17th September 2021
Today Friday 17th September, the Prime Ministers of the Mediterranean and Southern European Union member states met in Athens, Greece, for the Med9 (former Med7) Summit. The Mediterranean Network of the European Greens takes this meeting as an opportunity to highlight our concerns and views regarding the policies and realities in the Mediterranean region and to call for more climate ambition for the region.
Firstly, although we welcome the positive language adopted by ministers and governments to address the climate crisis, we are absolutely certain that this is not enough. The urgency to take ambitious actions, highlighted by the extreme weather experienced during this summer, requires brave and bold decisions at the local, as well as the national and European level. The lack of a comprehensive, coordinated and in-depth response for the prevention of wildfires, soil erosion and desertification, as well as measures to reverse the abandonment of the countryside and build local and community resilience has been an issue that Mediterranean Green Parties have been campaigning on for years.
The Mediterranean region needs to accelerate its green transition to tackle the climate emergency. The combination of increasing pollution, decline of biodiversity and changes in land use implies increasing risks for the region in the coming decades – reaching climate neutrality must be a priority and it requires immediate and radical emission reductions in energy, buildings, transport, industry, and agriculture sectors as well as better protection of carbon sinks.
It is imperative to invest in renewable energy not only to phase out fossil fuels but also to build on the energy independence of the region and fight energy poverty, also through the “Renovation Wave”. Sustainable mobility (public transport, bike lanes, car sharing) should be a priority as well as a shift towards organic and sustainable farming. The region also needs an industrial Green conversion and be less dependent on tourism as an essential sector in southern economies.
Actually, to this day there is no action to regulate and limit the excessive mass tourism model of development, which is a common feature of EU Mediterranean countries and is responsible for the environmental degradation of many areas, some of outstanding natural beauty. In addition, government collusion with heavy industry as well as the deregulation of the energy market is widespread. We disagree with all forms of 'greenwashing' of corporations that profit from environmental destruction.
We are calling for a green transition of the region with the certainty that climate and social justice belong together. European southern countries suffered from austerity policies which brought more poverty and inequalities in the region. We need to build up a resilient system based on a green and just transition. Due to the inadequate policy responses to the severe social crisis, youth unemployment is a social scourge in the Euro Mediterranean area. Calls for a 'green and digital recovery' ring hollow to the ears of the masses of young people whom the EU and member states have failed repeatedly in the last 15 years.
Lastly, we remain unconvinced by the rhetoric regarding the geopolitical situation in the Eastern Mediterranean; actively promoting peace and increasing military spending is a contradiction in terms. There is also the issue of turning a blind eye to rampant human rights abuses in many countries in the Mediterranean in favour of business contracts. This, in turn, is also reflected in the appalling continued loss of lives in the Mediterranean and the ongoing mismanagement of migration and population displacement at the EU level, coupled with the never-ending demonization of refugees and asylum seekers through a rhetoric of hate. Greens call for greater cooperation towards a humane management of migration and asylum, founded on solidarity and human rights. No more lives should be lost in the Mediterranean sea and at our borders. As Greens, we stand for actively promoting peace and cooperation between states as well as firm and consistent measures to punish human rights abusers.
Our common vision is for a Mediterranean region that is free of plastic, pollution and conflict; of a return to the small-scale agrarian practices that have been a feature of our region for millennia, this time assisted by -but not exclusively reliant on- technology. We envisage a series of clear steps for the complete greening of cities as well as de-urbanisation, investment in environmentally-friendly core infrastructure such as the railway and other forms of sustainable transport; the reform of welfare provision to ensure not only that nobody is left behind, but that all are given the opportunity to thrive.
We call on southern governments to seize the historical opportunity of the Recovery Facility to focus their efforts on projects that can deliver real digital and ecological transformation of our economies. The 'green' vision offered by the Med7 meeting is a watered-down, unimaginative version of the real thing. It is time we started working to rebuild a resilient Euro Mediterranean region from the roots up.