EUROPEAN UNION efforts to support biodiversity have been labelled 'too weak to bear fruit', in a new report highlighting the decline of wild pollinators.

This message comes from the European Court of Auditors, which stated that EU policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy do not include specific requirements for the protection of wild pollinators, such as bees, wasps, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and beetles which greatly contribute to increasing the quantity and quality of food production.

In recent decades, however, these species have declined in abundance and diversity, largely due to intensive agriculture and the use of pesticides.

In another report published this year, EU auditors found that integrated pest management practices could help reduce the use of neonicotinoids, but that the EU had made little progress so far in enforcing their use.

“Pollinators play an essential role in plant reproduction and ecosystem functions, and their decline should be seen as a major threat to our environment, agriculture and quality food supply," said the author of the report and member of the European Court of Auditors, Samo Jereb. “The EU initiatives taken so far to protect wild pollinators have unfortunately been too weak to bear fruit.”

The auditors found that the EU’s dedicated framework does not really help to protect wild pollinators. Although no single action in the EU’s biodiversity strategy to 2020 was specifically aimed at reversing the decline in wild pollinators, four of its targets may indirectly benefit pollinators.

Yet the Commission’s own mid-term review found that for three of these targets, progress had been insufficient or non-existent. The review also specifically identified pollination as one of the most degraded elements in ecosystems across the EU. The auditors also note that the Pollinators Initiative has not led to major changes in key policies.

The auditors also found that other EU policies promoting biodiversity do not include specific requirements for the protection of wild pollinators. The Commission has not made use of the options available in terms of biodiversity conservation measures in any programme, including the Habitats Directive, Natura 2000 and the LIFE programme. As far as the CAP is concerned, the auditors consider that it is part of the problem, not part of the solution. The greening and cross-compliance requirements under the CAP have not been effective in halting the decline of biodiversity on farmland, as the EU auditors concluded in a recent report.

Finally, the auditors also emphasised that current EU legislation on pesticides has been unable to offer adequate measures to protect wild pollinators. The legislation currently in force includes safeguards to protect honeybees, but risk assessments are still based on guidance which is outdated and poorly aligned with legal requirements and the latest scientific knowledge.

In this connection, the auditors pointed out that the EU framework has allowed Member States to continue using pesticides thought to be responsible for massive honeybee losses.

For example, between 2013 and 2019, 206 emergency authorisations were granted for the use of three neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin), even though their application has been restricted since 2013, and they have been strictly banned for outdoor use since 2018.