European Commission wants to licence glyphosate for ten more years

Brussels (Belga) – The European Commission is proposing EU countries to extend the licence of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the much-discussed herbicide Roundup, by ten years. On Friday, the proposal will be formally discussed by member states for the first time, with a vote to be held in October. The Belgian position has yet to be determined.

Whether an active substance can be authorised on the market is decided at European level. Individual member states then decide on the authorisation of specific products – such as Roundup from chemical group Bayer. Due to uncertainty about the harmful effects of glyphosate on humans and the environment, a ban on the sale of the substance to and its use by private individuals has been in place in Belgium for several years. The ban applies to all synthetic herbicides.

The current authorisation of glyphosate came into force in December 2017 and runs until December 15, 2023, after it was extended by one year late last year because the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) needed more time to analyse all available scientific studies and insights. The dossier comprises as many as 180,000 pages, accounting for 2,400 studies.

As the analysis by EFSA and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) revealed no major concerns, the Commission is now proposing to extend the authorisation of glyphosate by 10 years – in other words, until 2033. That is twice as long as at the start of the current authorisation in 2017, therefore, but five years less than the maximum term of 15 years.

If the use of glyphosate is to be authorised for a longer time, Member States will have to observe a number of conditions and restrictions when authorising products containing glyphosate, the Commission says in its draft regulation. For instance, they will have to explicitly (re)assess private use and take into account the possible indirect effects on biodiversity. In agricultural areas, a ‘buffer zone’ of 5 to 10 metres around land treated with glyphosate will have to be respected. Maximum concentrations must be set for five types of ‘impurities’.

The Commission’s proposal now goes to the 27 EU Member States, which are expected to vote on it in October. Approval does not require unanimity, but a so-called qualified majority. If no majority is found in favour of the proposal, but no majority against either, the Commission will decide on the authorisation itself.

The Belgian government has no position yet. The federal agriculture minister, David Clarinval, pointed out that the “current scientific consensus at EU level (is) that (the) studies definitely do not give rise to any particular concerns regarding the safety of glyphosate”. The Green party sees this differently and, through Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter, called for a total ban on glyphosate at European level. (20 September)

Skopje named 2028 European Capital of Culture

Brussels (MIA) – The capital of North Macedonia, Skopje, was designated as a 2028 European Capital of Culture, at an event in the House of European History in Brussels on Wednesday.

The ceremony was attended by Culture Minister Bisera Kostadinovska-Stojchevska and Skopje Mayor Danela Arsovska, among others.

“Designating Skopje as a European Capital of Culture for 2028 means a great success for our country, especially considering the ambitions we have as a country striving for full EU membership,” Culture Minister Bisera Kostadinovska-Stojchevska told the Macedonian Information Agency (MIA) following the announcement of the 2028 European Capital of Culture.

 “Skopje is prepared to respond to the challenge. In fact, Skopje seems to have been created over the centuries for this challenge. Under the European and Macedonian flag, we will raise the creative energy so that it spreads across the entire continent,“ Kostadinovska-Stojchevska remarked. (20 September)

Steinmeier: Migration problems cannot be solved without European rules

Syracuse (dpa) – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for a European solution to migration problems in Germany and many other countries. “It cannot be done without common European rules,” he said on Wednesday during a visit to Syracuse, Italy, where he met President Sergio Mattarella. The growing number of refugees arriving in Italy and also in Germany was bringing municipalities to the end of their capacity, Steinmeier pointed out. .

“And that is why it is all the more necessary that the common European solution finally comes and takes effect,” said the German President. On the one hand, he added, it was necessary to reduce the number of people arriving, but on the other hand, it was also necessary to combat human traffickers.

In Germany, Steinmeier would like to see “a more honest debate“, he said. “I think we need a very reasonable debate about what means are possible.” He added that it should not be about labels. “Nor should we, from a high moral pedestal, accuse some of misanthropy and others of a policy that opens floodgates,” Steinmeier said. He said he noticed in conversations he was having that there was a lot of understanding that the numbers needed to be brought down. (20 September)

Germany and France propose a multi-speed EU to accommodate more countries

Brussels (EFE) – Germany and France presented several proposals to the other EU Member States on Tuesday to prepare for an enlargement to more than 30 members from 2030, including the possibility of groups of countries moving at a faster pace or making the disbursement of EU funds more closely linked to respect for the rule of law.

“It is not a question of whether the EU has to enlarge, it has to enlarge,” Laurence Boone, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, stressed in a press statement after presenting the report with the proposals to her EU counterparts at the EU’s General Affairs Council.

“We have to start preparing for enlargement now and undertake the necessary reforms in the EU”, said the German Deputy Minister for European Affairs and Climate, Anna Lührmann, who noted that “the general consensus is that we need to have this debate“. However, there were differences in the reception of the report by the individual countries, Boone acknowledged.

The report places the rule of law at the heart of any reform or enlargement of the EU, which it proposes to further strengthen by reinforcing the conditionality of the disbursement of EU funds to be respected. It highlights the “general use” of qualified majority voting in areas that for now require unanimity or the reduction of the number of commissioners. (19 September)

Commissioner Wojciechowski says Slovenia will receive funds from agricultural reserve

Brussels (STA) – European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said in Brussels on Monday that Slovenia will receive funding from the EU agricultural reserve to tackle the consequences of flooding in agriculture. He said the Commission was also ready to consider an emergency measure that would be financed from this reserve.

During the meeting of EU agriculture ministers, the commissioner noted that Slovenia had received  1.2 million Euro under this year’s agricultural crisis reserve, which is far from enough to cover new needs. “That is why the Commission is ready to consider an emergency measure financed from the agricultural reserve. This would provide Slovenia with additional funds,” he said, without giving further details.

Wojciechowski told the press after the meeting that the agricultural reserve from the next financial year would be available from October 15. “We have not yet decided on the individual amounts, but I think there will be a clear political decision that Slovenia will also receive funds from the crisis reserve,” he said.

He also promised flexibility in allowing Slovenia to make any changes to its rural development programme and the Common Agricultural Policy strategic plan. If the Slovenian proposal is in line with the legislation, the Commission is ready to support it, the commissioner said.

Slovenian Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko called for flexibility as she presented details of the flood damage to agriculture, forestry and fisheries to the commissioner at the meeting.

She said the damage in agriculture amounts to 145 million Euro, with more than 2,700 farms being affected by the early August floods. In forestry mostly forest roads were damaged, with the repair works estimated to cost 50 million Euro. The damage caused by landslides in forests is estimated at 90.3 million Euro and the damage to forest stands amounts to 1.9 million Euro. Meanwhile, the damage caused to the fisheries sector is assessed at around 6 million Euro.

In the debate, the minister also called for an in-depth discussion on the relevance of EU instruments in cases of emergency such as the devastating flooding in Slovenia. Several colleagues from other countries supported her view and expressed their solidarity with Slovenia. (19 September)

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.