President. – The next item is the debate on the oral question to the Commission by Paolo De Castro, Véronique De Keyser, Jo Leinen and Adrian Severin, on behalf of the S&D Group, on the situation of the Jordan River with special regard to the Lower Jordan River area (O-0092/2010 - B7-0452/2010).
Paolo De Castro, author. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Jordan River is a major asset of not only environmental, but also agricultural and economic significance for Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the degradation it is suffering cannot fail to worry us.
It is important to point out that roughly 98% of the 1.3 billion cubic metres of natural fresh water in the lower course of the river is diverted away every year, and long stretches of the river are at risk of running dry. This is devastating not only in terms of biodiversity, but above all in terms of local communities’ access to sources of water. Several international actors, including the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly and the United States Senate, have addressed the situation of profound degradation of the Jordan River.
We, too, must demand intervention, not only from the local governments and authorities, but also from the Council, the Commission and the Member States, to provide technical and financial assistance for the rehabilitation of the river. In particular – as stated in the joint resolution signed by all the political groups, whom I thank for their wholehearted support – we must ask the Commission to insert a clear, specific reference to this project in the action plans of the neighbourhood policy with Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
An initial step could be to set up a joint study on the situation of the Jordan River. We are well aware that water is a precious, inalienable asset, so I would like to point out that distributing the water fairly means paying equal attention to the demands of all the communities in the region. This is a matter of supreme importance if we want to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East.
We have been watching the resumption of peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in recent days with some hope, as these negotiations have identified water resource management as one of their essential points. We hope that the governments, local communities and civil society organisations in the countries and territories involved will begin to cooperate effectively as soon as possible in order to save the lower Jordan. This is a duty not only because of the high symbolic value of this river but, above all, in order to improve the living conditions of the local communities.
Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss the critical situation of water in the Middle East.
The European Union considers water to be a serious concern in the region and I fully share the concerns of the honourable Members of this House, as this region is characterised by water scarcity, water stress and the deterioration of the quality of water, which are likely to be further aggravated by climate change effects.
We are aware of the impacts this can have on the people in the region, the environment and regional security. The European Union considers that water is a peace priority in the region and this regional challenge requires a regional solution.
As you are fully aware, the European Union has been involved in encouraging urgent steps towards a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, where water is one of the ‘final status issues’ to be resolved, along with borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security.
The European Union recognises the specific situation of the lower Jordan River Basin and the need for more efficient water management including its tributaries. We are therefore engaged in a range of activities at national, sub-regional and regional level with all neighbouring parties. We are supportive of water reforms and policies that encourage the application of sustainable water management.
Through the European Neighbourhood Policy and other measures, the European Union is supporting confidence-building measures, promoting cross-border cooperation and bringing together water resource communities that have shared water concerns.
European Union activities target capacity-building of different water authorities and users, the collection and sharing of data, the availability of treated waste water, water conservation measures, including water networks, and efficient irrigation systems.
European Union efforts address both the demand and supply side of the water sector and establish the conditions that will enable an integrated management of water resources in the future.
The European Union is not alone in its efforts. Member States and other donors are active and we closely coordinate our activities with them in order to ensure complementarity.
Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the European Parliament is taking a very positive step in highlighting the challenge which the Jordan River represents today. The Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly has drafted a special study on the Jordan River and the Jordan Valley and has called in its resolutions for them to be protected, because the Jordan River is a monument of our global heritage, a religious and cultural symbol for millions of people around the world and an ecological, tourist and economic fund for the area.
The aim, therefore, today is to highlight its problems and the need for action to protect it, to step up efforts being made by the European Union – the Commission referred to these efforts and we have touched on them on other occasions during work on the common position – and to call for regional cooperation on fair access for the peoples of the countries on the banks of the Jordan River and for shared responsibility for its protection.
The motion for a resolution also highlights best practices, such as the special master plan prepared by Israel, which calls for an exchange of best practices and an exchange of expertise, because the Jordan River is a collective issue for the area. Importantly, the real risks are also highlighted: not only the lack of water, not only pollution, but also the loss of biodiversity and the risk of its drying out unless something is done.
In order to highlight this international and regional cooperation, the motion proposes a special committee for the Jordan Valley, in which the countries directly affected by the Jordan (Israel, Palestinian Territories, Jordan) can participate, together with other countries in the area, where the Jordan rises, which also have a share of responsibility, such as Lebanon and Syria. I believe that this resolution will gain the support of plenary and the message that the European Parliament sends out will be a well-formed, targeted and strong message.
