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Procedure : 2011/2307(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0101/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0101/2012

Debates :

PV 20/04/2012 - 7
CRE 20/04/2012 - 7

Votes :

PV 20/04/2012 - 10.9
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0146

Debates
Friday, 20 April 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

7. Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (2011/2307(INI)) (Α7-0101/2012).

 
  
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  Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, rapporteur. (NL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, we are in the middle of an economic and financial crisis and there is no getting around it. Newspapers are full of it every day, television news leads with reports about it and the European Council seems to be meeting about almost nothing else.

However, alongside this omnipresent crisis, we have another crisis, an entirely silent one. A silent crisis of disappearing species, of disappearing habitats and of oceans with ever decreasing water levels. This is the crisis we are talking about this morning.

We know the figures: 25% of all species in Europe are under serious threat, only a sixth of all habitats in Europe are in a favourable condition and as much as 75% of all fish stocks have been overfished. According to statistical experts working for TEEB, the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study, every year, we lose 3% of our gross domestic product through loss of biodiversity. Each year, Europe therefore loses EUR 450 billion! That is in quite a different league to the one-off emergency fund for the euro which our government leaders have worked very hard to put together for two years now.

You could also say that what we are talking about today is the largest multinational in Europe, because there is nothing that produces so much food, that provides so many services, that supplies us with so many products and offers so many jobs. Today, we are talking about nature, Europe’s biggest service provider! Any other multinational company of that magnitude would be politically canonised and, indeed, it would be too big to fail. However, when it comes to the multinational of nature, all that we have very often is just fine words.

This is because, let us face it, we were in this very same position ten years ago, when we decided the previous biodiversity strategy. The loss of species was supposed to have been brought to a standstill in 2010. We have failed miserably in that respect, and why? Because at those moments when it really mattered, fine words proved not to be worth much and other interests prevailed.

The main question, then, today, is: what should we do differently to the past ten years so that, in 2020, we do not conclude that we have failed yet again? Let us begin with what we are required to do by law. Is that asking too much of Member States? Why do citizens have to obey the law and Member States not? That is, not like the Netherlands, refusing to restore nature in the Western Scheldt, as we are legally obliged to do, and then getting angry when Commissioner Potočnik finds that unacceptable.

Obviously, it is very important that we integrate these environmental interests in other policy areas. We have a unique opportunity. The agricultural policy is being reformed, the fisheries policy is being reformed and the cohesion policy is being reformed. Half of the European territory consists of farmland. Without active participation on the part of farmers, there will be no nature. However, I say to you, ladies and gentlemen, the reverse is also true: without a strong natural environment, there can be no agriculture, no pollination without bees and no crop whatsoever without fertile soil.

We also need to develop the ‘no net loss’ principle and really apply it. Can anyone give me a better example of how to halt the loss of biodiversity than by just stopping those activities that destroy nature? We also need to stop talking about the inclusion of natural capital in our national annual accounts and just do it: no words please, just deeds!

In addition, we have to be courageous enough to think bigger. Many Europeans believe that true nature exists only in Africa or the Amazon. What nonsense! Europe has a beautiful natural world, though it may not yet have its own Serengeti or Yellowstone. We could have them, however. There are areas where agricultural land is poor, areas people are leaving. Let us invest in them differently and build them up into a new wilderness, into attractions for nature lovers. Real safari in Europe, it really is possible! That will also give these desolate areas totally new economic prospects.

Finally, Madam President, I would very much like to thank the shadow rapporteurs for their constructive contribution to making this report what it is now. Thanks, obviously, also to Commissioner Potočnik, who has never failed to stand up for the importance of nature, inside or outside Europe. He did that impressively in Nagoya and will also be doing so at Rio+20. The next step is to develop legislation. As a member of Parliament, I would very much like to help him there and, in particular, start the struggle with the Council.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us take care of nature, the largest and most important service provider of this world. This multinational belongs to all of us. And one exception has already been made – State aid is possible!

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I wish, on behalf of the Commission, to thank Mr Gerbrandy and all the honourable Members who have participated in the development of this very comprehensive, high-quality report. Many of the facts that you mentioned in your opening remarks were more than convincing and told a worrying story.

In the midst of a very bleak picture for biodiversity in the European Union, this report, fully supporting the EU 2020 biodiversity targets and actions proposed by the Commission, has reinforced my conviction that the European Parliament is a major driving force in restoring this alarming loss of resources. Parliament’s call for a higher restoration rate of ecosystems than proposed at global level under the Convention on Biological Diversity is particularly significant in this respect.

Against the background of difficult austerity measures across the continent, this report demonstrates that the EU is maintaining its strong and steady commitment to resisting the pressure of further eroding its natural capital. This year, which will see us celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Habitats Directive and of Natura 2000, is of particular importance. We need to acknowledge the success of our nature conservation policy and identify clearly the challenges ahead.

But do the circumstances we are currently facing mean that we should protect biodiversity and the Natura 2000 network with fewer resources? The answer is rather that we should be daring and innovative in the toolbox we use to develop our objectives.

The report suggests a number of promising ways forward, calling as it does for collaborative biodiversity protection and more efficient mobilisation of our available financial and human resources and for us to rise above outdated economic models and embrace new, greener ones.

Just as collaborative consumption is revolutionising old market behaviour, collaborative biodiversity protection will reinvent the way in which all the actors involved take part in combating biodiversity loss, in ways and on a scale never witnessed before.

The biodiversity crisis can be addressed successfully through new approaches that promote the exchange of knowledge, technologies, data, innovative solutions and products, and by mobilising all the actors on the ground. Progress in research and innovation partnerships will facilitate this even more. However, this alone will not suffice.

An in-depth review of how financial and human resources have thus far been allocated to biodiversity protection is paramount. This undeniably requires better integration in national and EU policies, in particular, the common agricultural and fisheries policies, the cohesion policy, external instruments and development cooperation. It calls for more efficient mobilisation of public and private funds as well as stressing the need to minimise the pressures on biodiversity. But it also requires developing innovative partnerships with business, as is being achieved through the planned ‘No Net Loss’ initiative, and an increased use of instruments such as procedures for the valuation of, and payments for, ecosystem services.

We are now at a crucial stage of the implementation of nature legislation: while the designation of Natura 2000 sites is nearing completion (with the main gaps in the designation of marine sites), the main priority shifts to ensuring that the network is effectively managed and properly resourced. The Commission proposed a strengthened integrated approach, for example, by using various EU structural funds together with an enhanced biodiversity strand of the LIFE Programme. To that effect, the prioritised action frameworks to be developed by the Member States will allow a strategic planning approach for the next programming period.

To conclude, we look forward to engaging with Parliament in the implementation of the biodiversity strategy, and I thank you for all your efforts.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. (SL) Madam President, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has, in this opinion, reaffirmed that environmental protection and economic development do not present a conflict of interest, but rather a symbiosis of the two goals of sustainable development.

Biodiversity is not only valued in terms of environmental protection and a healthy living environment, but also has a socio-economic value. It is particularly necessary to emphasise this in these times of crisis. Rich and diverse nature is an inexhaustible source of new knowledge and inspiration for innovation and, as such, can develop new skills, jobs and business opportunities. Therefore, the horizontal role of biodiversity in European policies should be strengthened.

Let me mention some of the policies for which our committee is responsible. In energy and industrial policy, biodiversity forms part of the sustainable use of resources. The development of information technologies can also be an opportunity for biodiversity conservation. We devoted particular attention to the importance of research policy and we support greater investment in this area.

Science can facilitate a better understanding of biodiversity and the interaction of different factors within it. We particularly welcome the launch of the Business and Biodiversity Platform and encourage the Commission to further develop the platform. This will promote greater cooperation between public administrations and businesses in Europe, including SMEs.

At the same time, we call your attention to the uncoordinated preparation of strategic infrastructure documents and we invite the European Commission to present a Green Infrastructure Strategy as soon as possible. We would like to thank rapporteur Gerbrandy and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety for having taken into account most of our proposals.

 
  
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  Catherine Bearder, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – Madam President, we have heard today about the silent crisis unfolding across Europe. It is happening right under our noses. When the rivers run dry, the forests are too small to clean the air and the ecosystem supporting our agriculture collapses, we will wonder how we did not see it happening.

Right now, too many people are choosing not to listen and not to see. Nature is dying all around us, and as we bury our heads in the ever-less-fertile soil, it will continue. There will be 30% fewer species in existence when our grandchildren grow up. As with any other crisis, it is our job as legislators to stop the problems causing this silent massacre.

I welcome this report from Mr Gerbrandy and I urge the Commission to sit up and take note. We call on you to take action to protect our generation and the generations to come. We must not end up having to face our grandchildren and admit that we stood by and did nothing as the wonderful diversity of nature on this planet – ours and theirs – silently died around us.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. (RO) Madam President, the European natural heritage is a major ecological asset which contributes to the well-being of all citizens, and therefore all EU Member States should cooperate and coordinate their efforts to ensure a more effective use of natural resources and limit biodiversity degradation. When we speak of biodiversity, we must refer to both the extraordinary biodiversity existing in parks and nature reserves, which are already protected or in the process of being included on the list, and the ordinary biodiversity, also known as functional biodiversity. It plays a major role in maintaining the habitat of small fauna and insects, especially those contributing to plant pollination. On the other hand, the preservation of basic natural resources, of animal and plant genetic resources and of the environment, and the coordination of agricultural technological processes are necessary in order to be able to ensure that conditions for future generations are met. I believe that in order to ensure the preservation of biodiversity, it is essential to have a balance between the European biodiversity strategy and Member States’ rural development.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Fisheries. (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to stress that no country is capable, by itself, of dealing with the problem of biodiversity loss. The Member State governments must cooperate with each other.

I call on the Commission to re-examine the maximum sustainable yield, taking account of all aspects of fish populations, in particular, size, age and reproductive status, and addressing the issue of multi-species stocks.

I would like to point out that achieving the six targets of the new EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 depends on compliance with the rules already laid down by the EU and proper management of the relevant initiatives and programmes, in particular, the Natura 2000 network of protected areas and the LIFE+ programme.

Lastly, I would like to highlight that the key element of the EU’s commitment lies in the forthcoming reforms of the common agricultural and fisheries policies, and in the multiannual financial framework, and I would point out that the inadequate degree to which biodiversity protection was integrated into EU policies caused the failure of the first strategy.

To conclude, I would remind you that when they took the last reservation away from Sitting Bull, he told the President of the United States something that should serve as a warning to us all: ‘Only after the last tree has been felled, only after the last buffalo has been killed, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten’. Let us keep these words in mind.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik, on behalf of the PPE Group.(PL) Madam President, the Gerbrandy report on an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020, in the form adopted by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, is a very good one. It presents balanced positions which take account of the different approaches to biodiversity in the Member States, and it supports the objectives of the biodiversity strategy and the urgent need for them to be accomplished. It also supports the need to be effective in continued attempts to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020.

