effective response to the priorities reflecting the political will of citizens. This complementarity, in the view of Mr Martínez Casañ, would be beneficial both for national parliaments and the Assembly itself, which is made up of members of national parliaments.
First of all, the Assembly should be able to satisfy the needs of the national legislature and put at its disposal international experience and know-how. In turn, it has much to gain by drawing on the initiatives and ideas of national parliaments and developing them in a European context. Second, and just as important, the Assembly is able to count on national parliaments to lend support to and implement its own activities.
The influence between the Assembly and national parliaments works both ways. In order to facilitate this interaction and make it more effective, better mutual understanding of the activities and needs of each body is essential. The Assembly will maintain its role as the political driving force of the Council of Europe if it remains alert to national priority needs and retains its ability to integrate them at European level in order to produce initiatives or indeed standards which are valid for the whole of Europe.
Contacts and exchanges between the Assembly and national parliaments should therefore be strengthened at various levels and in various configurations. The speakers of European parliamentary assemblies regularly hold conferences, the most recent of which was held in Strasbourg in May 2000. This example should be followed at committee level with the organisation of systematic meetings between Assembly committees and the equivalent specialised committees of one or more parliaments, either along regional lines or to deal with a specific issue.
The chairs of specialised parliamentary committees could also be invited to meetings and hearings of the Assembly’s committees. Other forms of co-operation such as visits and contacts between rapporteurs or reciprocal invitations to present reports of common interest could also be explored.
The Council of Europe’s parliamentary activities do not always feed through to co-operation at intergovernmental level. Nonetheless, the interparliamentary dimension remains fundamental, and the recent protests in Seattle and Prague are the signs of a malaise, which is a direct result of the lack of representation. The WTO, which takes important decisions for the future, has no parliamentary component.
For this reason, it is essential to achieve complementarity between the different European and international assemblies by seeking out synergy and avoiding duplication.
The participants at the Varna conference reacted very favourably to the proposals concerning interparliamentary co-operation, the role of the Parliamentary Assembly and, in particular, heightened dialogue between the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities and the equivalent committees in the countries of the two basins.
Moreover, the non-member countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean have indicated a desire to show their formal support by asking the head of the Tunisian delegation, Mr Guellouz, to express the backing of all countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean for the Assembly’s initiative and their willingness to enter into open and constructive dialogue.
The interparliamentary co-operation to be implemented by the Assembly in order to contribute to the development of the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins has to be carried out at two levels: (i) relations with national parliaments and (ii) relations with the other assemblies looking at these same problems.
With regard to national parliaments, I would point out that the Committee has on numerous occasions stressed the importance of closer co-operation between the Parliamentary Assembly and national parliaments. Moreover, frequent reference has been made to the value of closer relationships between the Assembly’s committees and their counterparts in national parliaments.
As far as the Committee’s fields of competence are concerned, whether the environment, regional/spatial planning or issues relating to local democracy, more systematic relations with the equivalent committees in national parliaments would lead to improved awareness of their priorities. In turn, national parliaments would gain greater familiarity with the Assembly’s activities in their own fields of competence.
A closer understanding of the priorities and activities at national level would give the Parliamentary Assembly’s committees a more accurate picture of the potential expectations of its member states. This could also enable the Assembly to respond to specific requests, either through action it takes itself or by making available the expertise of other Council of Europe sectors.
Significant benefit could be derived from initiating interparliamentary co-operation along these lines in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins for a number of reasons.
First, the Assembly’s activities – over more than 20 years in the case of the Mediterranean and almost 10 years in the case of the Black Sea – are an excellent basis for establishing closer relations.
Each of the conferences held has confirmed the interest in the Council of Europe’s activities on the part of the participants – representatives of parliaments and local and regional authorities, as well as of other governmental and non-governmental bodies.
Second, the fact of having clearly identified the two areas where the Council of Europe could take useful action – national parliaments and local and regional authorities – makes it possible to focus action much more effectively and therefore to define more precisely the aims to be achieved.