Véronique De Keyser, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (FR) Mr President, as has been said, the situation concerning the Dead Sea and the Jordan River is extremely worrying since it is predicted that, if nothing changes in 2011, the river will simply run dry.
If no action is taken at international and at regional level to put a stop to this development, the situation will result in an extraordinarily important loss for cultural heritage, for biodiversity – Mrs Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou mentioned this point – and also for the security and the economy of the region.
I would like to bring to your attention an NGO which has taken what I consider to be an absolutely remarkable initiative. This NGO, Friends of the Earth Middle East, has decided to bring together the Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli mayors who live along the river, to rally them and encourage them to think about what they could do to improve matters somewhat.
The association and the mayors have carried out some interesting studies concerning the measures that each country could take and the impact those measures would have. They range from waterless toilets to changes in agricultural methods, to changes in the types of crops grown because they absorb too much water, and so on. There is a wide range of measures that can be taken. So this is not a political debate, even though we are well aware that, as soon as we talk about water in the region, things become political.
I believe that everyone could support that, and I would like Europe and the Commission to take inspiration from the very clear conclusions of this report in the relations they have with these countries, particularly through the action plans.
However, there is one short paragraph that I set great store by – paragraph E – which says that there is overexploitation of water by the Israeli settlers. This is true; it has been confirmed by reports by the World Bank and by Amnesty International. It takes us back to the heart of politics, but it is a truth that must sometimes be told. We have not placed it at the heart of the resolution but we do set great store by it.
Antonyia Parvanova, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, as the Vice-President of the Euromed Assembly’s Committee on Energy, Environment and Water, I had the opportunity to see the concrete and dramatic ecological reality of the Jordan River area during a field visit which took place last February.
The Special Report on the Situation in the Jordan Valley, for which I was rapporteur, highlighted the fact that all parties concerned – in particular, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, but also Lebanon and Syria – must find a common solution to the two most pressing problems: an equal distribution of water that respects the need of all the people in the region, and a healthy and protected environment for the generations to come.
The first step identified in our report is that Israel and the Palestinian Authorities have to agree together on common data concerning available water distribution and demographics as a starting point for further negotiations, since both sides as well as independent reports have presented different figures up to now.
One of our main conclusions was that, in order to solve the water problem by cooperation, it is necessary to implement plans for a joint administration, decision making on an equal footing, and the joint management of water resources in the region. I believe that the recommendations in our report match areas where the European Union has a real expertise and could be involved as an active player, paving the way for future partnership between the parties involved.
In conclusion, I would like to remind you that, while efforts are being made to resume the discussion towards an overall peace agreement, we have the responsibility not to use the situation in the Jordan Valley for political and ideological purposes.
I hope our debate today will serve the interests of all parties in the region and lead to concrete and unbiased conclusions for an active involvement of the Union towards future sustainable solutions.
Margrete Auken, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DA) Mr President, I totally agree with the two previous speakers, but I would like to take the opportunity to say that I believe that very many people here fail to see how impossible it is to insist that the Palestinians bear their share of the responsibility. They do not have the opportunity to do so. How many people here are aware that, since 1967, 50% of the banks of the Jordan on the West Bank have been occupied by Israeli settlements? 50%! On top of that, 45% has been requisitioned as military areas and nature reserves. They have quite simply been shut out. The awful thing for the Palestinians – particularly in the Jordan Valley – is that because we have not seen forceful resistance from them, they have simply been forgotten. If there is no military action, if nothing dramatic happens, they are simply forgotten.
It is, of course, a horrible lesson that we are teaching the poor Palestinians in particular – that they need to get themselves noticed – and loudly even. This problem needs to be solved. However, we must not forget that if possible – if possible – the suffering of the Palestinians is even worse in this area than in the rest of the West Bank, and that, as the situation currently stands, they do not have the chance to live up to the responsibility they ought to be taking. Thus, there needs to be an integrated solution, and we therefore also need to consider the political picture. It is not only Israel, it is not only Syria and it is not only Jordan – no! However, the Palestinians cannot be involved as long as they have no possibility of getting involved.
Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, water is indeed a sensitive and potentially inflammatory issue in the Middle East. High-level delegations from Israel and the Palestinian Authority are currently discussing water rights as part of the comprehensive framework for peace.