Now it is the European Parliament which has to give clear support for such objectives and for work to promote biodiversity, and also to call attention to the fact that there is an urgent need for this work to be done. It is important to give generally greater political importance to the priority of biodiversity and to resist tendencies to reduce the significance of this work in the face of economic difficulties. The common agricultural policy must be linked to biodiversity protection. Without the help of farmers in this process, we will not achieve the expected results.

However, it is equally important for all the Member States to be able to meet the targets which have been set. The main requirement for the strategy is that it has to be workable. Another opportunity has now arisen for biodiversity, because the European Union has already missed one, when it failed to meet the 2010 target. If it is to achieve success now, the EU institutions and the Member States have to show greater determination and be more effective in what they do. During the vote in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, we showed unanimity, and I hope that during the vote at today’s sitting, we will also maintain that unanimity.

A huge amount of systematic educational work is also needed, not only among young people and children, but also among people working in different sectors, such as farmers and industrial workers. It is also essential to include local governments in this process. They need to be given a role to play, and under the Cohesion Fund we need to support projects which aim to protect biodiversity. We must not allow industry and enterprise to develop without proper control at the cost of biodiversity.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Madam President, I would like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on the quality of his report and the good work that he has carried out, and to reaffirm that it is only with ambition, political will and adequate funding that we can meet the EU biodiversity 2020 objectives. The protection of biodiversity should be made part of all of the EU’s policies, in particular, in the context of the ongoing reforms of the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy.

The next financial framework must make the necessary resources available to fund the strategy. This funding will be offset from an environmental and economic standpoint, as the cost of biodiversity loss may reach 7% of GDP by 2050. It is estimated that the benefits associated with the Natura 2000 network could rise to approximately EUR 200-300 billion per year, as well as creating millions of jobs.

The Commission and the Member States should make sufficient resources available to fund the Natura 2000 network, and they should also ensure that EU legislation is implemented, in particular, the Birds and Habitats Directive, as well as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The initiatives to be developed in relation to green infrastructure and genetic resources are no less important, nor is the legislation on invasive alien species for which we are looking forward to receiving proposals from the Commission.

Concrete, integrated and ambitious action and adequate funding are needed in order to achieve the objectives of the biodiversity strategy, and it is also necessary and vital that we do not forget that biodiversity includes all interactions of the living world – species and ecosystems – in direct contact with human activity; food, clothing, health care and the heating of buildings all depend on biodiversity. Biodiversity is a guarantee of life.

 
  
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  Sandrine Bélier, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, would like, first of all, to thank the rapporteur for the quality of his work.

This report proposes a new strategy to 2020 to combat biodiversity loss, the pace of which, as has been pointed out, is continuing to accelerate dangerously. It aims to remind us of the extent to which our systems and our future are intimately linked to the conservation of our natural and genetic capital – for our food, our health and the fight against climate change – and it highlights the extent to which our future economic development is linked to our ability to conserve biodiversity.

Let us remind ourselves that, each year, we are losing 3% of global GDP due to biodiversity loss, that the costs of inaction are far higher than the necessary investment costs and are not simply financial and that urgent measures are needed before the cost becomes too high and the loan taken out can no longer be repaid.

Our report calls for two immediate measures: the development of innovative financial mechanisms and the elimination of all environmentally harmful public subsidies. However, this report also insists on the need to enshrine our development strategies in a medium and long-term vision and to place the challenges of preserving biodiversity at the heart of our sectoral policies and, first and foremost, at the heart of the common agricultural policy, the common fisheries policy and the forestry policy.

If this dimension of integration and ambitious commitments were to disappear from the text during today’s vote, we would be depriving ourselves of one of the main levers for action, and my group would not be able to vote for this report.

Furthermore, I call on my conservative colleagues not to reject the unblocking of the framework directive on soil protection. Today, 48% of European soil is heavily degraded. This degradation has a cost estimated by the Commission at just under EUR 40 billion annually. Only ambitious action taken at European level can save us from this infernal spiral of the artificial development and sterilisation of our land.

Finally, it is because we need to learn from our past mistakes and look to the future, and beyond Europe, that we have also introduced a reference to the next Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

Meanwhile, this report is one of the key stages of our determination and of the role of the European Union to succeed where yesterday we failed.

 
  
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  Julie Girling, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, we all agree that the protection and promotion of biodiversity is of vital importance and I welcome the vast majority of the recommendations in this report. I do, however, regret the fact that the report has become quite so wordy, detailed and, in many places, repetitive. I think there is a lost opportunity here – which was possibly seized in the original rapporteur’s report but lost later on – to produce a punchy, straight-to-the-point and clear document. Having said that, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Gerbrandy, for his conscientious efforts to find consensus, which is not so easy with so many amendments and so many opinions from other committees.

I would like to mention one area specifically today, that of agriculture and CAP. The report supports much of the detail of the Commission’s CAP reforms, and I would stress that I am talking about detail here. This is problematic for me and my group. We find it difficult to endorse these details in the report, as this presupposes a general agreement in this area which does not yet exist. The same point applies to statements in the report such as the call for a soil directive.

Regrettably, this means we cannot unreservedly support the report, despite our strong support for many other aspects, such as the call for innovative financial instruments and the increased emphasis on the importance of the LIFE programme.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group. (SK) Madam President, it must be acknowledged with regret that the statement on the absolute failure of European policy on biodiversity protection, made in the present report, is true.

