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Protecting bees: EU set to completely ban outdoor use of #pesticides harmful to #bees

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Member states' representatives in a Standing Committee have backed a proposal by the European Commission to further restrict the use of three active substances (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, known as neonicotinoids) for which a scientific review concluded that their outdoor use harms bees.

The protection of bees is an important issue for the Commission since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment. On the initiative of President Juncker, for whom this is a priority, the College discussed this on 29 March 2017. The restrictions agreed go beyond the measures already in place since 2013.

All outdoor use of the three substances will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where no contact with bees is expected. Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis welcomed this vote, stressing that "the Commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority. Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment". The Regulation will now be adopted by the European Commission in the coming weeks and become applicable by the end of the year.

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Brexit

Brexit deal risks undermining Northern Ireland peace, says UK's Frost

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The historic US-brokered 1998 Irish peace agreement has been put at risk by the implementation of the Brexit divorce deal in the British province of Northern Ireland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's top Brexit negotiator said on Wednesday (16 June), writes Guy Faulconbridge.

The United States has expressed grave concern that a dispute between London and Brussels over the implementation of the 2020 Brexit treaty could undermine the Good Friday accord, which effectively ended three decades of violence.

After the United Kingdom exited the bloc's orbit on 1 January, Johnson has unilaterally delayed the implementation of some provisions of the deal's Northern Ireland Protocol and his top negotiator has said the protocol is unsustainable.

"It's super important that we keep the purpose of the nature of the protocol in mind, which is to support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and not to undermine it, as it risks doing," Brexit Minister David Frost (pictured) told lawmakers.

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the "Troubles" - three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Johnson has said he could trigger emergency measures in the Northern Ireland protocol after its implementation disrupted trade between Britain and its province.

The protocol aims to keep the province, which borders EU member Ireland, in both the United Kingdom's customs territory and the EU's single market.

The EU wants to protect its single market, but an effective border in the Irish Sea created by the protocol cuts off Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom - to the fury of Protestant unionists.

Frost said London wanted agreed solutions to enable the Protocol to operate without undermining the consent of either broad community in Northern Ireland.

"If we can't do that, and at the moment, we aren't making a lot of progress on that - if we can't do that then all options are on the table for what we do next," Frost said. "We would rather find agreed solutions."

Asked if the Britain would invoke Article 16 of the Northern Irish Protocol to force a rethink, Frost said: "We are extremely concerned about the situation.

"Support for the protocol has corroded rapidly," Frost said.

"Our frustration ... is that we're not getting a lot of traction, and we feel we have put in a lot of ideas and we haven't had very much back to help move these discussions forward, and meanwhile ... time is running out."

Ireland's foreign minister said in response that the province's trading arrangement's were not a threat to the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom, but simply a means of managing disruption from its exit from the EU.

"Don't know how many times this needs to be said before it's fully accepted as true. NI Protocol is a technical trading arrangement to manage the disruption of Brexit for the island of Ireland to the greatest extent possible," Simon Coveney said on Twitter.

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Brexit

Getting nothing back, UK minister says frustration is growing with EU

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Frustration in the British government is rising because London has offered a number of proposals to solve a standoff with the European Union over Northern Ireland but has not had a lot back, Brexit minister David Frost said on Wednesday (16 June), writes Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters.

"Our position is that we would like to find negotiated agreements that ... bring it back to the sort of light-touch agreement that we thought we were agreeing," Frost told a parliamentary committee.

"Our frustration ... is that we're not getting a lot of traction, and we feel we have put in a lot of ideas and we haven't had very much back to help move these discussions forward, and meanwhile ... time is running out."

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EU

New rules to allow EU Ombudsman to serve Europeans better

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Parliament is updating the rules on how the European Ombudsman (pictured) works to provide a broader mandate for inquiries into poor administration at EU level, EU affairs.

MEPs are expected to adopt a modernized statute that strengthens the office of the European Ombudsman during the plenary session on 23-24 June. Parliament negotiators reached an agreement on the rules with the Council and the Commission in May 2021 following a couple of years of political deadlock.

Reinforced legal framework

The European Ombudsman aims to protect the interests of people and investigates cases where an EU institution or body has allegedly acted in violation of the law or good administration practices. Cases could concern administrative irregularities, discrimination, abuse of power or failure to act.

The updated statute confirms the right of the Ombudsman to act not only on complaints, but also to conduct inquiries on its own initiative, in particular in systemic or serious cases of poor administration by EU bodies.

The rules give the Ombudsman the right to demand access to classified EU information in the course of an inquiry. Member state authorities may also be asked to share information.

The European Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament at the start of each legislative term. In future candidates must not have been members of the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Commission or national government in the previous two years. This requirement aims to safeguard the independence of the Ombudsman.

'Free to act as it sees fit'

In the plenary debate on the new rules on 9 June in the presence of the current European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, Portuguese EPP member Paulo Rangel, who has been reponsible for steering the new rules through Parliament, said that the Ombudsman should be an “independent body that is free to act as it sees fit”.

He said the Parliament, just like other EU institutions, can and should be investigated: “We are basically saying: we want to be the subject of scrutiny. We want our procedures to be looked at."

O’Reilly said: “The Parliament and the Ombudsman have always enjoyed a very close and a very constructive relationship. This new statute strengthens that bond... It shows the Parliament's continued determination to make the Union more citizen-friendly and to continue to hold the EU administration accountable to the highest standards."

The Lisbon Treaty sets out a special procedure for decisions on the statute of the European Ombudsman: the rules are drafted by the European Parliament, which needs to obtain the opinion of the Commission and the consent of the Council before the final vote by MEPs.

The rules have not been updated since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009. Parliament came up with a proposal in February 2019, but there was no agreement from the Council. Negotiations led to an informal accord between the institutions in May 2021 and Parliament proposed on 10 June a text in accordance with the compromise. The final plenary vote is expected on 23 June.

More on the European Ombudsman and the new rules 

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