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Unique European bison transport just arrived in Romania

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The first bison relocation of its kind in Europe, with only male European bison, took place yesterday in the rewilding area of Romania known as Bison Hillock. The seven individuals arrived from Germany as part of the LIFE RE-Bison project and will contribute to the genetic diversity of the rewilded free-range bison population.

The Bison Hillock herd is the largest population of free bison in Romania, and thanks to this latest transport now stands at about 80 individuals. The European bison is one of the most vulnerable large mammals in the world, and it is protected at the European level. The Life-Bison rewilding project, begun in 2014 by Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania aims to create a viable population that breeds in the wild and supports the area's biodiversity, but also brings back a cultural value, a symbol that has allowed people in the local communities to rediscover the beauty of their surroundings, and develop entrepreneurial activities based on experiences in nature. Romania is among the few countries with European bison roaming in the wild. The Bison Hillock herd is the largest population of free bison in Romania, and thanks to this latest transport now stands at about 100 individuals. European bison is one of the most vulnerable large mammals in the world.

The transport was prepared at length by WWF-Romania, Rewilding Europe and the German Donaumoos, Bad Berleburg, Neumünster and Bielefeld Reserves where the bison came from. The decision to relocate the males was taken after a complex selection process and consultations with the IUCN SSC Bison Specialist Group on the ethology and conservation of the species. The bison spent six months together in the Donaumoos Wisentgehege Reserve to get to know each other and to facilitate the adaptation process once they arrived in the unknown environment of the Natura 2000 Țarcu Mountains Site.

"After six years we can say that we have had many firsts in this project, from having more than 25 calves born in the wild, to GPS data that shows a bison reaching an altitude of more than 2000 meters in the Țarcu Mountains, and now we managed to successfully deliver a unique transport, consisting only of males. This is a pioneering project, and this helps the whole scientific community in Europe to better understand the species and to have good results in its conservation," said WWF Romania LIFE RE-Bison Project Manager Marina Drugă.

After the quarantine period, the newly-arrived males will be released into the wild where, thanks to the last two relocations this year, there is now a population of 100 bison, the largest in Romania.  These males are still young, but at maturity they can weigh more than 800 kg, while females can reach over 600 kg. Male bison are solitary and spend most of their time away from the female group with calves, but return during the breeding season and over winter.

"When monitoring males like Bilbo, brought from Sweden in 2017, you can't help but treat it with respect, like a wild animal should be treated.

"We have no way of weighing him, but this male looks like he's at least 900 kg. The landscape suits him well, he's all muscle as he travels dozens of kilometres through forests, hills and pastures and has plenty of food," said Daniel Hurduzeu, a ranger at Bison Hillock.

Bison bonasus, the largest land mammal in Europe, is an umbrella species that safeguards the quality of life of other species in the food chain and preserves wilderness strongholds and natural balance on which we all depend. The bison’s browsing ability in the search of food helps maintain a mosaic of forested areas and grasslands, a landscape which is highly valuable for its biodiversity and natural resilience in the face of climate challenges. More than 596 animal species and 200 plant species benefit from these huge herbivores. Moreover, the bison is a species that, if successfully re-introduced and its habitat actively preserved across the entire Carpathian Mountains, will help maintain ecological corridors on a large scale, allowing for species migration, such as brown bear, wolf or lynx. The long-term conservation of the bison species is of high importance for the entire ecosystem. That is why every decision on achieving a genetically viable population is important.

Since January 2021, due to long-term conservation work, European bison (Bison bonasus) are no longer considered a vulnerable species in a few European countries. The European bison population has increased from about 1,800 in 2003 to over 6,200 now; meaning that the species has moved up the IUCN red list classification to ‘almost threatened’.

WWF-Romania and Rewilding Europe are working closely with the local communities, local entrepreneurs, ROMSILVA, forestry offices, hunting associations and tour operators, to ensure that the re-introduction programme will achieve all its objectives. The reintroduction of the bison in the Southern Carpathians is part of the project ‘Urgent Actions for the Recovery of European Bison Populations in Romania’, implemented by WWF-Romania and Rewilding Europe with financial support from the European Union through the LIFE Programme and together with local communities. 

To book a visit to the Bison Hillock, click here.

Background
The Life RE-Bison rewilding project, begun in 2014 by Rewilding Europe and WWF-Romania aims to create a viable population that breeds in the wild and supports the area's biodiversity, but also brings back a cultural value, a symbol that has allowed people in the local communities to rediscover the beauty of their surroundings, and develop entrepreneurial activities based on experiences in nature.

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CO2 emissions

Commission adopts new annexes to EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines, defining applicable efficiency benchmarks and CO2 factors

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The European Commission has adopted two new annexes to the EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines (the ‘ETS Guidelines'). The new annexes supplement the ETS Guidelines and define the applicable efficiency benchmarks and CO2 factors. The ETS Guidelines aim at reducing the risk of ‘carbon leakage', where companies move production to countries outside the EU with less ambitious climate policies, leading to less economic activity in the EU and no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions globally. In particular, the Guidelines enable member states to compensate sectors at risk of relocation for part of the higher electricity prices resulting from the carbon price signals created by the EU ETS (so-called ‘indirect emission costs').

When the revised ETS Guidelines were adopted in September 2020, the Commission signalled that the two annexes on ‘Efficiency Benchmarks' and on ‘CO2 factors' would be published at a later stage. The efficiency benchmarks represent the quantity of electricity involved in the most efficient production process for each product. The CO2 factors, which are based on the mix of fossil-fuel power generation in each country or region, reflect the extent to which the wholesale price of the electricity consumed by the beneficiary is influenced by ETS costs in the relevant price zones.