There are certainly multiple reasons for this failure. I think one of the reasons why the EU policy on biodiversity spending has missed its goals is a lack of awareness in society about the importance of preserving ecosystems for future life on Earth. We must therefore be able to convincingly explain not only to our citizens, but also to regional politicians and corporate managers, that biodiversity conservation is not incompatible with sustainable economic growth. Better societal awareness of the need to protect and conserve ecosystems will generate more pressure on public authorities, as well as on businesses, to have zero tolerance in their conduct regarding environmental damage. We must invest more in research in order to obtain better knowledge of the interactions between individual elements of ecosystems and know how to avoid interference in nature that can cause serious damage to the system. Research on biodiversity must be multidisciplinary in nature, in order to take into account not only environmental, climatic or genetic aspects, but also social and economic aspects.

Commissioner, the ongoing destruction of ecosystems reminds us that we must be considerably more active in implementing measures for the protection of biodiversity.

 
  
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  João Ferreira, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Madam President, in 2001, the Commission defined its aim of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. Ten years later, it has recognised that this objective has not been reached, and also that global biodiversity is under serious threat. The biodiversity strategy to 2020 is now being discussed. Once again, targets and objectives are being established and several questions therefore arise.

Have the necessary lessons been learned from previous failures? Can we be sure that we will not be here 10 years from now, talking about another failure? What has been done to change direction? What determines success or failure in this case?

A strategy is made up of short-, medium- and long-term objectives, and also of measures to meet those objectives. This strategy has failings in both areas. Let us look at some examples.

Firstly, there are still shortcomings both in terms of funding, as in the next multiannual financial framework, and in terms of the mechanisms for monitoring and correcting the implementation of the strategy. Secondly, the essence of some of the sectoral policies with the most important effects on biodiversity remains unchanged. This is true of the agricultural and trade policies, which promote models of intensive production geared towards export, the deregulation and liberalisation of trade, and the weakening of local production and consumption.

It is not enough to give these policies a greener appearance, while leaving their foundations unaltered, and maintaining their so-called market orientation. The Commission is enthusiastic about its ‘business and biodiversity’ approach. However, we fear that we are seeing a ‘business as usual’ strategy when it comes to biodiversity.

 
  
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  Lucas Hartong (NI). (NL) Madam President, a day without laughter is a day not worth living! This report by Mr Gerbrandy is utterly laughable. To start with, the total naivety of thinking that human beings can manipulate the preservation of genetic diversity. Next, it is really laughable to ask accountants to include ecosystems in their accounting systems, to include, so to speak, the birds and the bees in their balance sheets.

However, things become annoying when Mr Gerbrandy argues that we should start developing still more wetlands, for which read swamps, in Europe. That is asking for the return of scary diseases such as malaria.

Things become downright ridiculous when Mr Gerbrandy says he wants to establish a European environmental police, one that would come, like Big Brother, to check whether or not we are sticking to the costly, useless and harmful environmental rules from Brussels.

Moreover, I read that the EU should indoctrinate pupils and students with the new biodiversity doctrine, namely, that quality agricultural land should continue to give way to ecosystems and fisheries be downsized even more, even though we do not actually know what the state of fish stocks is.

However, the biggest joke comes at the end. Mr Gerbrandy wants the Committee on Development to introduce biodiversity protection. Madam President, I am in fits! Unfortunately, Mr Gerbrandy believes in his own ravings. I sincerely hope, however, that this Parliament will show more sense and not go along with his madness. And obviously, Mr Potočnik, we are not going to flood any good farmland in the Netherlands, especially not in Zeeland, because that would be a massive destruction of biodiversity.

 
  
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  Kriton Arsenis (S&D).(EL) Madam President, Commissioner, biodiversity in Europe is truly in dire straits. This applies to 65% of our habitats and 52% of species, with 88% of fish being fished in excess of permissible levels. We must, without fail, mobilise the instruments that exist where the money exists, which means under the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. Clearly, we must obviously stop subsidising actions that further exacerbate the existing drastic situation.

As regards the common fisheries policy, we need to create a new instrument, a compulsory network of ‘no fishing areas’ that will allow stocks to recover. More fish means stronger coastal communities and obviously means better biodiversity and fishermen with higher incomes. One final comment: the news on the forest strategy is indeed that it is moving in the opposite direction from the majority opinion in Parliament.

 
  
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  Bas Eickhout (Verts/ALE). (NL) Madam President, there are still people in this House who think that biodiversity is only about ‘protecting land’ or something of that kind. For people who believe that is true, or still think along those lines, it is very important to know that biodiversity is the core of our food, the core of clean water. Is that not what we all want?

To people who are just shouting that we are not allowed to protect areas, who still have not understood what the core of biodiversity is, that is Mr Hartong, I say, do your homework a little better!

Various studies have shown that the biodiversity we destroy costs 3% of our gross domestic product each year. That is the value of biodiversity and that is what we need to talk about. We are already seeing concrete examples: we see in agriculture that the number of hives is decreasing and, yet, bees are crucial to our food! But in fisheries, too, well, fishing is becoming increasingly difficult, and why is that the case? It is because we are overfishing! That is the problem and that is what we need to talk about.

That is why we very much support the Commissioner and his biodiversity agenda for 2020, but we will obviously have a big problem if we just talk about targets in 2020. We need to talk about policy now! We are also talking in this House about our agricultural policy and our fisheries policy. Let us be specific: I am, therefore, taking note of all the people who now, today, say how important biodiversity is for the real reform of our agricultural policy and for our fisheries policy, so that biodiversity does not just remain an empty word, but that we really take action on it.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Lucas Hartong (NI), Blue-card question. (NL) Madam President, I would like to ask my esteemed colleague, Mr Eickhout, the following, seeing as he cannot stop talking about biodiversity, or rather the preservation of animal species, amongst other things. Is he going to sign the letter by the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) to the Danish Presidency which condemns the terrible slaughter of whales off the coast of the Faeroe Islands?

