Skip to main content
News article8 December 2023Directorate-General for Environment2 min read

EU supports stepping up the protection of the Mediterranean Sea’s environment

Mediterranean coast - slovenia


At the 23rd Ministerial conference of the parties (COP 23) of the Barcelona Convention taking place in Portoroz (Slovenia, 4-8 December 2023), the contracting parties to the convention agreed on several outcomes aiming to improve the environmental state of the Mediterranean Sea. Ministers and high representatives attending the COP 23 signed a declaration that calls for a ‘green transition in the Mediterranean region: from decisions to actions’. Through signing the declaration, the Parties commit to further greening human activities in the region, for example through reducing pollution from land-based sources, decarbonising blue economy sectors and supporting science-based policy making. They also committed to modernising education programmes and promoting inter-generational dialogue to highlight environmental issues in decision-making.

Their decisions will contribute to implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework. For instance, certain species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean will benefit from increased protection, given their declining populations. This means that these species will eventually feature in the recommendations of the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM), which will then be transposed into EU law. The protection of these species under the Barcelona Convention may eventually lead to their possible catching ban under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which will have its COP in early 2024.

This COP 23 also:

  • agreed on the establishment of a new Regional Activity Center on Climate Change in Turkey;
  • adopted three new regional plans to improve the sustainability of aquaculture and agriculture, as well as on the management of stormwater, which the European Commission, representing the EU, helped in developing ;
  • discussed the Quality Status Report on the status of the marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea, which shows that there are still significant data gaps in the region.

Regional cooperation for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea is an obligation for EU Member States when developing and implementing their marine strategies, as required by EU law under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. This ensures that the impacts of human activities on the quality of the sea are tackled in a coherent manner. It also ensures that EU and non-EU countries in the same region seek common standards for protecting and using the sea sustainably.


The Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean was adopted in 1995 and builds on UNEP’s Mediterranean Action plan established in 1975. The aim is to protect the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment while boosting regional and national plans to achieve sustainable development. The EU is a contracting party to the convention.

More information

Barcelona Convention COP23

Marine Strategy Framework Directive


Publication date
8 December 2023
Directorate-General for Environment

EU Environment newsletter

Green landscape with person on bike, tree and buildings in the distance.

EU Environment newsletters deliver the latest updates about the European Commission’s environmental priorities straight to your inbox.