28.04.2010 - REVISED




(Strasbourg, Wednesday 28 April 2010, 11H15, Room 5)


Dear colleagues,

First of all, please allow me to express my pleasure of being here, among you, today. It is a day which – we all hope – will represent a milestone in our efforts to preserve biodiversity in Europe.

As we all know, biodiversity is essential to human life and to the existence of mankind. In this International Year of Biodiversity (as it has been designated by the United Nations) we need to mobilise the necessary political will to preserve biodiversity at all levels. As parliamentarians, we have the power to do this by legislative means. We have to use this power both here, in Strasbourg, and in our national parliaments.

As the European Commissioner on the Environment, Mr Janez Potocnik, recently said, “biodiversity is the natural engine for our future, and we must learn to treat it with care”. The European Commission is currently launching a campaign to raise awareness about the loss of biodiversity. It has published a survey which shows that many Europeans do not understand what is meant by biodiversity and do not feel well informed about biodiversity loss.

The primary concern of the campaign is to make this issue more familiar, to ensure that citizens understand the potential consequences of its loss and that make them aware that they can do something (even at individual level!) to stop the decline.

Every little measure helps.

The report that will be debated this Friday by the Parliamentary Assembly represents the result of intensive work by the Committee for the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs - which has also been at the forefront in the organisation of this meeting. I take this opportunity to stress the importance of the activity of the Committee for the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs, for the work of the Assembly in general.

Indeed, the issues that the this Committee deals with and the reports it produces are of utmost importance for the world today, to determine the future of our planet. The current report on biodiversity and climate change represents a perfect example in this respect.

It demonstrates, above all, how human activities play a major part in the depletion of biodiversity. We disrupt the climate, which leads in the long term to negative consequences in the social and economic sectors and also as regards to our health.

The text to be voted on Friday morning recommends that member states take steps to preserve ecosystems and introduce management, education and training methods to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.

The author of the report, Ms Francine John-Calame, will have the opportunity to elaborate on her work this afternoon, when she addresses you on the “Post-2010 challenges: Human Ecological Footprint, Interaction between Biodiversity and Climate Change”.

I also would like to remind you that the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs ensures the link between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Affairs, and my friend Mr Gaye DOGANOGLU, who represents the Congress, will probably confirm this.

I therefore strongly back the Committee in its efforts to cover such important areas of work and I assure its Chair, Mr Lotman, of my unconditional support.

May I just add that I hope that the Committee will continue to focus on the issue of the right to a healthy environment – since it was at the origin of the report (already adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly) which asks for the drafting of an additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, to guarantee this right as part of human rights.

I was happy to learn that Alsace is at the forefront of the efforts to preserve the biodiversity. In the next decade, within the framework of the “Grenelle de l’environnement” programme, France will double the areas where the most strict conditions for preserving species are applied. This would mean that 2% of the French territory will belong to these “high protection” areas. Alsace has almost fulfilled its part, as 1.8% of its territory already belongs to this category.

It is interesting to learn that in France 20 000 people work in the field of biodiversity preservation. In ten years from now, their number will double.

I will conclude by expressing my pleasure and honour of being among the signatories of the joint declaration on biodiversity.

Thank you for your attention.