ATHENS, Sept 17 (Reuters) – Leaders of the EU’s bloc of nine southern European members on Friday demanded urgent global action to combat a worsening climate crisis and build a sustainable future for the Mediterranean region.
Leaders from Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Malta, Portugal and Spain met in Athens to discuss climate change after devastating summer wildfires highlighted the challenges a warmer world poses for southern Europe.
The Mediterranean was now suffering “unprecedented ecological damage and response capabilities are being stretched to the limit”, they said in a joint statement after their meeting, joined by EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
“Such vulnerability is going to increase due to the accelerating impacts from climate change in the region leading to losses in welfare in terms of economic impacts due to climate change,” the statement said.
EU scientists have said the Mediterranean has become a “wildfire hotspot” as human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe.
Greece was hit by its most intense blazes on record amid an intense heatwave this summer and in southern Italy fires ravaged swathes of land, while deadly flooding swept western Europe.
“This summer’s destructive fires hit particularly Greece, Italy and Cyprus. They left no Mediterranean country unscathed, while Europe’s north suffered deadly floods,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a joint news conference after the summit.
“It’s the strongest proof that the environmental crisis affects us all,” he said. “And as there is a common risk, our defences should be common as well.”
In Greece, hundreds of businesses and houses have been burnt to the ground, with the fires overwhelming national civil protection and fire fighting responses and forcing Greece to ask assistance from other EU countries.
The Mediterranean countries agreed to boost cooperation among themselves in planning and prevention and called on the EU to strengthen its civil protection mechanisms to help better protect citizens and the environment against “increasingly severe and complex disasters”. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean)
Photos Leaders and senior representatives from nine Mediterranean countries in Europe pose for a family photo during the EUMed9 Summit, in Athens, Greece, 17 September 2021.The agenda of the Summit, which acquires special geopolitical weight, includes security challenges in the Mediterranean that endanger stability in the region, potential new crises, such as the threat of migration flows after the latest developments in Afghanistan, and other crises, the consequences of which Mediterranean countries are already experiencing, such as climate change. EPA-EFE/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU