In December 2013, the European Commission restricted the use of three highly bee-toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, namely imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. On the 4th anniversary of the partial ban on these substances, new scientific knowledge confirms that these restrictions do not go far enough.
Therefore, more than 80 EU NGOs are gathering to ask EU decision-makers to completely ban neonicotinoids without further delay. A proposal from the European Commission to extend the ban to all outdoor crops will be discussed on 12-13 December and member states may be asked to vote on the proposal.
The UK, Ireland and France have recently indicated that they support a tougher ban but other member states have not made their positions known. The Commission’s proposal is based on the conclusions of the European Food Safety Authority that bees are at risk from neonicotinoid use on all outdoor crops not only from use on flowering crops that they are feeding directly on. Several new studies also show how neonicotinoids contaminate the environment and can be found in water and wildflowers putting wildlife at risk.
Martin Dermine, PAN Europe’s pollinator expert said: "In 2013, there was enough evidence to totally ban neonicotinoids. Their toxicity is not compatible with sustainable food production. Our bees and insect populations in general need special attention as their decline is dramatic. Evidence shows that, despite scaremongering information spread by the pesticide industry, the 2013 restrictions did not lead to any reduction in crop yields. There is thus no point to maintain their use and the environmental collapse they generate."
In 1994, when imidacloprid was first authorized on sunflowers in France, French beekeepers immediately noticed the major negative impact of these chemicals on the health of their hives. Sunflower fields shifted from being a major source of French honey production to a source of decline of French beekeeping industry. The French story expanded to the EU and the entire world along the spread of the use of neonicotinoids.
After 19 years of beekeepers and environmentalists mobilization, the European Commission decided in 2013, to ban the use of neonicotinoids on bee-attractive crops. The EU executive also asked the producers from these substances, Bayer and Syngenta, to provide so-called ‚confirmatory data‘ in order to better evaluate the toxicity of these substances.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed these confirmatory data and published its evaluations in November 2016. The EFSA confirmed that these substances were highly toxic to bees, bumble bees and solitary bees. The Authority also confirmed there were still data gaps impeding a proper risk assessment, in particular for wild bees.
EFSA also warned that bees could be exposed to neonicotinoids outside crops as these insecticides spread rapidly in the environment, contaminating wild flowers as well. Further, independent science have shown that the toxicity of neonicotinoids goes far beyond honey bees: bumble bees, wild bees as well as the entire world of bugs. A dramatic decline in insects was recently demonstrated (75% dropdown of insects‘ biomass in Germany nature areas over 27 years) which the authors attribute to intensive farming practices, including pesticide uses. A recent update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessement on the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems has evaluated 500 scientific evidence published since 2014 and confirm the high risk posed by these substances not only to insects but also to vertebrates and wild life in general.
Following the November 2016 EFSA opinions, the European Commission sent in February 2017 a draft regulation to the EU member states to ban these three neonicotinoids from EU agriculture with an exemption being given to their use in permanent greenhouses. EU member states will discuss and possibly vote on the draft regulation at the 12-13 Standing Committee on pesticides and member states might have the possibility to vote on the proposal.
More than 80 EU NGOs covering most of the European Union and comprising beekeepers, environmentalists and scientists are officially launching today the Save The Bees Coalition to obtain the ban our environment needs. The Coalition will advocate that all EU member states vote in favour of the proposal from the European Commission to ban all uses of these neonicotinoids to protect our bees, including greenhouses as evidence shows that greenhouses are not closed systems and do not prevent leakage and environmental contamination. The Coalition will also demand that all other chemical pesticides are properly tested for their impact on bees so that all bee-harming pesticides will be banned in the EU. Therefore, member states need to approve without delay the 2013 EFSA Bee Guidance Document.
