European Commission welcomes ‘historic’ treaty on oceans

New York (Belga) – The European Commission called the UN treaty on the protection of the high seas “a historic moment for our oceans.” An internationally binding agreement had been under discussion for 15 years.

After a marathon session of nearly 40 hours, overnight from Saturday to Sunday, United Nations member states agreed on the Treaty of the High Seas. The accord, among other things, aims to protect international waters, some two-thirds of the oceans’ surface. Currently, only 1 percent of international waters enjoy protected status.

“We take a crucial step forward to preserve the marine life and biodiversity that are essential for us and the generations to come,” said European Commissioner for Environment and Oceans Virginijus Sinkevičius. He added that this day was the culmination of more than a decade of preparatory work and international negotiations, in which the EU had played a key role.

During the talks on the final text of the agreement in New York, the European Union pledged 40 billion euros to contribute to the further management and implementation of the agreement. Earlier that week, at the Our Ocean conference in Panama, the EU had already announced 860 million dollars (more than 800 million euros) to be invested in ocean research, monitoring and conservation by 2023. (March 5)

Conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo: EU announces humanitarian airlift to Goma

Brussels (AFP) – On Saturday, the European Union announced the establishment of a humanitarian airlift to Goma, with the support of France, to help people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who are plagued by armed groups.

The airlift will be put in place “quickly” and will allow the delivery of “humanitarian aid in the form of medical and food products as well as a series of other emergency products, in collaboration with UNICEF and other humanitarian partners,” said a statement from the European Commission.

The province of North Kivu, in eastern DRC, is affected by the resurgence of the M23 rebellion – a group of fighters of mostly Tutsi ethnicity, an ethnic group of the African Great Lakes region in which Congo and Rwanda are located.

The announcement came during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo by French President Emmanuel Macron, who is trying to achieve de-escalation in the east of the country, but whose peace efforts are being challenged in Kinshasa. (March 4)

Jourova: Slovenia needs quality public media

Ljubljana (STA) – Slovenia needs quality public service media with stable funding, European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourová stressed on Thursday. As an important public source of unbiased information, public service media face a number of challenges, such as securing independent funding and maintaining high editorial standards.

The importance of independent public media with stable funding, is also underlined by the Freedom of the Media Act, said Jourová. During her two-day visit to Slovenia, she met with representatives of all three branches of government.

The discussions focused on the situation of the Slovenian media, in particular public broadcaster RTV Slovenia (RTVS). Jourová said that she noticed hopes that the Constitutional Court would rule soon on the constitutionality of the amendment to the RTVS Act.

Last July, the National Assembly adopted the amendment, through which the government sought to depoliticize RTVS, following changes the previous government made. Several RTVS top managers filed a petition for a constitutional review.

The Constitutional Court suspended the implementation of part of the amendment to the RTVS Act concerning the broadcaster’s management in February. A final ruling on the constitutionality of the amendment is now awaited.

On Thursday, Jourová also took part in a debate on free media as a bulwark against disinformation in times of war. Disinformation has become part of hybrid warfare, and free and independent media are crucial in the fight against its spread. This was one of the key points of the debate, which was also attended by President Pirc Musar and Ukrainian Ambassador to Slovenia Andriy Taran. (March 2)

Unsustainable system: Bosnia and Herzegovina faces pension crisis

Mostar (FENA) – In the years ahead, Bosnia and Herzegovina will face serious challenges in terms of the sustainability of its pension and health system, demographer Aleksandar Čavić said in an interview with FENA.

Compared to the last population count in 2013, BiH has about 100,000 fewer inhabitants today, based only on the natural population movement. When it comes to migration, at least 25,000 people leave BiH annually, which is an optimistic estimate.

“Given that we don’t have statistics on external migration, we get these figures through Eurostat data on the number of immigrants to European Union countries, through data from diplomatic and consular missions of other countries in BiH and through non-governmental sector research,” Čavić explained.

Data on the natural movement of the population and external migration indicate that, in the last ten years, BiH has lost at least 350,000 inhabitants. Some estimates are as high as half a million fewer inhabitants compared to the 2013 census.

Data from the United Nations Population Fund show that by 2070, the number of people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina could drop to 1.56 million, or to 1.2 million according to pessimistic estimates. Čavić believes that these data are alarming, not only because of population figures in themselves, but also because of the consequences this will have for the structure of the population.

Although ten years have passed since the last census, it is doubtful if one will be held this year, given that no money has been allocated in the state budget – and for that a special law needs to be passed. The Ministry of Finance and Treasury of Bosnia and Herzegovina told FENA that funds for a census were not part of the budget request. (March 4)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.