Southern EU leaders vow to meet Paris climate targets

Athens (AFP) –


Southern EU leaders on Friday pledged their adherence to the climate targets of the Paris 2015 agreement in an Athens summit that also tackled migration and regional security challenges.

"Now, more than ever, (it is) necessary to tackle the escalating climate and environmental crisis and create a safe, secure prosperous, fair and sustainable future for our societies," Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain said in a joint statement.

With the Mediterranean already feeling the effects of climate change in violent weather swings, wildfires and floods, the participants agreed to "intensify" cooperation by sharing best practises in prevention measures.

The group, typically known as the Med7 but adding Croatia and Slovenia this year, also reiterated their "firm commitment" to the implementation of the Paris 2015 Agreement, limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 Celsius (34.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

And they pledged to work towards the protection of the Mediterranean’s cultural and natural heritage, while advancing a shift from fossil fuels to renewables and low carbon technologies.

- 'We cannot delay' -

"The nine countries of the European south are coordinating to protect our forests and seas, we claim a stronger civil protection mechanism, we exchange technology and means of prevention to address the attacks of nature," said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

"The destructive fires of this summer that in particular hit Greece, Italy, Cyprus, did not spare any Mediterranean country. At the same time, the European north was hit by deadly floods. It is the strongest proof that climate crisis concerns us all, and an alarm signal that it has already landed on our shores."

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, masked, share a fist-bump greeting ahead of the outhern European summit in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, masked, share a fist-bump greeting ahead of the outhern European summit in Athens Angelos Tzortzinis AFP

"As the danger is common, so should our defence be," he said.

The summer's fires are a "trigger to expedite our efforts so we can tackle climate change...We no longer have the luxury of time, we cannot delay," said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

"Deterrence means proper preparation. You have to shore up the land to avert natural disasters," said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The one-day gathering, with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen attending a separate meeting on climate change and its effects on the Mediterranean, also focused on security challenges including migration and the Afghan crisis.

- Libya summit -

French President Emmanuel Macron announced an EU summit on November 12 to discuss the situation in Libya, as the leaders vowed to cooperate in combating the financing of terrorism, and condemned the use of migrants for geopolitical purposes.

"We need to prevent instrumentalisation of human suffering for political goals and to come to a common understanding on how to deal with orchestrated attempts at irregular crossings," they said.

The last summit in 2020 issued a warning to Turkey over its confrontational behaviour in the Mediterranean.

Turkey last year opened the gates for migrants to Europe -- leading to days of skirmishes at the Greek border -- an action which drew the wrath of EU leaders, who accused Ankara of "blackmail".

This year, the EU is concerned that chaos in Afghanistan could spark an influx of refugees similar to 2015's migrant crisis.

The group of nine on Friday said it was also "committed to enhancing cooperation, both internationally and within the EU framework, including through exchanging information" on fighting extremism.

"We reiterate our strong commitment to address the phenomenon of violent extremism and terrorism, by further deepening our understanding on its root causes and its underlying factors" including the radicalisation of youths, they said.

The leaders also called on the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan to "fully cooperate with international donors and UN agencies", allow unhindered access to humanitarian operators,

They also stressed that preventing the use of Afghan territory by international terrorist groups "remains a priority."

"We urge the authorities to fully cooperate in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking and support international efforts to this end," the EU group said.

Greece and other southern EU states, the countries that deal with the most migrants entering Europe, have long complained of a lack of support from their northern peers.

The EU has now committed 276 million euros ($326 million) for new migrant camps on the Greek islands that receive most arrivals by sea from neighbouring Turkey.