An environmental disaster in the Mediterranean: oil spill off the Tunisian coast

  • 31 March 2016

An oil spill has been confirmed on the island of Kerkennah, one of Tunisia’s richest habitats for wildlife and sea life. According to the Ministry of Industry of Tunis the case was “a loss of oil to the top of the extraction Cercina seven small local company well Thyna Petroleum Services”, a joint enterprise of the Tunisian National Oil Company and the Entreprise Tunisienne d’Activités Pétrolières. The Thyna is now held at the time responsible for what happened.
The accident was the result of a breakdown in the control tube, a tube with a diameter of about ten millimetres of underwater pipelines belonging to the company. Tunis could now impose a penalty on the oil company up to 50 thousand euro, in addition to paying compensation to the fishermen of the archipelago for the consequences of the oil spill. The National Environmental Protection Agency also stated that the remediation area will be completed in the shortest possible time.
The “black tide” has affected the coast of Sfax region, where they are among the most beautiful beaches of the archipelago, a popular tourist destination in the North African country. Moreover the sea is polluted 120 kilometres from Lampasas.
Talking about environmental disaster was many: environmental groups, citizens and observers. According to the government the patches are now under control. The Tunisian authorities, in fact, stated that it would be now over the oil spill began last March 13 on an oil rig off the coast of the Kerkennah islands, in the region of Sfax in Tunisia. Thyna Petroleum Services is a small local oil company, responsible of the leak. For the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and Energy, it would have taken “a loss of oil to the wellhead,” Cercina 7 “(which is about 7 km from the coast), resulting from a break in the control tube, a tube with a diameter of about 10 millimetres.” No data on the dispersed amount of fossil fuel is available.
In the days following would come some oily languages, they would contaminated three kilometres of the coast of Sidi Fraj, in Kerkennah. At the time the Tunisian authorities have stated that you have activated the security protocol and containing environmental disasters and are on-going remediation procedures and environmental impact assessment. It remains silent the small Tunisian company, Thyna Petroleum Services, believed at the time responsible for the accident.
The oil spill occurred had raised fears for the health of the coasts and beaches of the Pelagie, causing a state of alert and the immediate intervention Marine Protected Area to understand the oceanographic dynamics and the possibility of crude oil moving to the archipelago Italian. The data obtained in recent days are thankfully reassuring: the “Bulletin Extraordinary Dispersion Hydrocarbons” issued by the Operational Oceanography Group IAMC-cnr of Oristano confirms that already in the next 24 hours to spill hydrocarbons have been directed towards the shores of Kerkennah Islands, averting the feared arrival on the beaches of the Pelagie.
“The incident of Tunisia, however, shows how insecure and dangerous mining operations in the Mediterranean – said the mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini – and how important it is to safeguard the environmental integrity and beauty of the Pelagian Sea and all the small islands Mediterranean, since they belong to the environmental heritage of the country and that their inhabitants draw sustenance only from fishing and tourism.”
The Marine Protected Area Pelagie Islands managed by the City of Lampedusa was however immediately started calling to the Ministry of the stable presence in the archipelago of an anti-pollution vessel, in order to intervene quickly and to enhance the effectiveness of action; the Ministry has secured the immediate intervention in the archipelago of one of the anti-pollution means 6 located along the coasts of Sicily, in the event that the two islands were to be actually threatened by similar sources of pollution.
“Fishing – it always reads on – is the archipelago’s main activities. Since they started drilling in the Gulf of Gabes, the problems began, because pollution linked to mining activities has largely decreased the number of sponges and also the catch has declined. The kerkenni are Pacific Islanders and welcoming and take a lot of their sea and the quality of the environment; already in past battles have been made against the oil companies, and has resisted successfully to the construction of an airport that would change their way of life, without being swayed by promises of jobs and wealth “.

