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Environment/1 European green week on the “water resource”
“Water is the key of life: it’s a crucial resource for humanity and the rest of the living world. Everyone needs water, not only to drink. Our rivers and lakes, along with our coastal and underground waters are precious resources that must be protected”. The 12th edition of Green Week in Brussels, celebrated across European cities is ongoing (until May 25). On the agenda figure 40 events highlighting the primary role of water. “It is important to assess the vulnerability of this resource and promote its appropriate use” - promoters explained - “avoiding the pollution of rivers, seas” wells and other water sources. The Green Week includes debates, study, exchange of experiences regarding the safeguarding and enhancement of natural resources, notably water. A brochure drawn up for the occasion states: “Pollution and the shortage of water sources pose a risk to human health and have detrimental effects on freshwater ecosystems”. “The problem of water scarcity negatively impacts water and land environments, exerting further pressure on the fauna and flora, already suffering the effects of urbanization and climate change”. For further information: www.greenweek-2012.eu[>>].
Environment/2 EU: 20 years protecting the ecosystem
“Biodiversity is our life insurance, and Natura 2000, which protects the areas of highest biodiversity value, is its cornerstone. We have made great progress in the past two decades, and there is much to celebrate, but nature still needs our help, and it will pay us back many times over with the vital ecosystem services it provides" On May 21, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, recalled the twentieth anniversary of “two fundamental tools for the preservation and the sustainable use of nature” in Community Europe: the Habitat directive and the LIFE programme (funding for environmental protection). “Twenty years ago, EU Member States unanimously adopted the Habitats Directive to safeguard the most threatened species and habitats across Europe. This was in response to concerns over rapidly declining wildlife and loss of natural habitats, resulting from land-use changes, pollution and urban sprawl”, states a communiqué released by the EU Commission. The directive launched the Natura 2000 network of protected areas (now equivalent in size to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic combined). The Natura 2000 network contains more than 26,000 protected sites in EU27.
Schengen: citizens’ rights, borders and security
“Schengen is one of the most valued achievements of European integration. It is widely cherished by EU’s citizens and makes a major contribution to our economic prosperity. Everyone needs to do their part to preserve Schengen”. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström, presented the first report on the “state of health” of the Schengen system, set up to promote the free circulation of citizens and to protect EU borders. The Schengen area includes 26 countries (EU Member States except for the United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, plus Ireland, Norway, Sweden and), with more than 400 million citizens. “With Europeans making more than 1.25 billion journeys every year, vigilance is required to defend citizens’ right to free movement”, the Commission made known. The Commission’s first ’health check’, is “a biannual overview on the functioning of the Schengen area, which will contribute to enhancing political guidance and cooperation amongst Schengen participating countries”. The report is accompanied by guidelines which seek “to ensure a coherent interpretation and implementation of the selected issues, in a spirit of solidarity”. The first report covers the period from 1st November 2011 to 30th April 2012 and assesses in particular: the situation at the external Schengen borders and within the Schengen area; the application of Schengen rules; visa issuance procedures; guidelines on the issuance of (temporary) residence permits and travel documents; police measures in the internal border zones. The Schengen system report brought to the fore a set of problematic themes: “The pressure at the Schengen external borders is focused on a limited number of hot spots, in particular the Eastern Mediterranean route via Turkey to Greece. In the last three months of 2011, nearly 30 000 irregular border crossings were detected at the external borders and about 75 percent of these were on the Eastern Mediterranean route”, it states. The EU Commission points out: “During the 6 month period covered in the report, controls at internal borders have been reintroduced only twice: by France at its border with Italy (for the G20 Summit on 3-4 November 2011) and by Spain at its border with France and at the Barcelona and Gerona airports (for the European Central Bank meeting on 2-4 May 2012)”.