As a member of the Quartet, the EU supports a two-state solution as the ultimate guarantor of peace and stability in the region. Therefore, we must be very careful not to prejudice the delicate negotiations currently under way in Washington. Blaming the Israeli settlers, as Mrs De Keyser seems to be doing, in particular, for Jordan River water overuse, sends precisely the wrong signal to the people of Israel – our democratic ally – about the EU’s professed position as an honest broker.
Conserving the watershed of the Jordan River is an important regional issue that is not of course confined solely to Israel and the Palestinians, yet Israel’s opponents in this House and elsewhere are blatantly seeking to exploit this issue as part of their campaign to undermine the Jewish State.
In succumbing again to this anti-Israeli agenda, we are in danger of having the EU seen by Israelis as unworthy of its privileged role as a partner for peace.
Willy Meyer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (ES) Mr President, there is no problem in Mrs De Keyser making a particular assessment, not at all. The fact is, however, that according to the Peace Treaty signed between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, an agreement was reached to cooperate in the ecological recovery of the Jordan River along the shared borders and to protect its water resources.
This was an agreement, in addition to others that Israel signed in 1994, with which it is failing to comply. This is the problem we have with Israel: it does not comply with the agreements that it signs.
That is why it is extremely important that the initiative undertaken by President Chirac in 2008, calling for an initiative for the Jordan River basin, be given substance and supported by the European Union.
We believe it very important that a Jordan River basin commission be set up as a trilateral forum to cooperate in the rehabilitation of this river, drawing up and applying water conservation and recovery policies. It is true that, as a result of the failure to comply with the 1994 Peace Treaty, Palestinians have been excluded from the Israeli security area established in the West Bank along the Lower Jordan and that the settlers are illegally occupying land that does not belong to them. Given that the occupation is accompanied by an irregular and illegal use of the water, another problem is being added to the political one, which is the problem of environmental sustainability.
As 2011 has been set for the coming into operation of new waste water treatment plants, I hope the European Union will support, promote and encourage the need to set up that Jordan River basin commission.
Cristian Dan Preda (PPE). – (RO) Today’s debate on the situation facing the Jordan River is extremely important to the group I belong to and I would like, if I may, to welcome in particular in this Chamber the involvement in this issue of our colleague, Rodi Kratsa, Vice-President of the European Parliament.
I would also like to emphasise, as you are well aware, that environmental protection organisations have long warned about the critical ecological state the Jordan River is in. This is a river which seems to be dying from what is tantamount to general indifference.
On the other hand, I have read in the press that, in spite of the extremely critical conditions, Christians, particularly Orthodox, continue to be baptised in the Jordan River.
However, there is a danger that the river will run dry in 2011, which would have drastic repercussions for the region’s already fragile ecosystem, especially for the Dead Sea. This means that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis will be affected by an ecological disaster.
However, apart from the ecological aspect – as other of my fellow Members have also highlighted in this Chamber – which is an aspect that certainly needs to be tackled urgently with EU help, the Jordan River’s situation is also particularly important as a factor for promoting regional cooperation.
I believe that we must avoid a situation where its waters are used unilaterally, with total disregard for the region’s water supply security.
Cooperation among the states bordering the river and local communities is therefore paramount to rehabilitating this resource which is vital for economic development. This can enable the Jordan to become a symbol again of cooperation and coexistence, including from a cultural perspective, if there is strong political will to do so.
Finally, the Jordan’s situation is also important in terms of the resumption of direct Palestinian-Arab negotiations, as control of the water resources features among the unresolved issues.
Proinsias De Rossa (S&D). – Mr President, could I suggest to Mr Tannock that it is not helpful at all to ignore the reality that settlers deliberately choose sites where they have good water supply, and that this in turn deprives Palestinians of that water supply. They are not the only problem in relation to water in the area, but they certainly do play a role in it.
The Jordan, unfortunately, is being deprived of something like 98% of its flow because it has been diverted by other states, including Israel. It is a transboundary river, with something like four states, including the Palestinian West Bank, bordering that river. Potentially, if it is handled right and if Europe plays its role properly in the area, it can be a source of reconciliation through the promotion of joint management of what is an important cultural, religious and indeed economic resource for the region.