The situation of refugees escaping from Syria: the alarm raised by non-governmental organizations

  • 30 March 2016

Only 1.39% of about five million Syrian refugees who fled to neighboring countries have been resettled in rich countries. The majority of people are in states bordering Syria as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. This is what says the Oxfam study, spread on the eve of a meeting of High Level on sharing global responsibility for Syrian refugees. This meeting will be in Geneva at the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UN High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi.
Oxfam reports that the domestic war on Syria, which began with the first clashes March 15, 2011 to then flow into a full-blown civil war, has caused to date about 3.7 million refugees and over 220,000 victims with a population directly affected by the conflict and need of assistance of about 12 million people. Since 2013, the hopes of the Syrian life was reduced by 13 years, and there are over 1.8 million of refugee children.
The British NGO, also exerts lobbying activity on the international community and governments to ensure the promised funding and are committed to achieving peace. The Oxfam study, in fact, urges countries expected the conference to commit to accommodate globally at least 10% of Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, through resettlement schemes or other forms of humanitarian admission. The percentage corresponds to the refugees identified as vulnerable by the High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR) and is equivalent to 481,220 people.
According to the British non-governmental organization, only three countries – Canada, Germany, Norway – did the resettlement promises more than their ‘fair share’ calculated according to the size of their economy, and five other countries (Australia, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand) have taken on higher commitments. The other 20 countries included in the analysis are encouraged to do more. For example – Oxfam says – France is committed to a market share of 4% of its fair share. For Italy, the figure is 7%. Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, while the Syrian conflict enters its sixth year, more than 4.8 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and the region, but these countries “can no longer assume this responsibility virtually alone. ”
The Geneva meeting will be held on March 30 and is one of a series of events of 2016 on the crisis of migration, to prepare for the September UN meeting convened by Ban Ki-moon on the eve of the next General Assembly. Representatives will participate in the Geneva conference of 92 countries, 10 intergovernmental organizations, 9 UN agencies and 24 NGOs.
The goal is to get to the impending meeting urgent solutions, offering people safe and legal paths to be received in third countries. Italy, at the forefront for bailouts in the Channel of Sicily, has offered in recent weeks because of “humanitarian corridors” for a group of particularly vulnerable refugees.
“The refugees fleeing conflict and violence and come to Europe carry an important message: face their drama is not only the problem of the countries and of the closest communities to those wars. It is a global responsibility that must be shared until they prevail again peace, “said Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who asked to” not miss an important gesture of solidarity, giving at least some Syrian refugees a chance to live a better life and while lifting a weight of the countries that are home to millions. ”
Oxfam, along with six other humanitarian agencies, it was recently a sponsor for an appeal, launched to the international community, to address the most severe humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. And ‘priority to be defined with the utmost urgency a long-term plan, which ensures more investment and aid in neighboring countries to Syria, collapsing, allowing Syrian refugees to work and to live legally.
The majority of refugees in neighboring countries to Syria are forced to live in a state on the border between legality and illegality: without a job and regular papers, due to the restrictions imposed by host countries, they live with the constant fear to be arrested, detained and deported. In this context, while humanitarian aid continues to decrease, a growing number of refugees is likely to fall every day into a spiral of debt and poverty.
Lebanon is already home to more than a million refugees, 30% of the population of the country, including about 500 thousand children of school age. In this context, since last January, Lebanon has effectively closed its borders. At the time, to obtain the necessary documents to reside legally in the country, refugees are required to sign a commitment not to work or find a Lebanese citizen who sponsor them. Hundreds of thousands of refugees so are having to choose between a legal life of unemployment and significant poverty and made an illegal clandestine work.
In Jordan, more than 83% of Syrian refugees, about 630 thousand lives outside the camps. About 48% of the refugees are not officially registered with enormous difficulties of access to services and humanitarian assistance and to record births, deaths or marriages. The 99% of refugees who cannot find employment is therefore forced to work illegally, often with very low salaries.
In Turkey, which is home to about 2 million Syrian refugees, some cities have seen double their population. Here, refugees gain access to essential services in the places where they arrive, but, except for family reunification or for medical reasons, are often unable to move to urban areas where there are more jobs. In the country, about 600 thousand Syrian refugees have not yet registered and have not officially access to public services. Not being able to work legally, most of them fall into the informal network, often under exploitative conditions.
In Iraq’s Kurdish region, the refugees living in official camps can obtain residence permits that allow them to work and access to essential services: are still many difficulties for refugees forced to live outside the camps. In contrast, in the rest of Iraq, welcomed the refugees in the camps cannot work.
In Egypt there are about 130,000 Syrian refugees registered, although the Government esteem that they are more than twice in the whole country. Of these, only a small fraction was able to obtain a work permit, due to the long and expensive procedure for seeking and quotas that limit the number of non-Egyptian employees.
“A more than four years since the outbreak of the conflict, – said Winnie Byanyima, General Director of Oxfam International – many Syrian refugees are still forced to live at a subsistence level, relying almost entirely on humanitarian aid and often not knowing how and by where will the next meal. ”
A condition with no way out, which reduces any possibility of returning to a normal life. “It ‘a paradox, most of the refugees that we encounter every

