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#Pesticides investigation: 'Health should be the priority'

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Eric Andrieu 

Parliament's pesticides committee has until the end of 2018 to investigate and propose improvements to the procedure for the authorization of pesticides. Find out more about its work.     

There are long-standing concerns about how some components of pesticides, such as glyphosate, might affect people's health. In October 2017 MEPs demanded a full ban on glyphosate-based herbicides by 2022 and immediate restrictions on using the substance. However, EU countries decided in November 2017 that the herbicide can be used in the EU for another five years, with no full ban in sight.

In 2018 the European Parliament set up a special committee to look into the issue. We talked about the tasks ahead with committee chair Eric Andrieu (pictured), a French member of the S&D group.

EU countries have decided to renew authorisation for glyphosates until 2022, so why has the Parliament decided to set up a special committee this year?

Renewing the authorization does not address the issue of the scientific controversy. It is irresponsible to renew without having more proof that the glyphosate molecule and its co-formulants are not health hazards. In order to safeguard the health of 500 million Europeans, we need to evaluate the existing process and check if improvements are needed.

What do you think the first tasks of the committee should be?

 One task would be to bring the knowledge of the committee members up to date. It will then be a question of evaluating each step of the authorization procedure by questioning the stakeholders: companies, NGOs, scientists. At the end we will put forward concrete proposals for improving the process.

This affects many people: farmers, companies and especially citizens. How will you balance their different interests?

For us the most important thing is safeguarding the health of 500 million Europeans.

Of course farmers use glyphosate, but when you ask them, “Would you continue to use glyphosate if they are found to be a health hazard?”, they say “no”. They will find a solution.

Some scientists are critical about the choice of studies by EFSA. We will have to see how this selection of studies is done. We also have to make the industry more aware of the health and ethics issues. We can’t tolerate everything in the name of boosting the economy. For me health should be the priority. It’s about getting the industry to act differently.

The Monsanto Papers scandal has raised a lot of interest. What can the European Parliament do to ensure  there are independent scientific studies?

More resources are certainly needed to ensure scientists are independent and we will need to look into that. What guarantees do we have that reports produced by EFSA are independent? How do we prevent lobbying from influencing the process? Therefore we need rules to ensure no-one can doubt the validity or the independence of the studies and the choices that have been made. The Monsanto-Bayer merger shows again how companies’ control over the living world is being concentrated in the hands of a few. To me this is unacceptable.

Glyphosates are now authorised until 2022. Can we expect changes before then?

The decision taken by the European Commission and the Council has not been challenged before the European courts.

I don’t have the means to challenge the decision myself, otherwise I would have done it. However, it’s possible we will ask for a scientific reassessment before the end of the mandate. In this case it is possible that glyphosates are banned.

The pesticides committee has until the end of 2018 to come forward with proposals. What would you consider a good outcome?

 We will have succeeded if we come up with concrete proposals in December showing the European Commission what needs to be done so that 500 million Europeans can eat, drink and breathe without having to worry about their health.

At the moment not a week goes by without a new health scandal making the headlines. We need to do everything we can to ensure a better protection of consumers’ health.

It’s our responsibility. We have to succeed. We do not have a choice.

On 15 May the pesticides committee organised a public hearing on the EU’s approval procedure for pesticides.

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Italian MEP Vincenzo Sofo joins the ECR Group

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The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament has decided to take on Italian MEP Vincenzo Sofo as a new member.

Mr Sofo was elected to the European Parliament in 2019. He was one of the three Italian candidates suspended pending the exit of the British Members. On February 1st 2020, Mr Sofo officially took his European Parliament seat. The ECR Group now holds 63 seats in the European Parliament.

After the meeting, ECR Co-Chairman Raffaele Fitto said: “I’d like to welcome Mr Sofo to our Group. He is a trained and competent colleague who has made a political choice consistent with his political path. We are sure that Mr Sofo MEP will be able to make a decisive contribution to the work of our Group, and to our alternative vision of the future of Europe, that is, a community of homelands and nations that cooperate in respect of our different identities and peculiarities.”

ECR Co-Chairman Ryszard Legutko said: “The decision of Mr Sofo shows that our political project, together with the strength of our ideas and our values, is credible and attractive, and from today even stronger and more able to give concrete answers to our citizens in terms of well-being, wealth and security.”

Following the decision, Sofo said: “The European Union is going through one of the most difficult periods in its history, not only from an economic point of view but also from a social and cultural point of view. Surely, it must be profoundly changed to be preserved. Considering the political forces grouped in the European Conservatives and Reformists, they are the ones most able to carry out this task.

“The Conference on the Future of Europe will be a crucial appointment for our Continent and the work that conservative forces will be able to do to correct the mistakes of the European project will be fundamental to straightening its path by strengthening our Nation states and values that have forged its spirit.”

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EU imposes sanctions on Russians linked to Navalny poisoning and detention

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The Council today(2 March) decided to impose restrictive measures on four Russian individuals responsible for serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as widespread and systematic repression of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and freedom of opinion and expression in Russia.

Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the Prosecutor-General, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service have been listed over their roles in the arbitrary arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Alexei Navalny, as well as the repression of peaceful protests in connection with his unlawful treatment.

This is the first time that the EU imposes sanctions in the framework of the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime which was established on 7 December 2020. The sanctions regime enables the EU to target those responsible for acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations or abuses such as torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests or detentions.

The restrictive measures that entered into force today in follow up to discussions by the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 February 2021 consist of a travel ban and asset freeze. In addition, persons and entities in the EU are forbidden from making funds available to those listed, either directly or indirectly.

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Nine EU-supported films compete in the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival

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The 71st Berlin International Film Festival began on 1 March, this year in its digital edition due to the coronavirus pandemicnine EU-supported films and series, three of which are competing for the highest prize, the Golden Bear: Memory Box by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Nebenan (Next Door) by Daniel Brühl, and Természetes fény (Natural Light) by Dénes Nagy. The EU supported the development and co-production of these nine titles with an investment of over €750 000 that was awarded through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme. Targeted to film professionals and media, the Berlinale film festival is hosting the European Film Market, where the Creative Europe MEDIA programme is active with a virtual stand as well as with the European Film Forum. The Forum that will take place online on 2 March will gather various professionals from the industry to discuss the future perspectives for the audiovisual sector in Europe. The Berlinale will run until 5 March, when the winning films will be announced. The second round of this year's festival, ‘The Summer Special', will take place in June 2021 and will open the films to the public and host the official Award Ceremony. More information is available here.

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