 
  
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  Bas Eickhout (Verts/ALE), Blue-card answer. (NL) Madam President, I think that is a very good question, because I have just listened to Mr Hartong speak and I heard him say nothing but nonsense about biodiversity. All of a sudden, however, when it comes to whaling, in the belief that he can tease the Danish President some more, he does find it important! That is fine with me and I can tell you, Mr Hartong, that we, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, are consistent. So, yes, we will sign that letter, because we believe this is an important issue, just as biodiversity is. Therefore, for your part, please be consistent for once and do not talk just about whales, but also about real biodiversity. We shall be discussing that again in the future.

 
  
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  Anna Rosbach (ECR).(DA) Madam President, I have just been on the Internet to look at the programme for the international conference on biodiversity and sustainable energy development in Hyderabad in India in October of this year. With regard to this conference, the position we are in is almost diametrically opposed to the one we find ourselves in with the report we are debating today, because as yet we do not know how the EU will be involved in this important conference, or who, if anyone, will potentially take part.

In Mr Gerbrandy’s report, however, we are extremely precise, both when we talk about new initiatives, such as a comprehensive framework directive on soil for the whole of the Union, and with regard to the financing of biodiversity. However, why should the EU decide the areas in which the Member States are to make things greener, as stated in the report? It states, for example, that this should happen along highways and railroads and at industrial sites. In my opinion, it is completely unnecessary to dictate specific areas in a report, as this is something that falls within the competence of the Member States and should be tailored to local and regional circumstances. I am therefore unable to vote in favour of the report.

However, the report also contains a large number of good proposals, including the demand for best practices in respect of available scientific data in order to prevent the loss of biodiversity. That is very worthwhile. Therefore, I am also unable to vote against the report, and in the end I am going to abstain.

What I cannot see in general is the desire to educate EU citizens to take responsibility for the world they live in. This education starts in our national nursery schools and in people’s homes.

 
  
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  Younous Omarjee (GUE/NGL). (FR) Madam President, in 1992, in Rio, Heads of State from around the world performed a true act of civilisation by recognising, for the first time, human responsibility in biodiversity loss and global warming.

Twenty years on, what is the situation now? While awareness of climate change has dawned, the challenges of preserving biodiversity remain underestimated, despite Nagoya.

Are we aware that we are facing the sixth wave of species extinction since the start of this world, through predation in particular? We are witnessing, dare I say, a real mass crime, and this crime is forcing us to rethink our contribution to the living world.

It would therefore be a major step for civilisation to introduce a new legal concept: crimes of humanity against life in all its forms, animal and plant life. This is the necessary condition for establishing an international court of justice for the environment, which has become essential.

 
  
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  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Madam President, Mr Potočnik, I would like to thank Mr Potočnik for his commitment to biodiversity. I would also like to thank the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs for submitting such a comprehensive report for us to discuss today. I would like to see many of the proposals in the report being implemented, but in order to achieve this, as has already been said today, we need improved communication.

The subjects of ecosystem services and biodiversity are still treated, to a certain extent, as side issues which we deal with when we have some spare time and when we are not debating monetary and financial policy in Europe. I believe that this is the wrong approach. If we have ecosystem services that can really function effectively, our production processes will improve, we will have better food and we can avoid making many of the investments which are harmful to biodiversity. During the process of developing a new common agricultural policy, we are being presented with the major challenge of turning the protection of biodiversity in Europe into something real and tangible and implementing it in the Member States. Therefore, I believe that we need to take both routes. We need appropriate funding in the long-term European financial framework, but we also need money at the level of the Member States.

I would like to ask you, Mr Potočnik, and also the Members of the Council to take action to ensure that biodiversity is not discussed simply as an afterthought, because by then, it will be too late.

 
  
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  Tomasz Piotr Poręba (ECR).(PL) Madam President, Mr Potočnik, ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that biodiversity is our natural capital, so we should approach this question very seriously, both at national and international level. This matter should be given high priority, action by the European Union should be intensified, and the problem of biodiversity should be included in the strategies for particular areas of EU activity.

Protection of the environment is an important part of our policy. Dealing with these questions and building a common strategy for action is crucial from the point of view of Europe’s development. This is why the biodiversity protection strategy is a long-term plan. In relation to this, it is necessary to approach this matter very carefully, both in terms of the effectiveness of the measures which are planned, but also in terms of the costs. Subsidies and other support require efficient verification to eliminate sources of funding which are harmful to the environment. Emphasis should be placed on introducing modern and environment-friendly methods. The European Conservatives and Reformists Group has made its decision on the report conditional on whether a number of amendments will be included, concerning, amongst others, the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy.

EU law should give similar treatment to the problem of protecting biodiversity to that afforded in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Another way in which biodiversity protection should be legally strengthened is by a comprehensive EU directive on soil. However, it is very important that various groups in the European Union do not use the subject of biodiversity as a tool to achieve ends which have little to do with biodiversity.

 
  
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  Andres Perello Rodriguez (S&D).(ES) Madam President, I wish to join those giving their support to Mr Gerbrandy and to the report that he has prepared because I consider it a good report.