day want to work but cannot do it and finds himself in the position of not having the means to pay rent and keep their families with dignity. – Adds Riccardo Sansone, responsible for humanitarian emergencies
Oxfam Italy – we need to create new jobs for thousands of thousands of people who now live on charity and welfare in host countries: a real new deal which also benefit the millions of Jordanians, Lebanese citizens, Turks and Iraqis, as refugees are facing the crisis “.
In Lebanon and Jordan, hundreds of thousands of refugees without work and services.
About 70% of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon has no documents to reside legally in the country and then to work. A similar condition also affects 630,000 refugees in Jordan, forced to live outside the official camps, and then with great difficulty of access to education and health services. In addition, ‘therefore a priority those international donors put in a position neighboring countries to Syria to introduce measures enabling refugees to work legally, without running the risk of being arrested. “Their living conditions get worse by the day, – he added the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland – many now choose to return to the war zones from which they had fled or risk their lives to reach Europe”.
A situation that is compromising inevitably also the future of hundreds of thousands of young Syrians. “Continuing like this, we risk losing an entire generation of young Syrians, the same generation that will have to rebuild the country when the conflict will be ended. – Says Misty Buswell, Regional Advocacy Director of Save the Children – With parents who cannot work and bring home a paycheck, more and more children end up look for a job. Hundreds of thousands of children are losing years of school because the education systems of neighboring countries are literally collapsing. ”
According to the sponsoring organizations of the appeal, however, even with the right in support of the countries of investment and intervention, it remains a share of the most vulnerable refugees, at least 10%, which must be resettled outside of the border region with Syria. The rich countries at the time, however, they granted hospitality to less than 3% of refugees, with too long waiting times.
The signatories of the appeal are Oxfam, CARE, Danish Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children, and World Vision International.

The Republic of Cyprus is out of the crisis, three years from the beginning: the data confirm the optimism of Cypriots

