The winds of change are blowing through Europe. They are being seen everywhere and are especially noticeable each May. Every year, on the ninth day of the fifth month, the concept of a united Europe is celebrated with parades, emphasized by the playing of the European anthem, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Two years into the next millennium, this will no longer be an idea, but is expected to become reality.
Ongoing efforts now taking place will culminate in a European Union and Common Market with a new currency, the Euro. Most noticeable to tourists and others at present is the prelude to this “new” Europe, a disappearance of most traditional borders. I recently returned from Spain, for example, and was not stopped nor requested to produce any identity papers leaving or reentering France.
This year (1997( begins the five-year phase-in period to the year 2002, when the European Union’s currency is scheduled to take full effect. One local town here in the Provence-Cote d’Azur region is leading the way this May, according to the local paper (Le Provençal, 3 May 1997). The little town of Cassis, usually known only for its famous steep, white cliffs (calanques) that plunge into a deep blue Mediterranean Sea, has received permission from the French Finance Ministry to conduct transactions in the new Euro (exchange rate 1.5 Euros = ten French Francs) until 19 May. The goal is to set an example and quiet some fears about the impending monetary changeover.
Italy will be a big part of the EU. Those who are currently working in regulating honey through the auspices of the Italian National Apicultural Institute in Bologna have had several meetings with counterparts to iron out rules concerning honey. It will not be easy. There appear to be a great number of variables and persons involved, and in the past, the extreme regionalism that characterizes Europe has prevented many accords.
An important meeting occurred as early as 1989 of EU professionals and marketers in bee products. Billed as ApinFiera, the event’s theme was the honey market of European countries bordering the Mediterranean–collabration or competition. According to a report of the meeting in “Il Produttore”, information bulletin of the Professional Italian Apiculturalists Association, the meeting was opened by Mr. Lucio Cavazzoni, Italian representative to the European Economic Commission (EEC) at the time. Mr. Cavazzoni communicated to the delegates the importance of unified effort over southern Europe, proposed creation of a promotional campaign at the European level and suggested the possibility of developing new products based on honey.
The French representative, Mr. Hornecker, lamented the fact that organization was still insufficient to regulate products at the European level. One reason is that only 7 or 8 of the 12 countries involved have agreed to proposals deregulating importation. Dr. Raymond Bornek, president of Apimondia, also proposed institutions of research at the European level which would provide a base for a variety of activities from new bee products to controlling “Varroa”. Representatives from Spain and Portugal underlined the fact that their countries were still on the fringes of the EEC. Although much remains to be done concerning standardizing bee products, the meeting closed on a high note; all recognized the ecological value of the honey bee and its importance in the pollination of crops.
More about beekeeping in the European Union was revealed at the recent meeting of the sixteenth annual Feria Apícola (Beekeeping Fair) de Castilla La Mancha in Pastrana, Spain. At that event, E.D.A.P.I. (European Documentation in Apiculture for Press and Information), an organization that cooperates in the publication of many European bee journals, mounted an exhibit. I met some of the principals there and was given an issue of a few of the major journals that are part of E.D.A.P.I.
One of these magazines, the Belgian Abeilles & Cie (No. 56, January-February 1997), contains an editorial entitled “CARI sans Frontiers.” The author (Luc Noöl, President of CARI) discusses the addition of French authors and subscribers to this journal. These, he concludes, are just the beginning of an Apicultural information revolution without borders. The issue carries Supplement No. 12 of the European Notebook entitled “Royal Pheromone,” published by EDAPI and made available to cooperating entities. Participators in E.D.A.P.I. include: O.I.P.D.A.: Office Pour l’Information et la Documentation en Apiculture (French), Abeilles & Fleurs (French), F.N.O.S.A.D. (French), Imkerei Technik-IT (German), Vida Apícola (Spain), and Rivista de Apicoltura (Italy).
At the Pastrana meeting, a number of European leaders met to discuss how some fifteen million Euros dedicated to helping apiculture might be partitioned in the New Europe. Another important debate has to do with how honey quality (labeling) will be treated when the European Union is formed. Of particular concern will be the fate of those premium honeys that have what is called a “controlled label of origin.” This is particularly important in France which has very strict regulations and does not want to see them weakened. There is a concern that the officials trying to come up with honey rules for the Union would prefer a path of least resistance, given the complexity of the honeys found on the continent. In Pastrana, discussion was focused on a Spanish honey that is seeking European Union support for such a label (Honey of Alcarria).
What form the final New Europe will take is still an unknown. However, this phenomenon appears to be just one manifestation of many revolutions occurring world wide being nourished by the Information Age.
This provides a historical aspect concerning the European Union and beekeeping not found elsewhere in the apicultural literature. As time goes on we will see whether the vision of those involved in establishing the Union will persist or must be modified based on as yet unknown circumstances. It appears an ApinFiera occurred in 1992 and most recently 2000. See more about two countries I visited during my career that are part of the European Union, Italy and France. As of this writing (2016), clouds are on the horizon concerning the future of the European Union. A book has now been published providing updated and more in-depth information on the subject.