The Adriatic
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Conclusions by Mr Thomas Spencer, the General Rapporteur of the Symposium

Below are my personal observations as your General Rapporteur. I can only offer an overview of what seems to me to be the big themes shining out of this symposium through the mosaic of detail. I am very struck by the validity of the Patriarch’s original idea of concentrating and focussing on a body of water. When you focus on a sea, you appreciate things which you miss if you look purely at blocks of land or at political units. We experienced that in the Black Sea, and on the Danube. If you take a sea as your point of reference you are moving towards that holistic approach that Rupert Sheldrake was talking about. It is not just the environment that you see. You begin to sense the influence of the scientific, the political, the intellectual and the cultural, all interacting around the focus of a sea.

As we have sailed from Corfu to Venice, I have been impressed by how many borders of the mind we have crossed. We have come from the South, from Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe, to Italy, one of the richest. We have passed through a zone which is moving out of war and into peace, and is learning to live with that change. We have moved across historic barriers of the mind, symbolised perhaps by being at Diocletian’s Palace, as we passed from the Greek world to the Latin world. We have moved across linguistic barriers and across religious barriers. This is one of the spaces on the planet where the three Abrahamic religions have traditionally mixed in both co-operation and competition. I enjoyed the colleague from Slovenia who presented his country as the “belly-button of Europe”. Perhaps the Adriatic as a whole is the navel of Europe. To regard the Adriatic in this way requires one to have a sense of the whole of European civilisation. We should not to fall into the easy habits that much of our education leads us to, of regarding Europe as the identical with the current dimensions of the European Union or with the north-western Europe of the Franks. We do not teach our history properly, we forget about Byzantium and about the Eastern tradition. What greater symbol could we have than to be here in Venice, stuffed with the plunder of 1204, to remind us of what happened historically. I am personally not in favour of the culture of public apology for historical events, but I am very much in favour of learning the lessons of these historical events and not repeating them.

If I look at the political problems of this sea, I identify a very dramatic governance gap that has placed the sea at risk. All the evidence from the scientists and from the other contributions that we have received, demonstrates that the main source of the pollution of this sea is Italy. Italy is a sophisticated culture, one of the founder members of the European Union, with impeccable environmental laws backed by all the majesty of the European Union’s legislative power and yet the pollution continues. This is the problem of enforcement. We can have all the laws we like, but if they are not enforced we will continue to pollute the sea. On the other side of the Adriatic, you have a story of fragmentation. The successor states of former Yugoslavia are now struggling to raise environmental issues up their political agendas. We looked at various monuments to the directly damaging consequences of war, but I suggest to you that the psychological damage of war is equally bad for the environment. It has meant that the environment has been largely ignored, while the new states established themselves, created their own institutions and strove to improve their capacity building. On one side of the sea, a problem of enforcement, on the other side of the sea a problem of fragmentation. Ultimately the enlargement of the European Union will deal with the fragmentation, but the Union will, however big it becomes, still have a problem of enforcement. It will also have its own problems of politics on the way. I was reminded, looking at these notes of the fact that in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, the Adriatic countries along the eastern Littoral, are, for a variety of political reasons, excluded. They are excluded from the “Barcelona process” that is supposed to cover the whole of the Euro-Mediterranean. They are excluded from the funds which flow under that budget line. This is the kind of political lacunae that the Union should correct and which we should bully and push the EU and President Prodi to overcome. There are a mass of initiatives in this area, but they need to be brought together and focussed. So I point the finger very clearly at Italy and its responsibility for the pollution of this sea. But standing behind Italy in its inaction, is the wider failure of the European Union. It is not carrying out its responsibilities, because it has not taken a holistic view of the whole of Europe. It has tended to see states in particular packages, rather than looking at the way they impact on this sea and on this region in its totality.

There are obvious lessons from our analysis of this sea that apply both locally and globally. They are again the problems of fragmentation and of enforcement. We are all duty bound to recognise our failure as a species to put in place proper systems of governance at global level to deal with global problems. We should look at what we can learn from the experience of the Adriatic and share it in that wider global context. We can see a rich North, that is substantialy responsible for the historic pollution of common resources, and a poor South fragmented politically and with capacity building problems. It is impossible to divorce the questions of enforcement from questions of equity; historical equity, current equity, inter-generational equity. It is weak in the extreme to think that one can solve these global problems by good will alone. In order to achieve agreed change, you need structures of law and mechanisms for their enforcement. We must not regard these as purely environmental issues. We have to bring in all of humanity, with all of our failings, our histories and our fears. Behind a political failure to achieve a particular technical agreement there often lies our inability to trust each other, even when we perceive a common threat. My belief that there is an emerging planetary polis is reinforced by the experience of this symposium. It is not a complete one, not a dominant one, but it is emerging as one of the levels of subsidiarity that we need to govern ourselves as a species. At local level, at national level, at regional level and at planetary level, we urgently need systems that are transparent, systems that are legitimate, systems that allow of enforcement and of accountability. To get to that position from where we are now as a species is going to require courage. It is going to require leadership. It is also going to require scientific confidence and the involvement of all the people who have spoken at this symposium. We need to combine the efforts of our churches, of our scientists and of our politicians. As I contemplated, in the early hours of this morning, the mosaic of our discussions, I come out personally refreshed and invigorated that this can be achieved. We do collectively have the courage both as a symposium and as a species to contribute to the continuing sustainability and stability of our planet.