To take the line that you take, Mr Tannock, that everything that involves some minor criticism of Israel is, in some way, an attack on Israel is simply to ignore reality. There are also others there who have diverted water. The Friends of the Earth, for instance, pointed out at a recent seminar organised by my group, the Socialists and Democrats, that the Jordan River once carried an average of 1.3 billion metric metres of fresh water to the Dead Sea. That has now been reduced to 20-30 million annually. By the end of next year, it could be a dead river unless we take action.
Alexandra Thein (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, firstly I want to reject the numerous accusations from outside and, in some cases, from within Parliament, claiming that we are discussing this subject at the wrong time, after the peace talks have begun. The parliamentary question which I helped to draw up was tabled at a time when none of us thought that direct peace talks would start up again. I have been involved in this area since the early 1990s and this subject has been under discussion in Parliament for a long time.
This is ultimately all about preventing the Lower Jordan River from finally running dry. The lower part of the river has already been reduced to a mere trickle. It consists only of waste water and contains no fresh water at all. All the scientists are agreed that the Lower Jordan River will be as good as dead in one or two years.
I find it disturbing that the resolution addresses Israel, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian Authority on equal terms. The Lower Jordan River area is located entirely in zone C, which means that the Palestinian Authority does not even have a right to access the area, never mind any administrative rights or any influence at all over it. It has already been said that the Palestinian Authority can do nothing in this area. Therefore, this resolution should be aimed at other countries.
When a country, in this case Israel, uses 75% of the water available in the Lower Jordan River, although part of the water has already been taken by other countries, and leaves almost no water for the Palestinians to live on, this is a political issue. This problem was supposedly resolved in the Oslo II Agreement and we have not made any progress since then.
The specific difficulty at the moment is that the Palestinians are constantly attempting to drill wells, which are immediately destroyed, and also that the Israeli water authority, which is a monopoly, is not drilling wells for the Palestinians, but only for the illegal settlements.
Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should just like to start by paying tribute to the coalition of ecologists that we welcomed some months ago in Brussels, an association of Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. It drew up some excellent reports on the situation in the region, on the state of the Jordan River, and on the risk of its disappearance.
The European Union, which allocates substantial funds to development projects in the Middle East, must play more of a role in drafting and implementing a rescue plan for the river involving all parties in the region. The countries bordering the river, such as Syria, Jordan and Israel, divert the greatest part of it, while the Palestinians – as someone just said – receive only around 5% of the resource.
In the Jordan Valley, the Israeli settlers consume six times more water than the Palestinians, particularly through the polluting intensive agriculture intended for the export of agricultural products to Europe. The extension of these settlements with their lush vegetation must stop, as must the destruction of Bedouin camps and their water tanks, which happened again this summer, some weeks ago. It is madness!
The preservation and fair distribution of water in the region must be a priority for us.
Mário David (PPE). – (PT) The environmental disaster under discussion today concerns all of us, as Europeans, although it is occurring outside the area of the European Union.
The concept of sustainable development in which we believe is one without administrative boundaries or religious creeds. It sees the planet as a whole, not as the sum of its parts. Hence, the Jordan River is a problem for all mankind, not just the people and communities which are directly affected by water shortages or the poor quality of the water. Our good sense tells us to ‘think globally, act locally’. That is what we are here today to do: think globally.
As the European Union, we must contribute to acting locally as a way of minimising and reversing the continuing degradation of the flow and quality of the Jordan River. The EU already has a legislative and institutional framework and tools at its disposal in order to act, or help to act. I am talking about the Union for the Mediterranean, its secretariat and the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), managed by the European Investment Bank. This is obviously an issue that the Parliament delegation, which I chair, will follow closely in our relations with the countries of the Middle East.
It is clear than any action leading to the resolution of this environmental tragedy should, in the first instance, be undertaken by the states and local authorities whose people will benefit from it directly. In view of this, I would like to emphasise two ideas that appear in the resolution. The first of these is the creation of a commission for managing the basin of the whole Jordan, made up of representatives of the states or authorities that use its waters. Europe can help here, for example, by sharing the experience of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine. Secondly, best practice can be supported and disseminated on joint Union projects involving Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian people, particularly those backed by the Friends of the Earth in the Middle East, whom Mr De Rossa has already called upon today to help with the efficient and proper management of water resources in the Jordan Valley basin.
Finally, Mr President, and in an even broader context, I would like to highlight the example of cooperation and peaceful coexistence that this plan represents. At a time when we are welcoming and encouraging the return of the new process of direct dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, albeit while lamenting the absence of the EU in the process, we welcome the direct involvement of both parties.