Members of the Save The Bees Coalition: Abella Lupa, Agrupació per a la protecció del medi ambient del Garraf, APIADS, Apicultura de huesca, Apiscam, Apiservices, Arieco, Asociación Bee Garden, Asociación de apicultores de la Región de Murcia, Asociación Española de Apicultores, Asociación Galega de apicultura, Asociación Medioambiental Jara, Asociación para a Defensa Ecolóxica de Galiza, Asociación RedMontañas, Asociación Reforesta, Associació Catalana d'Afectades i Afectats de Fibromiàlgia i d'altres Síndromes de Sensibilització Central, Avaaz, Baltic Environmental Forum Latvia, Bamepe, Bee Life - European Beekeeping Coordination, Bijenstichting, Buglife, BUND, Campact, COAG – Comunidada Valenciana, Confederación en Defensa de la Abeja en la Cornisa Cantábrica, Cooperativa El Brot, Deutsche Berufs und Erwerbs Imker Bund, Division of Apiculture- Hellenic Agriculture Organisation DEMETER, Earth Thrive, Eco Hvar, ECOCITY, ecocolmena, Ecological Council, Ecologistas en Acción, Estonian Green Party, European Professional Beekeepers Association, Federação Nacional dos Apicultores de Portugal, Federation of Greek Beekeepers' Associations, Foundation for the Environment and Agriculture, Friends of the Bees Foundation, Friends of the Earth Europe, Générations Futures, Gipuzkaoko Erlezain Elkartea, Glore Mill Sustainability Centre for Biodiversity and Energy, Greenpeace, Grup d'Estudi i Protecció dels Ecosistemes Catalans, Inter-Environnement Wallonie, INLUISAL SL, La Apnera, La Vinca, Lithuanian Fund for Nature, Melazahar, Melliferopolis, NABU, Natur&ëmwelt, Nature & Progrès Belgique, Pesticide Action Network Europe, Pesticide Action Network UK, Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk, proBiene, Proyecto Gran Simio, Quercus, Riet Vell, Romapis, Salvem la Platja Llarga, Slovenian Beekeepers` Association, Slow Food, SOS polinizadores, Spanish Society of Organic Farming, Statera NGO, SumOfUs, Territorios Vivos, Tot mel can ginesta, Umweltinstitut München, Unió de Llauradors I Ramaders, Union Nationale de l'Apiculture Française, Via Pontica Foundation, Vilde bier i Danmark, WECF France, WECF Germany, WWF España.
 https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4606 https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4607
 Hallman et al. 2017
Commission approves Danish support for Thor offshore wind farm project
The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, Danish support for the Thor offshore wind farm project, which will be located in the Danish part of the North Sea. The measure will help Denmark increase its share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources and reduce CO₂ emissions, in line with the European Green Deal, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
Executive Vice President, Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This Danish measure is a very good example of how member states can provide incentives to companies to take part and invest in green energy projects, in line with EU state aid rules. The Thor offshore wind farm project will contribute to achieving the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets set out in the Green Deal, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.”
Denmark notified to the Commission an aid measure, with a total maximum budget of DKK 6.5 billion (approximately €870 million), to support the design, construction and operation of the new Thor offshore wind farm project. The project, which will have offshore wind capacity of minimum 800 Megawatt (MW) to maximum 1000 MW, will include the wind farm itself, the offshore substation and the grid connection from the offshore substation to the point of connection in the first onshore substation.
The aid will be awarded through a competitive tender and will take the form of a two-way contract-for-difference premium of the duration of 20 years. The premium will be paid on top of the market price for the electricity produced.
The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.
The Commission found that the aid is necessary and has an incentive effect, as the Thor offshore wind project would not take place in the absence of the public support. Furthermore, the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary, as the level of aid will be set through a competitive auction. Finally, the Commission found that the positive effects of the measure, in particular the positive environmental effects, outweigh any possible negative effects in terms of distortions to competition, in particular, since the selection of the beneficiary and the award of the aid will be carried out through a competitive bidding process.
On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules, as it will foster the development of renewable energy production from offshore wind technologies in Denmark and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal, and without unduly distorting competition.
The Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy allow member states to support projects like the Thor Offshore Wind Farm. These rules aim at helping member states meet the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market.
The Renewable Energy Directive established an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030. The project contributes to reaching this target.
