10th May 2021

Brussels warns EU states against backtracking on biodiversity

  • Some member states fear biodiversity targets will hamper fish catches (Photo: photo_gram)

European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik has called on EU member states to support a package of recently proposed biodiversity targets amid concerns that a collection of countries led by France is seeking to water down the proposals in order to protect fishing quotas.

EU environment ministers are set to debate the issue at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday (21 June), with scientists warning that plant and animal species across the globe are disappearing at up to 1,000 times the natural rate.

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Diplomats are currently working to find a compromise solution ahead of Tuesday's meeting, after the European Commission in May published a strategy document outlining six key areas where European governments need to act.

One target calls on the bloc's fishing levels not to exceed the 'maximum sustainable yield' by the year 2015, with stocks of several European fish species currently in danger of collapse.

At a recent meeting of EU ambassadors however, France and a group of other member states warned that fixed targets could hamper an upcoming reform of the bloc's common fisheries policy (CFP). Other countries voicing concern over the fishery target include Denmark, Netherlands, UK, Spain, and Italy.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Potocnik urged EU ministers to sign up to the package of six targets.

"I hope that the ambition of the member states will be as high as when we have adopted a vision and targets for the European Union last year," he told journalists.

The EU signed up to an international deal to halt biodiversity loss at a high-level summit in Nagoya, Japan, last autumn.

Potocnik's comment's co-incide with the publication of results from a Europe-wide poll on Monday, indicating that the environment is an important personal concern to more than 90 percent of respondents in every member state.

The World Wildlife Fund says failure to agree the 2015 deadline for sustainable fishing would constitute an important step backwards in Europe's fight against biodiversity loss.

"This is a basic need for stocks, but also for the fishing industry," biodiversity officer Andreas Baumueller told EUobserver.

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