11/03/2011 03:14

Environment Ministry: Israel already preparing its legislation to meet protocol demands to protect Mediterranean Sea against pollution.
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The EU’s European Commission executive branch issued a proposal late last week that the EU accede to the 1994 Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution from offshore fossil fuel exploration and exploitation.

Israel signed the protocol in October of that year but has not yet ratified.

Implementation of the Offshore Protocol, which was an amendment to the 1976 Barcelona Convention Mediterranean Action Plan, would require that oil and gas rigs in the Mediterranean comply with international standards and practice, and that they not receive authorization from local governments if they might adversely affect the environment.

Since 1994, the only country to have signed the protocol are Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Slovenia, Spain, Syria and Tunisia, while the only ones to have ratified that same protocol are Albania, Cyprus, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia. The EU has yet to sign or ratify the agreement.

Ratification, according to the European Union, refers to making a practice officially part of a country’s legal system, while a signature simply requires the country to refrain from committing acts that would impinge upon the objective of a given treaty. The countries that had ratified the protocol all put their legislation into force this past March.

“This proposal complements the legislative proposal for the safety of offshore oil and gas activities. It will allow us to work hand in hand with our non-EU Mediterranean partners, ensuring better protection of this sea for all its users,” European Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement.

If the EU ratifies the protocol, other parties to the Barcelona Convention that also have not yet acceded to the measure are more likely to join in the ratification, something that is necessary to safeguard the Mediterranean from offshore accidents, according to the EU statement.

The original Barcelona Convention, which called for comprehensive regional protection of the Mediterranean marine environment, has since 1976 been ratified by the European Union, Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus, as well as 14 non-EU Mediterranean countries including Israel.

For Israel to ratify the protocol, the country first would need to amend its domestic legislation to be compatible with that of the EU, a representative from the Environmental Protection Ministry told The Jerusalem Post, noting that, for example, Israel currently does not have legislation regarding waste disposal at sea. However, the representative explained, Israel is drafting legislation that would incorporate all the provisions of the protocol into its domestic law.

The EU move to ratify the protocol is essentially irrelevant to progress in Israel to do the same, as the country was already working on the legislation required to meet protocol standards before the EU’s position was known, the representative said.