The Conference aims at reinforcing scientific and technological collaboration between the European Union, the third countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region as well as the Black Sea region countries at a very high level, in a move to develop sustainable scientifically-based strategies for the management and preservation of marine ecosystems under threat.

During its presidency Greece, the only EU Member State situated in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is giving emphasis to the environmental problems of this region and, in addition to the hosting of the present conference, the Greek Environmental Initiative (GEI) aims to establish long lasting links for the exchange of information and training.


The main objectives of the Conference are:

  • Presentation of the state-of-the-art of the 11 key thematic areas addressed in the Conference and their connection with the two regions
  • Identification and description of common environmental problems in the two regions for which research is needed
  • Initiation and establishment of thematic networks especially between member and associate states on the one side and third counties on the other for constant exchange of ideas, exchange of expertise, experiences and know-how.
  • Presentation and analysis of the 6th Framework RTD Programme related to sustainable development especially in relation to marine science and technology. Promotion of the actions under the 6th FP which could be used to address, through research activities, the key policy issues in the regions.
  • Enhancement of the interaction and exchange of ideas and know-how between researchers, end-users and policy makers within the marine environmental sectors in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea region.


The preservation of the environment is an issue of high priority for decision-makers in the public and private sectors, for scientists and for citizens in most countries within the European continent. The promotion of sustainable development by increasing competitiveness and employment can assist in achieving economic growth and can help to prevent environmental degradation.

The Mediterranean and Black Seas regions have been the birthplace and the centre of many civilisations and cultures for thousands of years. However, the population of these regions has expanded substantially over the last 50 years. Urbanisation, disposal of industrial and domestic wastes, intensive agriculture and animal husbandry, soil degradation, desertification and forest fires are in fact only a few of the many factors which have exerted pressures on the Mediterranean environment, and which now put its integrity at stake. In addition within the region of the Black Sea urban and industrial development has led to increase amounts of waste from 17 countries in the rivers and the waters of the Black Sea. Recently the heavy rainfalls in the region of central Europe affected enormously the river flow of Danube with direct effects in the coastal regions of the Black Sea. In the last 30 years the Black Sea has increasingly attracted the attention of scientists, governments and the public at large as a region suffering ecological deterioration. In the 1973-1990 period, 60 million tons of bottom living animals were found dead (including 5 000 tons of fish). These phenomena may be linked to the increase in mineral and nutrients river discharge (GEF/BSEP, 1997), the majority of which (nitrogen and phosphorus) in the seawater originates from the Danube basin. The sewage systems of over 10 million people drain into the Black Sea coastal region. Over 100.000 tons of oil is transported within the Black Sea every year.

The European Environment Agency and UNEP/MAP have jointly produced a report focussing on the marine and coastal environment in the Mediterranean Region. This report, which was prepared by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and its European Topic Centre on the Marine and Coastal Environment (ETC/MCE) in co-operation with the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), gives an overview of the marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea and its coastal zone. One of the major concerns in the report is the scarcity or unavailability of comparable and in some cases reliable data for the Mediterranean basin as a whole. Multidisciplinary research is still needed is several cases to be able to describe with certainty the state, the impact and the resilience of the marine ecosystem.
The environmental crisis in the Black Sea resulting from anthropogenic forcing, and accompanied by natural variability and climatic changes, is manifested by dramatic changes in its ecosystem and resources. The fishery yields have declined dramatically with 80% reduction in total catch in the last few years, and only six out of the 26 species of commercially valuable fish of the 1960's remaining in exploitable quantities. Irretrievable losses of some significant delta wetlands and their habitats have taken place. Harmful algae blooms (red tides) are frequently observed. Changes in the species composition and community structure of plankton and loss of biodiversity have taken place. The events in the Black Sea could be nature's warning for other regions of the world. The Black Sea environment is one of the most sensitive environments in Europe. The complex societal-driven problems in the two regions should be addressed with an innovative and multidisciplinary approach, and by involving the principal stakeholders from the public sectors, the end-users and policy-making sectors.

There are several EU and international research and action programmes (MEDA, SMAP, LIFE Third Countries, DG Research/Marine Science and Technology with two Mediterranean Targeted Projects (MTP 1 and MTP 2-MATER), DG Research/Environment and Sustainable Development ELOISE initiative, INCO/AVICENNE, FAIR, RECITE and ECOS, OUVERTURE, INTERREG, TERRA etc. and projects within them that deal with one or more aspects of the environment in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, a good share of other EU programmes which cannot be classified strictly as environmental programmes, falling under ‘regional development’ transnational and international co-operation; telecommunication, etc, also have some important environmental components. These arise also from the incorporation of environmental concerns in sectoral policies and planning as requested by the consolidated EU treaty. However, information on environmental programmes, funding and projects within the EU is fragmented, the environment being a transversal issue which is dealt with by several Commission Directorates General (DGs).

Several environmental research programmes have also been developed by many Black Sea countries and international organisations and the European Union in order to address some of the issues facing the Black Sea region. Among them are the Black Sea Environmental Program is funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) with additional funds from CEC's PHARE and TACIS programmes and bilateral contributions from Canada, The Netherlands, Switzerland and France; the Environmental Program for the Danube River Basin; the EROS 2000 (European River Ocean System) project of European Commission focuses on the Northwestern Black Sea; the Cooperative Marine Science Programme for the Black Sea (CoMSBlack) is an international research programme for the scientific study of the Black Sea and is sponsored by IOC. Finally, other International organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation also support specific programs in ocean research and fates of radioactive substances.

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