Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sarkozy in the Mediterranean: time to put words into action

Let's hope that the short holiday President-elect of France Nicolas Sarkozy is now spending on a yacht in the Mediterranean before taking office on 16 May will inspire him before one of the first major decisions of international environmental policy his government will need to make.

The Mediterreanean bluefin tuna is just about to disappear forever unless a drastic decision to stop their unsustainable harvest is taken in June, warns WWF. Until now the European Union has failed to take adecuate measures for the conservation of bluefin tuna because French authorities (together with the Italians and the Spaniards) have prefered to protect the narrow short-term private interests of a group of subsidized ship owners and tuna traders, and not the survival of the species.

There had never been as much talking and all-party commitments on environmental issues like during the Presidential campaign that just ended in France.

Despite sometimes beautiful speeches and rhetoric on environmental issues in the last few years, President Chirac has been protecting the Marseille-based tuna fleet which is destroying the bluefin tuna. But throughout his campaign, Sarkozy pledged to be different from Chirac. Repeatedly he said that (unlike his predecessor) he would put his words into action.

So, during the Presidential campaign, I picked up these words from Nicolas Sarkozy:

"The defence of the environment requires from us a fundamental change. I consider [...] that the fight [...] in favour of the conservation of biodiversity must be a major denominator of political action. [...] The conservation of biodiversity requires technical innovations but also a change of behaviour" (*)

The Mediterranean bluefin tuna test-case should be an excellent opportunity for President Sarkozy to put his money where his mouth is.

(*) La défense de l’environnement exige de nous une rupture fondamentale. Je considère […] que la lutte […] en faveur de la préservation de la biodiversité doi[t] être un des déterminants majeurs de l'action publique. [...] La préservation de la biodiversité exig[e] des innovations techniques mais également une modification des comportements.

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