Moreover, there can be interaction between these two levels in certain fields. This includes the extremely important issue of setting up local and regional authorities which have the necessary resources and powers to exercise genuine local democracy and local self-government as advocated by the Council of Europe, in particular in the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
And while, as we have seen above, it is important in the Council of Europe for the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe to concentrate their efforts on co-operation at their respective levels of competence, it would also be advisable for our Committee to attach the requisite importance to relations with the equivalent committees dealing with local and regional authorities in order to identify how the Assembly can help create the conditions leading to genuine interregional co-operation.
In the light of the above, the Committee intends to invite 8-10 chairs of equivalent committees to its ordinary meetings at regular intervals (every four months). The committee chairs would be able to report on their activities, the priorities their committees have set and issues which could usefully be addressed in the context of bilateral, regional or European co-operation. Importance should also be attached to raising parliaments’ awareness of the role they can play vis-à-vis government positions on international conventions or European policies in their fields of competence.
One example is transport policy which is essential for the development of regions such as the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins. The Conference stressed the need for parliaments to pay special attention to the development of pan-European transport corridors of relevance to the region in line with the decisions of the Pan-European Conferences of Ministers responsible for Transport and the European Union (see Appendix 1). In this example, interaction between the Parliamentary Assembly and national parliaments could be of paramount importance.
The aim of this “inter-parliamentary committee” co-operation is twofold: to improve the action taken by the Assembly by making it more relevant, and to ensure that national parliaments take greater account of the activities of our Parliamentary Assembly.
Moreover, it should be noted that if this form of co-operation advocated in Varna is pursued, and I am sure it will be, the 7th Interparliamentary Conference to be held in Rabat at the invitation of the Moroccan Parliament will be prepared in that context.
Furthermore, with regard to relations with countries which are not members of the Council of Europe, particularly the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, I believe that interparliamentary co-operation in the form proposed cannot but provide a positive input to relations with them, particularly as the majority of issues to be dealt with in that context lend themselves to fruitful co-operation which could lay the foundations for more “institutionalised” co-operation.
It is also important for the Committee to pay particular attention to relations with European Assemblies working in these same fields. We must therefore, as a matter of priority, develop co-operation with PABSEC, the European Parliament’s Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Forum and the CSCM process of the Interparliamentary Union, while not overlooking relations with other regional assemblies such as the Central European Initiative.
Although the Varna Conference focussed mainly on interparliamentary co-operation, it wished requests relating to the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental sector to be submitted to the Committee of Ministers.
Firstly, the participants agreed that the implementation of certain Council of Europe conventions could make a worthwhile contribution to sustainable development in the two basins. However, neither the Lugano Convention (1993) nor the Strasbourg Convention (1998), although both considered excellent, has yet been signed and ratified by enough countries to enter into force.
The Conference took the view that the Council of Europe ought to conduct activities designed to facilitate the signature and ratification of these conventions.
Secondly, awareness-raising, information and education in relation to environmental issues have always been regarded as priorities. Bearing in mind the aims, experience and expertise of the Council of Europe in these fields, relevant activities should be undetaken by the Organisation.
Furthermore, at the sitting devoted to the Danube, the draft convention drawn up by the Parliamentary Assembly, on which the Committee of Ministers has not seen fit to take action, was much discussed.
Recent ecological disasters and the damage done to the Danube during the confict in former Yugoslavia have demonstrated the potential usefulness of an instrument of the kind proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly, which, without seeking to replace the many existing instruments, was designed to provide a framework for consultation among the countries of the Basin and international organisations.
As pointed out in the introduction, the Conferences of Mediterranean Regions were instituted in 1985 to enable the coastal regions to discuss common problems and co-operate in finding solutions.
But there is no denying that differences between the countries of the two basins in structures, powers and resources made such co-operation difficult, at least at the operational stage.
