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Member states 'put #Bees at risk by failure to adopt guidance designed to protect them from pesticides'

EU Reporter Correspondent

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During the October 2018 meeting of the Standing Committee on Pesticides, EU member states failed to adopt a measure that would help to protect bees and other pollinators from the harm of pesticides. In particular, from the harm presented by a new and growing class of bee toxic pesticides that are being introduced to replace the recently banned neonicotinoids.

Given the overwhelming support from member states for extending the ban on neonicotinoids it is surprising and disappointing that they have rejected the plan proposed by the European Commission Directorate General for Health to implement the 2013 EFSA Bee Guidance Document. This move appears to be a cynical kowtowing to the wishes of the agroindustry, once again putting profit before protection of bees.

Since the publication of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Bee Guidance Document on the risk assessment of pesticides on bees in 2013, discussions between the European Commission and member states have been systematically leading to a dead end. For a long period of time, the European Commission even stopped its efforts as member states’ opposition remained excessively strong.

In 2013, EFSA undertook an assessment of neonicotinoid insecticides based on the guidance document. The document uses the most up-to-date science to assess the toxicity of a pesticide on bees. Instead of evaluating only acute toxicity (single exposure), it also assesses chronic toxicity (multiple low-level exposure) or toxicity to larvae. This document also allows for assessment of the toxicity of pesticides on bumblebees and solitary bees. Based on EFSA’s assessment, neonicotinoidswere first restricted in 2013 and then banned in 2018. Three quarters (76%) of EU member states supported the ban on neonicotinoids.

Today, those same member states have opposed applying the Bee Guidance Document criteria to all pesticides. Since 2013, apart from the three banned neonicotinoids not a single pesticide has been evaluated using the EFSA Bee Guidance Document. Nevertheless, a series of worrying new generation neonicotinoid insecticides have come on to the market: sulfoxaflor, flupyradifurone, cyantraniliprole or chlorantraniliprole. This means that the dramatic consequences of the use of the three, now-banned, neonicotinoids could simply be repeated due to the absence of a proper risk assessment protocol designed specifically  to protect bees.

Martin Dermine, PAN Europe’s environment policy officer, said: “Bees are popular with the public and politicians know it. From Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to local politicians, every politician is a friend of the bees – it means votes from the public! But when it comes to effectively tackling the real causes of bee decline, like pesticides, one realizes that those same politicans play a hypocritical game and, safely shielded behind the closed doors of the Standing Committee, refuse to take measures to phase out bee-toxic pesticides.”

Dermine added: “An ever growing body of evidence shows it is not only insecticides but also fungicides and herbicides that are having negative impact on bee health. While our Ministers protect the agrochemical industry, our bees keep being exposed to dozens of pesticides that are toxic at low levels and are leading to serious pollinator declines. If the Commission and Member States are not prepared to do the right thing PAN Europe intends to take the issue to Court as it is vital to the long-term health of our bees and the citizens of Europe that the most up to date science is used when assessing the risk to bees from all pesticides.”

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EU imposes sanctions on Russians linked to Navalny poisoning and detention

EU Reporter Correspondent

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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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Yemen: €95 million in EU humanitarian aid for people threatened by conflict and famine

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission is allocating €95 million in humanitarian support to address the most pressing needs of people in Yemen amid record highs of child malnutrition, an imminent threat of famine and renewed fighting. More than 2 million children as well as over 1 million pregnant women and mothers are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, while escalating hostilities are forcing thousands of families to leave their households.

The new funding was announced by the Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, at the high-level pledging event for Yemen on 1 March co-hosted by the United Nations, Sweden and Switzerland. Commissioner Lenarčič said: "The EU does not forget the dire situation of people in Yemen who are once again on the brink of famine after bearing the brunt of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. New EU funding will be essential in maintaining life-saving aid for millions of people, exhausted  after a disastrous year marked by fighting, COVID-19 and further economic collapse. Parties to the conflict need to facilitate the access of humanitarian organisations to those most in need and avoid further civilian suffering. Now more than ever it is crucial that International Humanitarian Law and unrestricted access to those in need are upheld.”

In 2021, EU humanitarian aid will continue to provide food, nutrition and healthcare, financial assistance, water and sanitation, education and other lifesaving support to the conflict-displaced and those in severe need. The press release is available online.

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