Second Celebration of World Bee Day

The main goal is to raise public awareness

The main goal of the second celebration of World Bee Day is to raise public awareness of the role that beekeeping, bees and other pollinators play in ensuring food security, preventing hunger and poverty, and enabling the existence of key ecosystems for agriculture.

Slovenia, the initiator of World Bee Day, endeavours to raise awareness of the importance of this endangered pollinator. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed 20 May World Bee Day on December 2017 with a special resolution.

Government confirms the plan of activities for World Bee Day until 2022

The government thinks that it is absolutely vital to recognise World Bee Day as a national project of great potential for sustainable development and the promotion of Slovenia on an international level. It also sees it as an opportunity to cooperate with other institutions, the private sector and international organisations. On 9 May, the government accordingly confirmed its schedule of Bee Day-related activities until 2022. The project’s goal is to maintain the focus, raise awareness of and inform the Slovenian and international public of the importance of bees and other pollinators. The World Bee Day project foresees activities until 2022 and they will be periodically supplemented and changed as necessary. The activities focus on three key points: to foster awareness of the importance of bees and wild pollinators for sustainable agriculture and ensuring food security; to establish measures for reducing the threat to bees and wild pollinators; and to strengthen the promotion of World Bee Day, Slovenian beekeeping and nature, as well as the awareness of beekeeping and the associated apitourism.

Slovenia was the driving force behind the campaign for the UN General Assembly to declare 20 May World Bee Day. In Slovenia, the celebration will be organised by the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association in RavnenaKoroškem on 18 May, whereas the main celebration will be organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN in Rome at FAO’s headquarters. Alongside the main event in Rome, a visit to the Holy See is also organised and Slovenia is planning to present the Pope with a beehive, which would be placed in the Gardens of Vatican City as a gift of Slovenia to the See of Rome. This day is not regarded solely as a celebration or promotion, but the ministry and FAO also wish to see concrete activities that will protect bees and other wild pollinators.

Among the most important activities in the last year is the initiative of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association presented to the European Commission, requesting amendment of the Honey Directive, which would include mandatory labelling of a honey mixture according to its origin or source. Discussions have already taken place but no decisions have been made yet. This is also an important step towards protecting honey producers in individual member states.

The Beekeeping Academy of Slovenia was also established last year, a new resolution is pending, and, in the next financial perspective, the national envelopes will be increased by 70%. The additional funds will be used to finance various measures aiming to protect bees.

Signatures supporting the protection of bees collected throughout the EU

The decision of the Commission to register the European Citizens’ Initiative “Save the bees! Protection of biodiversity and improvement of habitats for insects in Europe” was met with wide acclaim. Its organisers call on the Commission to adopt legislation to maintain and improve habitats for insects.

This will start the process of collecting the necessary signatures for the initiative. The Citizens’ Initiative focuses on the creation of mandatory targets: the first target involves making the promotion of biodiversity an overall objective of the Common Agricultural Policy; the second is to dramatically cut the use of pesticides; the third is to ban harmful pesticides without exception and reform eligibility criteria; the fourth involves promoting structural diversity in agricultural landscapes; the fifth includes effectively reducing nutrients; the sixth is to effectively establish conservation areas; and the seventh is to intensify research and monitoring and improve education.

With regard to its powers within the framework of EU acquis, the Commission therefore considered the initiative legally admissible and decided to register it. The registration of this initiative will take place on 27 May, starting a one-year process of collection of signatures to support it. Should the initiative receive one million statements of support within 1 year, from at least 7 different member states, the Commission will have to react within 3 months.

The Commission can decide either to follow the request from the Citizens’ Initiative or not, and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning. The Commission has not analysed the substance of the initiative at this stage. A European Citizens’ Initiative may be supported by citizens from any EU member state who have the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament. In Slovenia this means citizens of at least 18 years of age. Until now, the Commission has responded to four European Citizens’ Initiatives which gained sufficient support, also at least in part by proposing new European legislation.

Text by Vesna Žarkovič