Olga Sehnalová (S&D). – (CS) The issue of the drying up of the Jordan River is undoubtedly a serious regional environmental problem which affects the ecosystem of the whole area and the life and health of its inhabitants. Long-term excessive extraction of water, along with pollution and drought, are the main reasons for the situation, as is an inability to ensure effective water management.
As some Members have already said, more than 90% of the flow of the river is extracted for supplies of drinking water and especially for agricultural irrigation and industry. The annual flow has fallen from a former level of 1.3 billion cubic metres to about 100 million cubic metres. The political conflict clearly makes it more difficult to solve this environmental problem.
However, water does not have to be a source of conflict. It can also be an example of positive practical cooperation in the region and it can play a key role in building mutual trust. Peace based on everyday cooperation and shared values has a greater chance than any solution from a round table.
Malika Benarab-Attou (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the progressive drying-up of the Jordan River is a direct consequence of the tragedy that Palestine is experiencing. Water is a highly political issue. Let us not forget that.
Let us remember some facts: the World Bank informs us that, for two years, the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have been without chlorine, which is essential for disinfecting the water; 50% of homes did not have access to water before the bombings of January 2009, so imagine what it is like now. Médecins sans Frontières say that, now, following the attacks by the Israeli army on the infrastructure, 90% of the water supplied to the inhabitants is unfit for human consumption. Every day, 80 million litres of untreatable sewage is discharged into our Mediterranean as a result of the destruction inflicted on the infrastructure in Gaza.
It is true that Baroness Ashton has visited Gaza on several occasions, but where is the political courage to apply to Israel the same standards as we have in Europe? Must clean water, like the land, be monopolised by the Israeli settlers? Consequently, the European Union must suspend the association agreement with the current Israeli Government, which remains deaf to all our requests, whilst the occupation and the settlements, which are illegal, remain. Without justice, there will be no peace.
Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). – (SK) As we have heard many times in today’s debate, and we will surely hear again, the Jordan River is of unimaginable cultural, environmental and economic significance, as well as political and strategic significance, of course. The exploitation and misuse of the river is therefore unacceptable. Since 1964, its flow has been diverted to Israel and also to other countries: to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries that have been mentioned here. Many of these countries are destroying the river and polluting it. According to conservationists, the misuse of the Jordan has almost destroyed its entire ecosystem. Recovery from its current state would take decades.
According to estimates, the Jordan River is one of the hundred most threatened places in the world from an environmental perspective. Of course, that fact is also due to a situation where Israel and the surrounding Arab states are incapable of agreeing on the conservation and protection of the river, and I therefore firmly believe that the European Union should and must get involved in this process very actively, by making financial assistance for development projects in middle eastern areas dependent on renewing the lower flow of the river, for example.
Richard Howitt (S&D). – Mr President, competition for water can exacerbate – or even ignite – conflict, whether it is the receding glaciers of Jammu and Kashmir, the tensions amongst Central Asian countries over the depleted Aral Sea, rival tribes vying for the same waters between Sudan and Somalia, or indeed here, in this debate about the Lower Jordan Valley.
The rehabilitation of the Jordan River and the cooperation required to achieve it might just enhance the prospects of peace too. That river has been immortalised in the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with references associating it with the prophets Moses and Elijah, and as the burial place of four companions of the prophet Mohammed. The Jordan River was crossed by the Israelites under Joshua, and it is here that the miracle took place of Jesus walking on the water.
We should not need another miracle for its waters to be protected for the benefit of the peoples of the region today, and for future generations there to live in peace and prosperity.
Elena Băsescu (PPE). – (RO) I believe that a biased resolution or approach to the situation of the Jordan River is inappropriate in the context of resuming the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Water resources are a delicate subject in the Middle East and should be discussed towards the end of the negotiations to avoid any damage to the peace process. The EU must avoid needlessly turning this into a political issue and encourage the signing of a regional agreement on the Jordan River’s rehabilitation.
As I regard the Jordan River as a regional issue, I welcome the continuing cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities on managing the water. The joint contribution of both states has resulted in the recent approval of 61 of the 96 projects proposed with this in mind. Nevertheless, the problem of insufficient water resources is still unresolved.
