In March 2018 Parliament adopted a resolution on prospects and challenges for the EU apiculture sector (2017/2115(INI)). It emphasised, in paragraphs 20 and 23, the importance of preserving the genetic heritage and diversity of the honeybee subspecies native to Europe and their local ecotypes, which are better suited to their environment and better able to deal with the environmental and health challenges they face.
These local subspecies, endemic to different areas in Europe, are endangered in every European country.
The resolution called on the Commission to take action to protect conservation areas for local honeybees. Large-scale imports of foreign honeybees into these areas are contributing to the genetic hybridisation of these subspecies and causing diseases to spread.
On 22 October 2020, Belgian Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Pascal Arimont of the Group of the European People’s Party, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Arimont enquired “is the Commission going to take the steps that Parliament called and voted for with the support of nearly 300 000 people and the #SaveLocalBees coalition of European researchers and associations?” and “what steps will the Commission take to ensure the survival of honeybee subspecies endemic to various areas in the EU?”
Lastly, MEP Arimont enquired “what does the Commission intend to do to protect existing EU honeybee conservation areas?”
On 09 December, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski responded on behalf of the European Commission. The Commissioner reported that “the European Parliament resolution of 01 March 2018 on prospects and challenges for the EU apiculture sector (2017/2115(INI) addresses a wide range of policy areas”.
Commissioner Wojciechowski stated that “the Commission is well aware of the challenges faced by the apiculture sector and is committed to address them through various policy initiatives” and “within the framework of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as well as the Farm to Fork Strategy and Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 the Commission has set out concrete actions with direct and indirect impact on the apiculture sector”. He added that “rules on bee breeding are not harmonised at EU level”.
Commissioner Wojciechowski explained that “the protection of honeybee conservation areas falls within the competence of Member States” and “the EU supports beekeeping under the CAP, mainly through national apiculture programmes”. He underlined that “the programmes cover several measures with an impact on the protection of local honeybee subspecies and conservation areas” and that “this includes technical assistance and training for beekeepers, rationalisation of transhumance and applied research”.
In his closing, Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski expressed that “with a particular view to the biodiversity of local honeybee populations, the EU is currently funding a pilot project on restructuring the honey bee chain and Varroa resistance breeding and selection programme (EurBest)” and “the project is planned to be completed in 2021 and to highlight the importance of certain local honeybee subspecies in fighting Varroosis as one of the current biggest challenges for the apiculture sector”.
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/honey-jars-harvest-bees-frame-352205/