  • 10 March 2016

The beginning of the crisis in Cyprus dates back to three years ago, when the island that overlooks the Mediterranean has seen its banking system implode. The cause was the excess of Greek government bonds – collapsed in 2012- held by Cypriot banks. In March of 2013, in fact, Cyprus announced Default: the two main banks -the National and popular- declared bankruptcy.
The support of the European Union arrived in few days. The EU prepared a last-minute bailout of 16 billion from the harsh conditions. Current accounts were frozen by the government, which undertook to ensure only those less than 100 thousand euro. Even the International Monetary Fund was involved in the rescue, but this aid was granted at a price: the compulsory levy on Cypriot bank accounts. Based on the terms dictated by the EU and IMF they were taken 9.4 billion Euros between stocks, bank accounts and bonds (over one hundred thousand Euros) of Cypriot citizens.
The case of Cyprus, being the first Eurozone, shook all the other countries in difficulty, especially their citizens who have begun to fear withdrawals on your account overnight.
Cyprus has continued his nightmare even in the subsequent period of economic recession and unemployment at dramatic levels. But the recovery started early, despite the stringent targets set by IMF, ECB and European Commission. For 2015, for example, the Troika provided a public debt-GDP ratio to 126%, instead of Cyprus has managed to bring it down to 106%. Still, with regard to the primary surplus, although it was expected in 2015, he arrived with two years in advance. There were 2013: the first year of aid.
Today, less than three years later, the scenario has completely changed and the island is back on the road to a stable economic recovery. The Republic of Cyprus, which divides the Mediterranean island with the “Northern Cyprus” Republic which is part of the Turkish territory, has been reborn. Foreign investors are returning in areas such as tourism, trade, construction and financial services. Already in 2015 the GDP returned to growth of 1.5%; for this year estimates suggest nearly 2%. Unemployment, at 15.5%, remains high but is being reduced by two years and especially the fiscal deficit improves, rising from 7% of GDP at the time of the crisis to 0.1 this year (projected 2016). Although public debt is still at 106%, the balance of the central government coffers is substantially equal, and the default Phantom is now a memory. The banking system is recovering after the drubbing. Before 2013, the Cypriot banks accounted for a turnover six times higher than the national GDP: When the crisis hit the two main banks, collapsed the entire economy. Today banks are less exposed and are devoting more attention to protecting liquid assets: 52% of loans are secured through a phase of renegotiation and September Standard & Poor’s raised the country’s rating to BB- with a positive outlook, “although stability remains a point of concern.” It’s true. The “non-performing loans”, problematic loans, are still 47% of total bank assets, but banks and government are conducting a mediation and renegotiation strategy to halve. Beyond the numbers, what matters is that confidence has returned to Cyprus. The feeling that we find through the streets of the center of Nicosia, where kafenion and the shops are full again, is optimistic. According to a study by the University of Cyprus, domestic consumption started to grow to the point where household spending accounts for 70% of GDP and domestic investment the government nearly 16%. The confidence index exceeds 100 points and it is expected that domestic demand will continue to grow this year, helped by lower oil prices and the weak euro. Growth involved certain key sectors such as tourism, services, infrastructure and trade. From Paphos to Limassol, the island is no longer the preferred destination only by Russian and English but with the arrival of new airlines tourists have increased by more than 8% in 2015. And if the business is in a positive phase with a 3% increase from a year ago to turnover, especially in computing and electronics, services are growing at a rate of + 5% every four months.
“Over the last three years, Cyprus has proved to have learned from past mistakes, to own economy and also a resilient population, demonstrating that you have both the will and capacity to build and sustain a stable economy and therefore be a credible member of the European union and the euro, “said the spokesman of the government in Nicosia, Nikos Christodoulides. The results of this force it is no doubt due to the close collaboration between the government, the political parties and the social partners but also the Cypriot population – continues Christodoulides. This collective effort will continue. The completion of the aid program does not mean, therefore, the end of the reform path for Cyprus, but the persistence of our programs, with a strong emphasis on sustainable reforms. ”