Ioan Enciu (S&D). – (RO) The rehabilitation of the Jordan River is a multi-faceted issue as it is of universal historical and religious significance. The problems it faces involve ecological, humanitarian and international security concerns, all intertwined.
I believe that the current debate must mainly concern how to salvage the river physically and not be about criticising one or other of the parties involved. If the salvage project succeeds, this will have a knock-on effect on all the other aspects. In this regard, I think that paragraph E in the draft resolution is not linked directly to the subject in question, which may create unwanted confusion.
The European Union can and must make a considerable contribution to anticipating the adverse impact which the famous river’s total degradation and, ultimately, disappearance may have. The European Union must take a much more active role in the negotiations between the parties involved, helping to establish some balance.
Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, we know that the Jordan River plays an important role in Middle Eastern politics because of its location on the borders of various countries. Although the river has helped to bring peace between Israel and Jordan as a result of the treaty which allows Jordan to extract larger quantities of water, in the case of Syria, the situation is reversed. It is an open secret that Israel’s fear that its water could be taken away by Syria is the real reason why Israel refuses to give back the Golan Heights.
If the Jordan River really has become a trickle of waste water because of constant water extraction, and this is probably the price that will have to be paid for greening the desert, the situation in the Middle East will undoubtedly deteriorate in the near future, particularly as some of the leaders of Hamas are talking about the liberation of the whole region between the Mediterranean and the Jordan as being a moral and religious duty.
However, the shortage of water in the Jordan River also has wider repercussions, because as the Jordan dries up the amount of water reaching the Dead Sea is also reduced. Therefore, the potential for conflict and the area of conflict will increase. We should take this into consideration in our Middle East strategy.
Véronique De Keyser (S&D). – (FR) Mr President, thank you for allowing me to clarify a point that it would seem I did not have the opportunity to deal with persuasively just now.
On the issue of the exploitation of water and the overexploitation of water by the settlements, I should like to refer my fellow Members to the Special Report on the Situation in the Jordan Valley by the Euromed parliamentary assembly which, itself, quotes time and again from the World Bank report entitled Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development and from the Amnesty International Troubled Waters report, and so on. These reports put exact figures on this exploitation, which is four to five times greater amongst the Israelis. I have figures from one to six. So these are the facts; I do apologise but they are not documented by me.
Mariya Nedelcheva (PPE). – (BG) The European Union is a responsible partner and shares responsibility for the events happening across the globe through its foreign policy. As a donor involved in funding development projects in the Middle East and as an active participant in the Middle East peace process, the European Union and the European Parliament in particular must devise their strategy for and possible contribution to the rehabilitation of the Jordan River so that it preserves its importance as a source of life for the region.
Just a few months ago, the NGO Friends of the Earth in the Middle East warned that the Jordan River may run dry in one year if the countries in the region fail to take action. The fall in the river’s level also entails consequences for the whole climate and landscape in the region. The situation poses a real threat to guaranteeing the livelihood of the population in the region where irrigation is difficult. Apart from the purely pragmatic aspect of these problems, let us not forget that the Jordan River is a powerful spiritual symbol.
One of the European Union’s basic attributes is the balance between values and pragmatism. With this in mind, let us continue to be responsible politicians and demonstrate once again our unique European approach through our concern for the Jordan River.
Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, transboundary challenges call for common efforts. The European Parliament has rightly drawn attention to the need for a cooperative approach in this area. The European Union promotes the spirit of cooperation needed to address the Middle East region’s serious water challenges and advocates treatment of the problems at source, and not just the downstream symptoms.
Let me conclude by confirming that the European Union will continue to contribute to the efforts to alleviate the water deficit in this region and to ensure the provision of clean water resources, preserving the environment and safeguarding drinking water for the people of the region. The European Union will continue to support activities conducive to a future rehabilitation of the Jordan River and to the possible future establishment of joint and integrated management of the river basin, if that is the choice of the countries in the region.
The European Union will keep supporting dialogue and promoting cross-border cooperation on water issues between the various neighbours in this region, contributing to confidence building. Serious efforts and political commitment are needed from the neighbours themselves to balance the available resources and demands. This includes not just governments, but also civil society. As in Europe, individuals, companies and local municipalities need to contribute to the sustainable management of water resources. This is a challenge that confronts us all.
President. – I have received 5 motions for a resolution(1) in accordance with Rule 115(5).
The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on 9 September 2010.
(The sitting was suspended at 17:55 and resumed for Question Time at 18:00)