I want to spend some time on two specific aspects. One is support for the need for a directive on soil, which I have always supported in this Parliament. The other is to echo the rapporteur’s plea to the Commission so that they take very seriously the request that they do not hang about in making up for lost time in terms of regulation to put an end to invasive species. All this, but especially the last point, should be taken very seriously.

Of the 11 000 exotic species that have crossed EU borders, 15% are invasive species that are destroying, for example, Europe’s most important palm grove, which is in the city of Elche, while the red palm weevil is destroying the Ebro Delta Natural Park, where rice-growing farmers contribute to the ecosystem.

In short, if we are to trust following the resounding failure we suffered in 2010, we will have to show a lot of good intentions with regard to 2020, the Commission will have to get moving and pay heed to this report, which is a good report in that it cares about the future of generations to come and contains very specific measures, which simply need to be put into effect, so that protecting our biodiversity is not a joke but rather a very serious issue that this Parliament must tackle on behalf of all European citizens.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Madam President, I thank the rapporteur for his work on this.

There are two failures. You mentioned one of them, Mr Gerbrandy – the market failure – but there has also been a communications failure. Despite all the big words and heavy debates in this House, none of the citizenship in general hears or understands what we are talking about: so we have failed. I am glad the Commissioner is nodding in agreement.

On the failure of the markets, it is acknowledged in the debate about the common agriculture policy that there is no reward for public goods in terms of the price we pay for food, but we have not found the formula for correcting the market, and we need to do that. Commissioner, could I suggest that there may be a possibility – which has not been thought through in the proposals on greening the CAP – for us to develop a market in green entitlements, and that, for example in ecological focus areas, it may be possible to establish some sort of marketplace as a first step towards a price for public goods.

You are aware, however, in relation to the bogs in Ireland and that particular problem, how extremely difficult it is when citizens are asked to change their behaviour for the good of the environment. So we have a long way to go to implement all these recommendations.

 
  
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  Matthias Groote (S&D).(DE) Madam President, firstly, I would like to congratulate Mr Gerbrandy. This is a very good report and it gives us guidelines as to how we should act in forthcoming legislative procedures and during major reform processes. The litmus test will come when we discuss agricultural reform. Many of the speeches today have already made this clear. This is where we will have the opportunity to do more to promote biodiversity and to show our other partners, for example, at the Rio+20 conference, that we take this subject seriously.

The Heads of State or Government agreed in 2001 that biodiversity must be protected. Unfortunately, we have failed to achieve this objective. The window of opportunity is gradually closing and it is time for us to act. The problem will not be resolved solely by this strategy. The whole issue must be incorporated into the reform of fisheries and agriculture policy and given a more concrete form.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, agriculture is currently facing the challenge of higher production with limited resources and as little damage to the environment as possible. The report on the biodiversity strategy states correctly the importance of this double challenge.

However, several remarks should be made regarding aspects related to the future common agricultural policy. The so-called greening of the CAP is certainly needed and welcome, but the form in which it was proposed will lead to a decline in the capacity of the agro-food sector to be more competitive and follow the path to sustainable growth. The percentage of 30% allocated to greening is disproportionate, taking into account the context of budget austerity. Giving up the cultivation of 7% of land is not a suitable decision in the circumstances of an increasing food demand. Crop diversification is virtually impossible for small land owners. Last but not least, the system involves too much red tape and huge costs. Agriculture can make an important contribution to the preservation of biodiversity, but related policies should be selected taking into account long-term food safety in particular.

 
  
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  Christa Klaß (PPE).(DE) Madam President, biodiversity or biological variety forms the foundation of our lives. This is something that we have inherited and we have the major responsibility of ensuring that this inheritance remains intact and of passing it on to subsequent generations. This is not just about preserving biodiversity, but also about the sustainable use of resources. Nature conservation policies can only be successful in cooperation with agriculture. Some animals and plants can only live in areas managed by man. One example of this is the Apollo butterfly, which lives only on well-managed vineyards on steep hillsides. In wild habitats, it cannot survive.

Our objective is to ensure that we have a secure supply of high-quality, varied foodstuffs and that we protect biodiversity. The current common agricultural policy (CAP) imposes stringent requirements for healthy, varied and sustainable production, based on the precautionary principle. We are currently in the midst of the discussions and I believe that the committee chair, Mr Groote, is right. We need to hold talks about the CAP and we should not anticipate them today.

 
  
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  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Madam President, Mr Potočnik, the subject of bee mortality has been mentioned today. This is an area which I have been involved in for some time. Many beekeepers and agricultural producers are very concerned about the significant reduction in the number of bees and other pollinating insects in Europe. We have called on the Commission on several occasions to take action in this area. We are convinced that this is due, on the one hand, to the incorrect use of pesticides and, on the other, to the genuinely harmful pesticides currently on the market.

Secondly, and this is a personal point, I would like to ask you to ensure in future that those Member States which do not want to use genetically modified seed for the sake of their citizens are in a position to keep their soil and their food chain free from genetically modified organisms.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE).(PT) Madam President, the Commissioner speaks eloquently about his commitment to protect biodiversity. The Commissioner and the rapporteur defend the Natura 2000 network, which is an important instrument. I come from Galicia, a region which is rich in biodiversity; a green region that thrives on agriculture and fishing. The Commissioner has received many parliamentary questions from me. The Commissioner talks about providing economically for the Natura network with political commitments and funding. Does he intend to enforce the applicable EU legislation so that the governments which are responsible although, in many cases, they are, in fact, irresponsible, comply with that legislation? That is the case in my region. Unfortunately, instances where the Natura 2000 network is not complied with both in terms of the conservation or expansion of protected natural areas or natural habitats often lead to irreversible environmental degradation, fires, oil spills such as the Prestige oil spill and serious situations such as the installation of large-scale aquaculture plants in green maritime areas.