There had to be a degree of homogenity in the territorial organisation of the two basins for interregional co-operation to actually come about.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE), which represents local government bodies in Council of Europe member states, has been working to achieve this through activities to promote the European Charter of Local Self-Government and regionalisation, contributing by this means to the application of the subsdiariy principle as the foundation of local democracy.
As regards co-operation with non-member countries, particularly those of the southern Mediterranean shore, it is important to note and to welcome the co-operation started with Morocco in this sphere.
In December 1999, the CLRAE organised an international seminar in Rabat on the theme of Local Self-Government and Regionalisation in the Mediterranean and, a year later, a second on national associations of local and regional authorities and the relevance of such an association in Morocco.
The Congress has an important role to play in establishing fruitful co-operation in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins. It is important that its projects be continued and that – where necessary – interparliamentary co-operation contribute to the pursuit of the objectives set.
The Parliamentary Assembly, particularly its Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities, have always believed it important to develop co-operation in the Mediterranean in order to help make this region an area of peace and stability. Sharing the same problems, experience and expertise and trying to find solutions can with certainty help to develop peace and democracy.
This same principle justifies recognising that the Black Sea and the Mediterranean share the same environmental problems.
Dialogue between the Committee and its counterparts in national parliaments, conducted on a regular basis, addressing common concerns and tackling concrete problems amenable to treatment by means of joint projects, should ensure closer interlinking between the Parliamentary Assembly and national parliaments, enabling the Parliamentary Assembly to keep its finger on the pulse of national parliaments and governments. National parliaments would also benefit more from the Council of Europe’s work.
The next, 7th Conference of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Basins will be held, in late 2002/early 2003, in Rabat, in a non-member country on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. It is important that the Parliamentary Assembly grasp this opportunity; this implies that the interparliamentary co-operation proposed in Varna in the field of sustainable development must be developed and produce its first results.
The Rabat Conference must enable us to show a positive record and to present results that encourage us not only to continue, but to extend the experiment to other sectors.
The representatives of parliamentary bodies of border countries of the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, as well as the Danube basin, meeting at the initiative of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly:
1. The first five conferences, held periodically since 1985, provided an opportunity for studying the major problems of the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins with a view to fostering active solidarity between the populations and their representatives at different levels, and enabling conditions conducive to development to be established, while preserving the basins’ natural, cultural and historical heritage.
2. After the 4th conference (Cyprus, 1995), it was decided to take account of the fact that the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins formed a single ecological system justifying an overall approach, and of the fact that all the countries on the shores of the Black Sea were members of the Council of Europe.
3. As regards the protection of the environment, the Council of Europe has important legal instruments at its disposal: one of them, the Bern Convention, is currently in force and the other two, the Convention on Civil Liability for Damage resulting from Activities Dangerous to the Environment and the Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law, are not yet in force as they have not been ratified by the required number of countries.
4. For the sake of the region’s sustainable development, it is also important to enact such specific instruments as the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the applicable provisions of the Ospar Convention.
5. Consequently, it is necessary to give priority to these instruments by taking steps to enable the riparian countries of the two basins to sign, ratify and enact them.
6. Furthermore, the recent pollution and damage resulting from the conflict in Yugoslavia have worsened the state of the Danube and highlight the topicality and importance of the draft European Charter of the Danube Basin, which the Parliamentary Assembly proposed in 1997 as a means of organising concerted co-operation in the region.
7. Such a charter could provide an adequate framework for taking all the problems facing the region into account and a means of raising the awareness of the political authorities. What is more, it could help to achieve the objectives of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe by promoting a spirit of shared responsibility and co-operation at different levels.
8. The development of a transport policy that takes account of environmental problems is an important factor in sustainable development. In this context, special attention should be paid to the pan-European transport areas and corridors that concern the region.
