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Policy measures

Global, regional and national measures are being taken to reduce the input of polluting substances into marine waters. International agreements such as OSPAR, HELCOM and the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) provide a binding legal framework. In the OSPAR and Baltic Sea areas, for example, targets have been set to reduce emissions, losses and discharges of hazardous wastes with the ultimate aim of achieving concentrations near background values for naturally occurring substances and close to zero for synthetic substances by 2020 (HELCOM 1998).

Some states have difficulties in implementing their obligations under these agreements, and this reduces the effectiveness of regional MEAs such as MAP and the Black Sea Convention. Assistance programmes from wealthier states may play an important role in improving implementation and compliance in relation to regional and sub-regional MEAs.

Enforcement has improved significantly in some CEE countries, and the introduction of economic instruments has had an impact. For example, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has made funding available for infrastructure improvements in the transition countries in cooperation with HELCOM. However, the slow transformation of large, polluting, state-owned enterprises continues to present obstacles.

The recently adopted European Water Framework Directive provides a strong instrument for the control of pollutants and monitoring in the catchment and coastal areas and improvement of water quality for all EU States and incoming accession States.

A recent example of a non-binding agreement at the global level is the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Landbased Activities (GPA). Its implementation will require new forms of collaboration between governments, organizations and institutions concerned with marine and coastal areas at all levels - national, regional and global. Although still in its early stages, the interest and commitment shown by governments in Europe are encouraging.

The main challenge in coastal areas is the implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management which aims at harmonizing the various, sometimes conflicting, uses of the coastal zone. In regions such as the Baltic Sea, bordered by several independent nations, transboundary and international cooperation is a basic requirement.

Hazards and contingency planning for oil spills

The main principles for international cooperation in preparedness for and response to marine pollution incidents are defined by the Emergency Protocol to the Barcelona Convention. In order to assist coastal states in its implementation, the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) was established in Malta in 1976. Since 1977, REMPEC has systematically collected reports on incidents causing or likely to cause pollution of the sea by oil. Some 311 incidents were recorded between August 1977 and December 2000, 156 of which actually resulted in the spillage of oil. Spill response operations in the Mediterranean between 1981 and 2000 were regularly conducted either by national or local authorities or by the spill clean-up contractors under their supervision. To date, nearly 2 000 people have participated in a training programme developed by REMPEC to assist coastal states in developing their own capabilities for effective responses to pollution incidents. The only case that necessitated mutual assistance between neighbouring countries (France and Italy) was the spill from the tanker Haven near Genoa in Italy, with the loss of 144 000 tonnes of oil in 1991.

Source: REMPEC 2000