 
  
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  Alfreds Rubiks (GUE/NGL).(LV) Madam President, in the last few years, the European Union has, in my opinion, encouraged policies supporting biodiversity in this our Europe, not allowing individual crops, plants and species either to proliferate excessively or to die out. However, existing import regulations allow other countries outside the European Union to export their production to the European Union, including products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides and herbicides prohibited in Europe. In this way, we are giving our backing in Europe to the proliferation of GMOs and harmful chemical substances. We need much stricter rules and restrictions on the use and export of GMOs.

For my part, I can say that in my country, Latvia, 90% of all local authorities have declared that their territory is free of genetically modified organisms.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, biodiversity is going through a crisis in Europe, the extinction of species having reached an unprecedented rate, and leading to ecosystem degradation. The annual costs arising from biodiversity loss amount to billions for the global economy, undermining economies, business prospects and opportunities to fight poverty. I encourage the Commission and Member States to further promote a common approach to nature preservation throughout the European Union, including the outermost regions and the overseas territories of Member States. I emphasise the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity protection and conservation in the development, implementation and funding of all other EU policies, including those on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, regional development and cohesion, energy, industry, transport, tourism, development cooperation, research and innovation in order to make the EU’s sectoral and budgetary policies more coherent and ensure that it honours its binding commitments on biodiversity protection.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Madam President, diversity is an emotively favourable word and, of course, we are all in favour of it, but unfortunately, we mean different things by it. I have a book on British wild animals from 1947 which welcomed the addition of the grey squirrel to British wildlife in the interests of diversity. I have some good news for the writer of the book and for the grey squirrel: it is to be found everywhere in Britain now.

For the red squirrel, I have some less welcome news: your habitats have been taken and you will soon be extinct. Now there are some people in Britain who defend the grey squirrel, saying it was born and brought up in Britain and would have a British passport if squirrels had passports – indeed it is not really a grey squirrel at all but simply a native red squirrel which happens to have grey fur.

1947 was only 65 years ago, yet the squirrel population has undergone such enormous changes, and the human population of Britain has also changed enormously. This just shows how the wrong kind of diversity can lead very quickly to the displacement of native populations.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, first of all, I agree with all those who believe that, basically, the major problem with taking care of biodiversity is insufficient awareness. I think that if we were to be frank and compare how many people today understand – even among us politicians – the importance of climate change versus biodiversity, we would be astonished at how many are aware of the success of the Durban conference and how few are aware of the success of the Nagoya conference – and, by the way, the Nagoya conference was much more successful: it produced concrete agreements in the biodiversity area. So we all have work to do, when it comes both to Europe and to the international environment.

One of the things which will happen this year after Rio will be a conference in Hyderabad, which will also focus largely on resource-mobilisation and the things which were not entirely settled in Nagoya. I would also urge you in the European Parliament to help recognise this important issue, which needs to be addressed in the Member States. On 14 May, a ministerial-level conference will be held at which we will try to ensure that this issue can be properly addressed.

I think when we discuss the future, there are basically three major core issues which we cannot ignore: one of course is climate change; another is biodiversity, and the third is the question of resources.

When we talk about issues – and this is a typical one – I think that the longer-term view, the visions and the strategies are particularly important. As Mr Eickhout said, the importance of those decisions is that we do not make mistakes today, because if we do, we should not dream about the future. We need those decisions so that we do not take the wrong decisions today. One of the things that many of you underlined, when it comes to coordination among policies, is that if you asked today – to take a clear example – somebody who is an environmentalist: ‘what is the long-term interest in fishing?’, he would say: ‘sustainable fishing’. Ask a fisherman what his long-term interest in fishing is, and he will also say sustainable fishing. So they agree perfectly. When it comes to the short term, they would immediately disagree. One would ask for more fishing and another one would ask for less fishing.

So I think it is very important that we keep an eye on those long-term agendas, and that we base them very much on the scientific knowledge that we should all create and develop.

The fourth thing which I would like to mention is in the context of the common agricultural policy, because many of you have mentioned that. The protection of biodiversity is very much in the farmers’ interest – and by the way, again from the longer-term point of view, they know that perfectly well – and what we are suggesting in the proposals of the common agricultural policy is basically that they should deliver some kind of public good. In the case of other EU policies (for example, water policy), they have to respect them, otherwise they will be punished by paying penalties later on because of non-compliance. We wish to pay them in advance so that they do not pollute or hamper biodiversity. That is the essence of the new common agricultural policy. Working together: that is how we understand the mainstreaming or integration of policies.

I should like to tell you some bare facts on soil biodiversity. It is widely recognised by scientists that about one quarter of biological diversity on the planet is hosted by soils. So the European Commission, in its recent report on the implementation of the soil thematic strategy five years after its adoption, said that soil degradation continues in the European Union, and soil biodiversity is not spared. These are the bare facts, and we in the Commission believe that the best way would be to adopt comprehensive legislation to protect the soils.

Two slightly more specific comments. It is not the case that it is the EU which is determining Natura 2000. Natura 2000 is determined on the scientific criteria which we have all agreed together, and it is the Member States themselves which then define the areas on the basis of those criteria. We then jointly check if they are correctly applying the criteria which we have jointly agreed upon. That is the procedure. By the way, I come from a country which has 36% of its territory protected under Natura 2000, so if anyone does not believe that this has real potential for the future, I would invite you to visit my country in the future.