The Commission has today adopted a Communication supplementing the ETS Guidelines, introducing the outstanding annexes. The efficiency benchmarks and the CO2 factors defined in the annexes are based on expert input, previous practice and statistical data. More specifically, the efficiency benchmarks were set on the basis of an expert study by an external consultant. The methodology to establish the applicable CO2 factors is similar to the one applied in the previous Guidelines, and is based on Eurostat data.

The new efficiency benchmarks and CO2 factors will enter in the calculation of the compensation amount for indirect costs incurred by the beneficiaries as from 2021, and are therefore important elements to ensure the proportionality of the aid measures granted under the ETS Guidelines.

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Agriculture

EU agriculture statistics: Subsidies, jobs, production

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Discover facts and figures about farming in the EU, including funding by country, employment and production, Society.

Agriculture is an important industry for all EU countries and they all receive EU funds through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These funds support farmers directly through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund and rural areas, climate action and the management of natural resources through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Find out how the Common Agricultural Policy supports farmers.

EU agricultural subsidies by country

In 2019, €38.2 billion was spent on direct payments to farmers and €13.8bn on rural development. A further €2.4bn supported the market for agricultural products.

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The rules governing how Common Agricultural Policy funds are spent is determined by the EU’s long-term budget. The current rules run until December 2022, after which the most recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will come into effect and run until 2027.

Infographic with map showing the amount of Common Agricultural Policy subsidies per EU country in 2019. Key data can be found under the heading EU agricultural subsidies by country.
The division of the Common Agricultural Policy funds between EU countries  

EU agriculture employment statistics

The agriculture industry supported 9,476,600 jobs in 2019 and 3,769,850 jobs in food production (in 2018) and accounted for 1.3% of the EU's gross domestic product in 2020.

Romania had the most people employed in agriculture in 2019, while Denmark had the most people employed in food production in 2018.

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For every euro spent, the farm sector creates an additional €0.76 for the EU economy. The gross value added from farming - the difference between the value of everything that the EU’s primary agricultural sector produced and the cost of the services and goods used in the production process - was €178.4 billion in 2020.

Infographic showing the employment in agriculture (in 2019) and food production (in 2018) per EU country. Key data can be found under the heading EU agriculture employment statistics.
The food and agriculture sectors in the EU  

Agricultural production in Europe

EU agriculture produces a rich variety of food products, from cereals to milk. The EU has legislated to ensure that the food produced and sold in the EU is safe to eat. The EU’s farm to fork strategy, announced in 2020, aims to ensure that food is also produced more sustainably. MEPs want to cut pesticide use to better protect pollinators and biodiversity, end the use of cages in animal farming and increase land use for organic farming by 2030.

Infographic showing how many tonnes of different foods were produced in the EU in 2019.
Food production in the EU  

Common Agricultural Policy 

Data sources 

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Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Common Agricultural Policy reform gets final approval from MEPs

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On Tuesday (23 November), Parliament gave the green light to the new EU Farm Policy. This reformed version aims to be greener, fairer, more flexible and transparent, AGRI, Plenary session.

During the negotiations on the legislative reform package, MEPs insisted that strengthening biodiversity and adhering to the EU’s environmental and climate laws and commitments will be key to the implementation of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), taking effect in 2023. While the Commission will assess whether national CAP strategic plans are in line with these commitments, farmers will have to comply with climate- and environmentally-friendly practices. Member states will be obliged to ensure that at least 35% of the rural development budget and at least 25% of direct payments will be dedicated to environmental and climate measures.

More support for small farms and young farmers

MEPs ensured that a minimum of 10% of direct payments will be used to support small and medium-sized farms and at least 3% of the CAP budget will go to young farmers. They also insisted that a crisis reserve with an annual budget of €450 million (in current prices) will be permanently ready to help farmers with price or market instability.

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More transparency and better compliance with labour rules

As a result of Parliament’s pressure, EU labour rules in agricultural sectors will be better monitored and infringements penalised thanks to the cooperation between national labour inspectors and CAP paying agencies.

Information about final beneficiaries of EU support will be more transparent thanks to an EU data mining tool, which member states will get access to and which helps to identify the risk of fraud occurring by cross-checking information in public databases.

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The “Strategic plans regulation” was adopted with 452 votes in favour, 178 against and 57 abstentions, the “Horizontal regulation” with 485 votes in favour, 142 against and 61 abstentions and the “Common market organisation regulation” with 487 in favour, 130 against and 71 abstentions.

Rapporteur for the 'Strategic plans regulation' Peter Jahr (EPP, DE) said: “By approving the CAP reform, we guarantee planning security not only for member states, but above all for our European farmers. We have ensured that this CAP is more sustainable, transparent and predictable. The new delivery model will reduce the bureaucratic burden of agricultural policy on farmers. Our vote today has shown that we want to protect and promote family farms, the people who maintain and preserve our cultural landscape.”

Rapporteur for the 'Horizontal regulation' Ulrike Müller (RE, DE) said: “Today marks a historic day for the new CAP, a day when we advance towards a more environmentally ambitious, socially aware and performance-oriented agricultural policy. The new delivery model will ensure that the focus of the CAP will be more on achieving its targets and less on simply complying with the rules. We also made sure CAP payments are more transparent and that the EU’s financial interests are better protected. This CAP will really be a success.”

Rapporteur for the 'Common market organization regulation' Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR) said: “For the first time in more than 30 years, thanks to the common market organisation part of the CAP reform, the reforms approved today will mean more market regulation than deregulation. We can be proud of how far we have come, because the progress made is important for farmers, for the sector, and for consumers. The common market organisation is certainly a first step in the right direction.”

Next steps

Current CAP rules were extended after 31 December 2020 and replaced by transitional rules until the end of 2022. Once approved by the Council, the new rules will be applicable from 1 January 2023.

More information 

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