9. On the other hand, the 5th Conference on Mediterranean and Black Sea Basins (Marmaris, Turkey, 1999) recognised that the organisation of the regional and local authorities of the countries on the shores of the two basins varied greatly from one country to another, and that the principles of local and regional self-government promoted by the Council of Europe must therefore be encouraged and furthered by means of specific activities.
10. To this end, co-operation furthered by the Parliamentary Assembly is a means of contributing to the establishment of democratic bodies and methods of operation in the field of regionalisation and local democracy.
11. Given the above and the results of the previous conferences, it would be useful for the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and its committees to devote more time and effort to sharing national experiences of setting up democratic institutions and procedures for drafting and applying legislation in areas that are of priority to the sustainable development of the region.
12. Increased and co-ordinated co-operation between the specialised committees in the national parliaments – in non-member as well as member countries – and the Parliamentary Assembly would provide a means of making the expertise and experience of the Organisation available to the national parliaments, and of seizing all the opportunities offered by parliamentary action.
13. It is also important that the Parliaments give priority to action to raise awareness of and provide information and education in the field of sustainable development and peace culture, and include awareness-raising and education with regard to the environment in a supportive approach to the problems, which requires that collective responsibility be taken for the state of the environment alongside individual responsibility.
14. The participants welcome the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation (PABSEC), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Barcelona process (Euroforum) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Central European Initiative, which are the parliamentary side to the intergovernmental co-operation developed in the region of the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins and help to mobilise national parliaments in their member states in support of efforts to combat the deterioration of the environment.
15. In this context they welcome, in particular, the holding of the 1st Interparliamentary Conference on the Environmental Protection of the Black Sea (Istanbul, 1996), jointly organised by the Parliamentary Assembly and the PABSEC, and the 3rd Interparliamentary Conference on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean (CSCM) (Marseille, 30 March-2 April 2000) of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU).
16. Given the above, the participants ask:
16.1. the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to:
16.2. the Parliamentary Assembly to:
16.3. the National Parliaments to:
16.4. the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe of the Council of Europe to:
17. Participants are of the opinion that it would be important that one of the next conferences be held in one of the countries of the South coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
18. Given the increasing co-operation on territorial authorities level between the Council of Europe (Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE)) and Morocco, participants would be grateful if the Chamber of Representatives of the Kingdom of Morocco could envisage to invite the Parliamentary Assembly to hold its 7th Interparliamentary Conference of the Basins of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea in Morocco.
Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities
Reference to committee: Standing mandate
Draft resolution, recommendation and order adopted by the committee on 18 December 2000.
Members of the committee: Mr Akçali (Chairman), MM Besostri, Hoeffel, Haraldsson (Vice-Chairmen), Mrs Agudo, MM Andreoli, Bartsch, Bianchi, Bockel, Briane, Browne, Mrs Burataeva, M. Budisa, Sir Sydney Chapman, MM Ciupaila, Cox, Diana (Alternate: Risari), Mrs Dromberg (Alternate: Tiuri), MM Duivesteijn, Frunda, Graas, Mrs Granlund, Mrs Herczog (Alternate: Lotz), Mrs Hornikova, MM Hren-Vencelj, Kalkan, Mrs Kanelli, Mme Kestelijn-Sierens, MM Kieres (Alternate: Adamczyk), Kittis, Kurucsai, Kurykin, Lachat, Linzer, Luczak, Martinez-Casan, Melo, Mezeckis, Mrs Mikaelsson, MM Minkov, Monteiro, Mota Amaral, Mrs Nagy, MM Pollozhani, Prokes, Prosser (Alternate: O’Hara), Rakhansky, Reimann, Rise, Salaridze, Mrs Schicker, Mr Schütz, Mrs Sehnalova, Mrs Severinsen, MM. Sobyanin, Steolea, Stepaniuc, Mrs Terpstra, MM Toshev, Truu, Vella (Alternate: Debono Grech), Zierer, Mrs Zissi.
N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretaries of the committee: Mrs Cagnolati, Mr Chevtchenko.