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Brussels, 28 July 2005

Commission consults public on how to protect soil across the EU

The European Commission today launched an 8-week long Internet consultation on the measures which the European Union (EU) could adopt to address soil degradation. Good quality soil is crucial for the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources. However, scientific evidence shows that soil is degrading throughout Europe and the EU therefore needs to act to protect this precious resource. Issues such as erosion, landslides and contamination of soil will be addressed.

The general public and experts are invited to give their views on EU soil policy by filling out questionnaires at the following address available in seven languages:

These questionnaires touch upon a range of issues such as the importance of soil functions, how to address erosion, decline in organic matter, contamination, sealing, compaction, salinisation and landslides.

Soil degradation is a transfrontier phenomenon. It has a strong impact on issues of common EU interest such as water protection, human health, climate change, nature and biodiversity protection and food safety.

This Internet consultation builds on previous extensive consultations by the European Commission, after adopting a first Communication in 2002[1]. The Commission will put forward the strategy itself at the end of 2005.

One of seven thematic strategies

10% of EU soil is strongly or extremely affected by soil erosion, 45% has a low or very low organic matter content, 9% is built up and between 1 and 3 million hectares are affected by salinisation.

Such degradation is caused or exacerbated by human activities which damage the capacity of soil to continue performing its broad variety of functions which are vital for human and ecosystem survival.

The 6th Environmental Action Programme, approved by Council and European Parliament in 2002 and which runs until 2012, asks the European Commission to present a thematic strategy on soil among the priorities set for the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources. Other thematic strategies are being prepared, concerning air pollution, the marine environment, the urban environment, waste, natural resources and pesticides.

Thematic strategies represent a modern way of policy-making. They take a broad view and set out a package of measures to achieve their goal. They are developed on the basis of extensive knowledge and consultation. This consultation will provide input to allow the strategy on soil to be completed.

[1] . “Towards a thematic strategy for soil protection” (COM(2002)179final).

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