ECI “Save the Bees” About to Emerge!

2019-06-08 News

Millions of citizens in Europe are deeply concerned about the survival of bees and similar species. More than ever before, people are committed to preserving bio-diversity and pledge for a new course for effective nature conservation in Europe. The recently successful citizens’ initiative “Save the Bees” in Bavaria with nearly 2 million supporters demonstrates this impressively. Read more about the amazing case in Bavaria and the future European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Save the Bees”. By Carsten Berg  

Three months ago, we could observe the largest and most successful popular initiative in the history of Bavaria asking for the protection of biodiversity (in short “Save the Bees”).  A huge alliance of NGOs and environmental political parties gathered the support of 1,74 million citizens in Bavaria which represent 18,3% of the electorate. According to the applicable rules for popular initiatives in Bavaria, signatures had to be collected within a period of only 14 days of at least 10% of the electorate which is equal to 949.300 citizens. Secondly, signatures were not allowed to be collected online but only on paper. Thirdly, it was not allowed to collect signatures freely on the streets and market places, but only in official places in town halls. This resulted in long lines of citizens waiting to sign the “Save the Bees” initiative. These challenging conditions make this popular initiative all the more impressive.

Long line of Bavarian Citizens who want to sign the popular initiative “Save the Bees”. (Picture Credit to ÖDP)

In contrast to the ECI instrument a successful popular initiative in Bavaria leads to a public vote of all citizens (a referendum) if the parliament refuses to implement the proposal. Given the historical support for this popular initiative, the conservative Bavarian Government, which holds the majority in the Bavarian parliament, decided not to reject the proposal of the popular initiative, but to fully implement it. This decision represented a land mark move in the history of Bavaria. The popular initiative demands to radically change farming methods. It requires that by 2025 at least 20% of the agricultural area is to be managed bee-friendly and in accordance with the principles of organic farming (and at least 30% by 2030). All government land is to be managed ecologically already from 2020 onwards. Also environmental education in schools and businesses must be increased.

The successful Bavarian popular initiative has inspired many other regional popular initiatives (e.g. in Baden-Württemberg or Brandenburg). Now a group of supporters and friends of this successful popular initiative has decided to launch the ECI “Save the Bees”. Although the European Commission already registered the ECI “Save the Bees”on 27 May 2019, this ECI is still in its preparatory phase. For the time being, it is only possible to pre-register to be informed about the ECI while the official online signing process is expected to start only end of June. This ECI currently develops the practical requirements to be met in order to carry out an ECI. This refers to crucial factors such as alliance building and fundraising (see our Practitioner’s Check List how to manage an ECI successfully). Obviously, there is a strong connection to the last successful ECI “Ban Glyphosate” on which “Save the Bees” could build. The pesticide Glyphosate is considered to be one of the main factors responsible for the extremely high bee mortality and the general decline of biodiversity.

Additional Background Links:

Bavarian Campaign Website of Volksbegehren Artenvielfalt
Bavaria campaigners abuzz as bees petition forces farming changes (The Guardian, 14 February 2019)
Bavaria to pass ‘save the bees’ petition into law in landmark move (The Guardian, 3 April 2019)
Overview of all open and closed ECIs