The key to this success, according to the spokesman of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, “lies in the transformation of the crisis into an opportunity to correct and straighten weaknesses that persisted for some time and to rebuild a strong economy, anchored on a solid foundation”. “All this was done not by raising taxes but by cutting public spending, freezing recruitment in the public sector and rationalize spending on welfare by reforming the system completely. It ‘set in place a policy of wide-ranging privatization and concessions which includes the ports, the opening of casinos in tourist resort, new tourist docks, the national lottery and partially also the telecommunications industry. The restructuring of the banking system has completely transformed, making it smaller but very solid, which now operates under close supervision and monitoring. Thanks to a strong recapitalization, obtained mainly through significant foreign investment, and a new management in most of the Cypriot banks, we can safely say that the Cypriot banking system has turned the corner. Of equal importance, if not more important, it is the new strategic direction of the business and financial services that do not depend more from a too large banking sector but not as notoriously high foreign deposits. Despite these steps forward are certainly kept in mind the challenges still underway, such as high unemployment and bank debts in red. But as Cyprus continues with decision to restructure and to reform, we are confident that the challenges ahead will be overcome soon. ”
In short, Cyprus is winning the challenge to diversify its real economy by scaling the weight of banks. About the reform plans of Nicos Anastasiadis government, this has lightened taxation and public administration as well as kick off the privatization of services. “The Cyprus reform program is a success – said the IMF Director Mitsuhiro Furusawa last visit before the end of the year – and the results are exceeding all expectations.” But the 106% public debt, the IMF points out, indicates that caution, in terms of investment and government spending, is never enough.
In fact, the government has yet to cut red tape, reform the legal system and complete the liberalization; He is putting back on track the finances but recovery depends not only on reforms. To play a key role in the coming months, it is the energy sector. Cyprus is increasingly becoming the energy hub of the Mediterranean and the last meetings between the EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic Anastasiadis and suggests that now Brussels is willing to start a “special relation” with Nicosia for the supply of energy. Cyprus counts on twelve exploration blocks and a reserve of 160 billion cubic meters of gas: Nicosia can play an important role in ridding the EU dependence on Moscow. From time international investors as Chinese CNOOC, France’s Total and the Italian-Korean consortium Eni / Kogas, are carrying out excavations and explorations; They may soon realize underwater gas pipelines and regasification terminals. The project to bring gas to Europe is already on the table: a gas pipeline that connects to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline in Greece. According to Daniela Romano, an expert on geopolitics of energy at the University of Pavia, it is here that “builds the future of the EU-Cyprus cooperation. The potential is enormous. ” The situation is full of interesting prospects for Cyprus, but it must reach an agreement with the Egyptian and Israeli partners on their economic exclusion zones. The key to the ultimate recovery of the island’s energy and passes through a gas pipeline called diplomacy. As seen from the graph on the left, Italy is the first supplier of Cyprus among the countries of Western Europe.
The road that Cyprus still has to go, however, is still long. The country will have to continue in the wake of the reforms put in place and be careful to slip back into some errors. Possibly even without resorting to compulsory levy on current accounts. Then it must be said that the premature exit from the Memorandum will ensure that the Mediterranean island no longer receives the final 275 million loans since it has not completed the privatization of the telecommunications company Cyta, to the bitter parliamentary debate that had generated. However, he did not need and the Eurogroup has expressed particular concern for this extra step, which will not soothe the flamboyant Cypriot growth.
There remain then the effects of the “bail in” (the English word right, as mentioned, for forced withdrawals on current accounts), somewhat heavy (about 27 billion euro) and the management of public debt to be carried out in challenging way. Fortunately, the deadlines have been extended and already this year the stock will fall below 100% of GDP. Cyprus thus has a new goal: to regain the status of “investment grade”, because, the fact of being deprived, excluded from the Quantitative easing by the European Central Bank strongly desired by Mario Draghi, with excellent results. The goal is for 2019, rather heavy first year from the perspective of bond repayments. The premises, however there are to do it all.

