The European Parliament has approved €50 million in funding for the 'BONUS' initiative, aimed at combating pollution, climate change, acidification, over-exploitation and biodiversity loss in the Baltic Sea.
A seven-year joint R&D programme, BONUS brings together partners from Baltic coastal states Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden. They say the Baltic, a semi-enclosed European inland sea, has been seriously polluted by dumped chemical weapons, such as gases dating from the Second World War and by heavy metal compounds, organic substances, radioactive material, heating oil and petroleum spills. Intensive farming in the area has also led to excessive input of fertilisers and organic material.
Joint R&D efforts
The coastal Member States' national research and development programmes for the Baltic are not sufficiently well coordinated to achieve the required "critical mass", says an EU Parliament resolution. BONUS should integrate them into a "durable, co-operative, interdisciplinary, well-integrated and focused multinational research programme", supporting the aims of the Baltic Sea Strategy, the Marine and Maritime Strategy and the Water Framework Directive.
BONUS will focus on environmental research, but also draw together other research on how fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and transport affect the ecosystem.
Lena Ek MEP (ALDE, Sweden) is the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) rapporteur for the EU Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee. She says, "The programme is about creating sustainable Europe, rich in resources. The Baltic is important in the culture of all littoral states, with long traditions that we must preserve for our children."
Implementation and funding
The BONUS programme will be implemented by the Baltic Organisations’ Network for Funding Science, BONUS EEIG in Helsinki, and should last for seven years. It follows the previous programmes BONUS ERA-NET (2004-2006) and ERA-NET PLUS (2007-2011).
The EU will match the contribution of the eight participating states, meaning up to €50 million over the life of the programme, including €1.25 million for the strategy phase and €48.75 million for implementation.
The Commission and the Court of Auditors will be empowered to carry out any checks needed to ensure that the EU funds are properly managed. An interim evaluation of BONUS will be carried out by the end of 2014 and a final one by the end of 2017.
Parliament approved the programme with 630 votes in favour, 14 against and 6 abstentions.