The recent EU Offshore Strategy identifies the importance of offshore wind as part of the Green Deal.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case numbers SA.57858 in the state aid register on the Commission's Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.
Commission and UN Environment Programme agree to reinforce co-operation in tackling the crises in climate, biodiversity and pollution
The European Commission represented by Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) represented by its Executive Director Inger Andersen, agreed to enhanced co-operation between the two institutions for the period 2021-2025. A stronger focus on the promotion of circular economy, the protection of biodiversity and the fight against pollution lie at the heart of the new agreement for greater cooperation. Commissioner Sinkevičius said: “I welcome this new phase of co-operation with the UN Environment Programme that will help us to implement the European Green Deal and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, but also to form a strong alliance ahead of crucial summits, which are to take place later in the year.”
In a virtual session, Commissioner Sinkevičius and Executive Director Andersen signed a new Annex to an existing already since 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The signing of this document is very timely. It takes place following the fifth UN Environment Assembly meeting last week and the launch of the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resources Efficiency (GACERE), while the global community seeks to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressing climate, resource and biodiversity emergencies. The partners underscored the need to mobilise all areas of society to achieve a green-digital transition towards a sustainable future. More information is in the news release.
CAP: New report on fraud, corruption and misuse of EU agricultural funds must be wake up call
MEPs working on protection of the EU's budget from the Greens/EFA group have just released a new report: "Where does the EU money go?", which looks at the misuse of European agricultural funds in Central and Eastern Europe. The report looks at systemic weakness in EU agricultural funds and maps out in clear terms, how EU funds contribute to fraud and corruption and undermining the rule of law in five EU countries: Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.
The report outlines up to date cases, including: Fraudulent claims and payments of EU agricultural subsidies Slovakia; the conflicts of interest around Czech Prime Minister's Agrofert company in Czechia; and state interference by the Fidesz government in Hungary. This report comes out as the EU institutions are in the process of negotiating the Common Agricultural Policy for the years 2021-27.
Viola von Cramon MEP, Greens/EFA member of the Budgetary Control Committee, comments: "The evidence shows that EU agricultural funds are fuelling fraud, corruption and the rise of rich businessmen. Despite numerous investigations, scandals and protests, the Commission seems to be turning a blind eye to the rampant abuse of taxpayer's money and member states are doing little to address systematic issues. The Common Agricultural Policy simply isn't working. It provides the wrong incentives for how land is used, which damages the environment and harms local communities. The massive accumulation of land at the expense of the common good is not a sustainable model and it certainly shouldn't be financed from the EU's budget.
"We cannot continue to allow a situation where EU funds are causing such harm in so many countries. The Commission needs to act, it cannot bury its head in the sand. We need transparency on how and where EU money ends up, the disclosure of the ultimate owners of large agricultural companies and an end to conflicts of interest. The CAP must be reformed just so it works for people and the planet and is ultimately accountable to EU citizens. In the negotiations around the new CAP, the Parliament team must stand firm behind mandatory capping and transparency."
Mikuláš Peksa, Pirate Party MEP and Greens/EFA Member of the Budgetary Control Committee said: “We have seen in my own country how EU agricultural funds are enriching an entire class of people all the way up to the Prime Minister. There is a systemic lack of transparency in the CAP, both during and after the distribution process. National paying agencies in CEE fail to use clear and objective criteria when selecting beneficiaries and are not publishing all the relevant information on where the money goes. When some data is disclosed, it is often deleted after the mandatory period of two years, making it almost impossible to control.
“Transparency, accountability and proper scrutiny are essential to building an agricultural system that works for all, instead of enriching a select few. Unfortunately, data on subsidy recipients are scattered over hundreds of registers, which are mostly not interoperable with the Commission’s fraud detection tools. Not only is it almost impossible for the Commission to identify corruption cases, but it is often unaware of who the final beneficiaries are and how much money they receive. In the ongoing negotiations for the new CAP period, we cannot allow the Member States to continue operating with this lack of transparency and EU oversight."
The report is available online here.
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