Interreg Adrion Programme: call for the Adriatic-Ionian Macro-Region

  • 6 March 2016

Under the European Territorial Cooperation Programme INTERREG Adrion go to EU members and candidate countries in the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region, it was launched the first call for transnational projects.
Interreg Adrion 2014-2020 stems from the EU Commission’s decision to divide into three parts the area of the South East Europe Programme 2007-2013:
Adrion, in support of the strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region (Eusair)
Danube, in support of the Strategy for the Baltic Sea macro-region,
The first call out of the this transnational cooperation program has put more than 33 million euro available to public and private institutions to present projects to support innovation, for the enhancement of natural and cultural assets and to achieve integrated transport services and mobility in the Adriatic-Ionic.
The call was issued on 1 February and the deadline for submitting projects is March 25, 2016. Project proposals must be submitted in English and only through the web-based information system monitoring (e-MS) which will available on site.
At the same site, the general rules for the presentation of the projects, are in the series of annexes to the tender documents, available for download. The project leader will have to register on the e-MS system, and they will be the leaders of the presentation by computer project.
The overall objective of the Adrion program is to facilitate European integration and the strengthening of economic, social and territorial cohesion among the partner states, enhancing the natural, cultural and human surrounding the Adriatic and Ionian Sea.
The territorial recipients of assistance are the areas included in the 2014/2020 programming Adrion: four EU countries (Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece) and four partner countries and candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia). For Italy, in particular, they are included as many as 13 regions: Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Puglia, Sicily, Trentino Alto Adige, Umbria and Veneto.
They may propose transnational initiatives, including in partnership:
• National public authorities, regional and local agencies and organizations and by the same controlled, such as lead partner entities;
• Private entities (including companies, foundations, corporations and non-profit associations) consist of at least 2 years as partners or associates);
• Bodies and international entities.
Participants must have a registered office in the eligible area and have legal personality.
The call, in particular, aims to select proposals for actions consistent with the following program objectives:
• Support the development of a regional innovation system for the Adriatic-Ionian area (Priority 1, Objective 1.1)
• To promote the sustainable use and conservation of natural and cultural heritage as growth tools in the macro-region (Axis 2, objective 2.1)
• Improve the capacity to address the vulnerability at the transnational level, the fragmentation and preserve the ecosystem (Axis 2, Objective 2.2)
• Improve the ability to transport and mobility services and multi-mode in the region (Axis 3, objective 3.1)
The Interreg program Adrion 2014-2020 aims to support the European Strategy for the Adriatic Ionian macro-region (EUSAIR).
This first call is open to three priority areas of the program:
THE FIRST REGION INNOVATIVE AND INTELLIGENT: the objective is to support the development of a regional innovation system for the Adriatic-Ionian area.
The priorities are to promote business investment in innovation and research and developing links and synergies between businesses, research centers and development (R & D) and higher education
Specific objectives: To promote the sustainable development of natural and cultural resources as a growth business in the region ADRION
THE SECOND SUSTAINABLE REGION: aims to promote the enhancement and conservation of natural and cultural heritage as a sustainable asset growth in the area and to strengthen the capacity to address transnational environmental vulnerability.
The priorities are:
• To conserve, protect, promote and develop the natural and cultural heritage
• Protect and restore biodiversity, soil and promoting ecosystem services including NATURA 2000 and green infrastructure
Specific objectives:
• To promote the sustainable development of natural and cultural resources as a growth business in the region ADRION
• Improve the capacity at the transnational level to prevent environmental vulnerability, fragmentation and promote the protection of ecosystem services in the region ADRION
THE THIRD REGION interconnected: the aim is to improve the capacity for integrated services of transport and mobility and multimodality.
The priorities are: To develop and improve the ecological transport systems, low noise and low-carbon emissions including inland waterways and maritime transport, ports, multimodal links and airport infrastructure in order to promote regional sustainability and local mobility.
Specific objectives: Improve the capacity of integrated transport services, mobility and multimodality in ADRION Region.
Each proposed project must focus on one priority and specific objective of the program. The axes of ADRION program are aligned with the pillars of the Adriatic Ionian macro-regional strategy EUSAIR.
The financial dimension of the projects will be between the 800 thousand euro, and the EUR 1,500,000. The projects will have a Community co-financing rate of 85% of eligible costs. The expense of the 15% share not covered by the ERDF or IPAII funds will be secured by national co-financing sources.
The maximum duration of projects should not exceed 24 months from the signing of the grant agreement. Projects will be evaluated by the Technical Secretariat with the support of national contact points for the assessment of eligibility of the partners, and external experts under the coordination by the Managing Authority.
Co-financed by the European Union with the European Fund for Regional Development-ERDF, the Adrion cooperation program has a total financial availability of 83.467 million euro, in addition to 15.7 million IPA funds (financial instrument for the countries in Pre Adhesion) with a co-financing rate up to 85% to which, for the Italian public entities should be added the possibility of applying 15% to the national revolving fund.
In this first call, the ADRION program will assign more of 33 billion of euro, equivalent to 40% of the total resources of the program.