Alexandroupolis, Greece, February 25, 2014 – Representatives of local authorities and NGOs from Greece and Turkey called for cross-border cooperation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and other urban and environmental issues common to both sides.
The EU-funded Mare Nostrum Project partners’ meeting in Alexandroupolis, which took place February 18–22, 2014, brought together representatives of local authorities, NGOs and universities from Greece and Turkey. Participants expressed their desire to improve cooperation at the local and regional level.
“We have the same objectives and the same problems,” said Ozdemir Sonmez, senior planner at the Istanbul Metropolitan Planning Center. “You can come to us to learn from what we are doing and we can learn from your experience.”
“There is already small-scale cooperation in preventing floods with Bulgaria and Turkey which could be expanded to other areas, including coastal management,” said Kostas Portokalidis, urban planner at the municipality of Alexandroupolis. “Local authorities are close to the problems and it could help us a lot if we could join forces.”
“Our goals and problems are the same and I believe that this is a good opportunity to put the problems on the table so they can be discussed and solved,” Portokalidis added.
“Issues such as sea level rise, coastal and cliff erosion and water pollution from the Evros River threaten both sides,” said Prof. Rachelle Alterman from The Technion in Israel, initiator and head of the Mare Nostrum Project. “Local authorities don’t need to wait for the central governments to take steps and can start collaborating with their counterparts on the other side of the river.”
Prof. Alterman added that she hoped that other cross-border joint initiatives between other neighboring countries along the Mediterranean coastline would take similar steps.