Tara Foundation examines the impact of pollution on European coasts

Lorient (AFP) – The French scientific schooner Tara left the French town of Lorient on Sunday for a new two-year expedition to examine the impact of pollution on biodiversity along the European coasts.

The 13,780 nautical mile (25,520 km) journey, passing through the Atlantic, the English Channel, the North Sea, the Baltic and the Mediterranean, is part of a larger mission between land and sea called TREC (“Crossing Europe’s Coasts”).

The mission will mobilize several hundred researchers until July 2024, under the auspices of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), based in Heidelberg (Germany).

“The heart of the mission is to look at biodiversity and the presence of chemical pollutants in the ecosystem, and then to understand the interaction between the two,” says Romain Troublé, director of the Tara Foundation. (April 2, 2023)

German Agriculture Minister Özdemir stands up for crab fishermen

Brussels (dpa) – In a dispute over EU plans to ban bottom trawling in protected areas, German Minister for Agriculture and Food Cem Özdemir is backing crab fishermen. “Scientific findings show that crab fishing is gentler on the seabed than other forms of bottom trawling,” the German Green politician told the German Press Agency dpa.    

The planned EU-wide ban increases the pressure on German fisheries, which have had to struggle with numerous problems in recent years. For example, catching herring, which is particularly important for Baltic Sea fishermen, is almost completely banned. Overfishing, nutrients being swept into waterways, especially from agriculture, and climate change are taking their toll on fish stocks. Restrictive fishing regulations have plunged German Baltic Sea fisheries into crisis.

Özdemir is campaigning against a general ban on bottom trawling. This is because the comparatively light nets used by crab fishermen would be deployed on finer substrates, so that the seabed and the species found there would recover more quickly than in the case of flatfish fisheries, for example. “Blanket bans lead to a dead end from which the affected crab fishermen cannot escape,” Özdemir stressed. The environmental impacts of the different fisheries had to be considered in a differentiated way, he said.

The European Commission had recently presented an action plan for more sustainable fishing. According to this plan, fishing with bottom trawls – i. e. nets that touch the seabed – should be prohibited in protected areas by 2030 at the latest. The first measures should be in place by the end of March 2024. There has been strong opposition to this in Germany, even though the European Commission’s proposals are not new legislation. When asked, the Commission emphasized: “There is no automatic or complete ban on bottom trawling that would come into force in March 2024.” (2 April)

European Parliament approves agreement on wage transparency for companies

Brussels (Belga) – European companies will soon have to be transparent about their employees’ pay. Part of the goal is to expose and eliminate any gender pay gap. On Thursday, the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved the agreement on the measure it reached earlier with member states.

Under the directive, companies with 100 employees or more must disclose their individual and average pay levels, broken down by gender and by colleagues doing similar work. To protect individual employees from negative exposure due to a request for transparency, such a request can also be made through unions. Wage transparency should also be offered to job applicants.

The primary purpose of the measure is to address the wage gap that still exists between men and women. In 2023, women in the European Union on average earn 13 percent less than men for the same work.

If there appears to be a wage gap of at least 5 percent in a company that the employer cannot defend using objective and gender-neutral criteria, they will have to eliminate the gap. If companies continue to violate the rules willfully, EU member states will impose fines or other sanctions at the national level.

The new directive was approved by 427 MEPs. 79 voted against, 76 abstained. (March 30)

Close finish for the winners of parliamentary elections in Bulgaria

Sofia (BTA) – Six political parties are expected to enter Bulgaria’s National Assembly after voters were called to the polls for the fifth time in two years. The winner, with only a 2-percent margin of the votes, is the EPP member and Euro-Atlantic-leaning GERB-SDU coalition. The liberal coalition “We Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria” finished second.

In third place comes the “Revival” party, which is challenging the country’s membership in NATO and the EU and which saw a significant increase in support compared to the previous elections.

Leading Bulgarian political observers foresee very complicated negotiations in the upcoming months, with a possibility of fresh early general elections in the fall – altogether with regular local power vote. (2-3 April)

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.