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IP/11/438

Brussels, 6 April 2011

Environment: Commission takes four Member States to court for failing to submit river basin plans

The European Commission is taking Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Portugal to court over their failure to comply with EU water legislation and submit plans for managing their river basins. These plans are essential for achieving the EU's objective of 'good status' for European waters by 2015 and they should have been adopted by 22 December 2009 at the latest. Delayed plans could mean a failure to deliver the water quality required. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is referring the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

Directive 2000/60/EC is Europe's key tool for protecting the quality of its waters. It establishes a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, and obliges Member States to publish a management plan for each river basin district at the latest nine years after the Directive entered into force. Member States sharing international rivers must work together to produce a single international river basin management plan.

The Water Framework Directive requires Member States to consult the public and other interested parties on the plans and publish draft copies, allowing six months for comments in writing. Because of these requirements, all public consultations should have started at the latest in December 2008.

Although work has started in Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Portugal, these four Member States have so far failed to adopt and publish their plans.

In Belgium, the Brussels-Capital Region and Walloon Region only started public consultations in 2011 and expect to publish their plans in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Denmark aims to publish its plans in September 2011, following the end of public consultations in April 2011.

Greece has not yet started public consultations and will only publish its plans by March 2012.

Portugal is expected to start public consultations in 2011 but it is not yet clear when the plans might be adopted.

As these Member States have failed to publish all the necessary river basin management plans, their citizens have no certainty yet as to how their river basins water resources will be managed according to the Water Framework Directive. The delay in submitting river basin plans puts the achievement of the Directive's objective at risk. Further delays will have a knock-on effect for the overall implementation of the Directive, on the establishment of measures and most importantly on improvement of the water environment.

Background

The Water Framework Directive obliges Member States to protect and restore all bodies of ground water and surface water (rivers, lakes, canals and coastal water) to achieve "good status" by 2015 at the latest, meaning that the waters show as few traces of human impact as possible. River basin management plans give a comprehensive overview of the main issues for each river basin district and should include the specific measures needed to achieve set environmental quality objectives. Where any exemptions are applied, a thorough justification must be provided.

Following up late transposition of EU legislation by Member States is a priority for the Commission. For previous infringement press releases relating to river basin management plans, see: IP/10/1413, IP/10/1570 and IP/11/91.

Further information

For further information on the consultation and adoption status of river basin management plans, visit:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/participation/map_mc/map.htm

More details on water policy:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/index_en.htm

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

See also MEMO/11/220


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