The last thing that I should mention is connected to the last speaker’s comment. Part of our strategy for the future is a strategy for invasive species; we recognise that. This is one of the six strategic issues that we want to address, and this year you can expect a proposal from the Commission to address that issue.

To conclude. The other day, we were guests in Denmark, where we met a farmer who was extremely successful. He told us that he was doing everything in cooperation with nature and respecting nature, and he said: ‘if you Ministers want to remember just one message coming from farms today, remember that biodiversity and nature have had millions of years of experience of how to deal with the questions which we humans are struggling with, and we are stupid enough to destroy it and stupid enough not to use it’.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: RAINER WIELAND
Vice-President

 
  
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  Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, rapporteur. (NL) Mr President, allow me, first of all, to thank my fellow Members for the very broad level of support for our report on biodiversity. Unfortunately, there is one exception and that is Mr Hartong, who, to make matters worse, is from my own country. He did not even have the decency to stay until the end of the debate. He started his speech talking about laughing, and indeed, I saw many smiling faces as he spoke, only, unfortunately for him, those were smiles of pity and embarrassment on his behalf.

I would like to give him one piece of advice: let him go and live on Mars for a while. On the red planet, he will have absolutely no problems with the European Commission and perhaps, from the red planet, he can look at the blue planet and see, in particular, the great importance and power of the diversity on that blue planet and why we human beings can live on earth and not on Mars. Maybe somebody could pass that on to him.

I believe that, in addition to the broad support for the report, it is also important that we have demonstrated in this debate very strong political support for a stronger protection of biodiversity. That is not only important in order for my report to be adopted but, more especially, in order to send a political signal to both the European Commission and the Council in the further development of legislation.

This is a non-legislative report. Obviously, though, it will only begin to matter at the point at which we start discussing legislation. It will then concern other policy areas as well. I am very pleased with my colleagues’ positive words about that, but I would like to remind them of those words when we actually start making specific decisions on the new agricultural policy, the new fisheries policy, the new cohesion policy and, let us not forget, the development policy. Those are the issues that really matter and, then, today’s positive words will hopefully be worth just as much as they are today.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE), in writing. (FR) As it is drafted, it is impossible for me to vote in favour of the report on the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. Indeed, it is inconceivable for our institution to support the idea that hunting has a detrimental impact on biodiversity. On the contrary, the 7 million hunters within the European Union are involved on a daily basis in action to promote biodiversity. Through their activity on the ground, they contribute their expertise, their time and their resources to maintaining a favourable environment for the development of fauna and flora. Through their passion, they acquire a knowledge of nature which is precious to the citizens of the European Union with whom they share the same value of preserving their natural capital. By the same token, the idea contained in paragraph 35 that the European Union should establish an ‘environmental inspection force’ is not acceptable. This proposal runs counter to the subsidiarity principle and should not be financed by the European Union in the current economic context. For other reasons, such as the image of farmers as ‘guardians’ of the landscape, I oppose the adoption of this report, the approach of which is biased.

 
  
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  Pavel Poc (S&D), in writing. (CS) There are many reasons why the biodiversity protection targets were missed in 2010, but the main one was that biodiversity was not a priority in all areas of decision making and all sectors of the economy. I therefore welcome the resolution of the European Parliament, which recognises that the solution is not just to come up with a new strategy for protecting biodiversity, but, above all, to incorporate biodiversity into the debate on policies currently under negotiation which might have a decisive impact on biodiversity. The common agricultural policy (CAP) should not focus exclusively on securing sufficient quantities of high-quality food and rural development through subsidies to farmers. The CAP is also a key instrument for protecting biodiversity. It is therefore necessary to ensure consistency across the entire system, and to clearly identify subsidies having a negative impact on the environment and to cancel these subsidies as quickly as possible. The reform of the common fisheries policy now under discussion will be of similar importance, and it must immediately restrict destructive forms of fishing. A quicker start must also be made on debating the soil directive, as we need to reduce soil pollution and pay more attention to protecting soil biodiversity. It is the same story here as with rainforests, coral reefs and inland freshwater bodies, which are so much under threat that the remedy, if at all possible, is extremely costly, because ecosystems transform into other, less productive states from which they can be brought back only with great difficulty, if at all.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D), in writing. (HU) Pollinating insects, in particular wild and domesticated honeybees, which are responsible for the pollination of 80% of European flowering plants, play a key role in maintaining biological diversity. The decline in bee populations experienced for years can be attributed to numerous causes, as I called attention to in my report adopted last year on ‘Honeybee health and the challenges of the beekeeping sector’. The lack of veterinary products, the excessive use of certain plant protection products and their active substances (in particular, those belonging to the neonicotinoid family), certain intensive agricultural production methods and the damaging effects of climate change all contribute to that decline. The greatest problem, however, is that there are insufficient EU funds for scientific research in the field of beekeeping and data collection at European level. Our knowledge of the European honeybee stock is incomplete, and scientific results allowing responsible decisions to be made are obtained with great difficulty. I therefore welcome the fact that the report, in line with my earlier report, calls on the Commission to increase significantly the support provided for the beekeeping sector. Honeybee health is in the interest of both European farmers and environmentalists, and serves the interests of both agribusiness and environmental protection. Honeybees generate public goods by means of pollination, which is why it is right for the new common agricultural policy coming into effect from 2014 to give the sector greater support than to date.

 
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