Brussels, 21 February 2013
Environment: Commission takes Poland to Court over water legislation
The European Commission is referring Poland to the EU Court of Justice for failing to transpose European water legislation correctly. Polish water legislation has shortcomings in a number of areas, including the transposition of some definitions provided by the Directive and gaps in transposition of the Directive's Annexes. The Commission is particularly concerned about the absence of Annex II, which outlines the characterisation system for surface waters and groundwaters, and about omissions in the transposition of Annex III, which should provide specifications and reference points for river basin district analysis, reviews of the environmental impact of human activities on water, and the economic analysis of water use. The monitoring of water status is also a cause for concern. Despite a number of reminders no satisfactory reply has been forthcoming. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore calling Poland before the European Court of Justice.
The Water Framework Directive is Europe's key tool for protecting its waters. Article 5 obliges Member States to prepare an analysis of river basin district, review the environmental impact of human activities on water, and analyse economic aspects of water use. This analysis is an indispensable step that provides the basis for many other requirements in the Directive. According to the Commission, an incomplete or inadequate transposition of the Annexes is likely to lead to a faulty analysis, and river basin management plans may also be affected, with potentially negative consequences for human health, water quantity and water quality.
The Commission first sent Poland a letter of formal notice on this matter in June 2008. As Poland's reply and corrective actions did not cover all of the Commission's concerns, the letter was followed by a reasoned opinion in June 2010. Poland then revised its water legislation in March 2011 and also adopted a number of regulations in November 2011, but as some of the issues identified in June 2010 are still unresolved, the Commission is summoning Poland before the Court. Poland received a similar summons last month over nitrates and water pollution.
The Water Framework Directive, which came into force in 2000, provides a framework for Member States to manage water resources in an integrated way in river basin districts across the European Union. All Member States have undertaken the commitment to protect and restore all bodies of ground water and surface water (rivers, lakes, canals and coastal water) so that all river basin districts achieve "good status" by 2015 at the latest.
The monitoring of surface waters covers the chemical composition of water, a number of key biological elements, and the physical shape of water bodies, in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the health of Europe's waters. Groundwater monitoring programmes cover water quality and water quantity.
More information on the Water Framework Directive:
For current statistics on infringements in general:
On the February infringement package decisions, see MEMO/13/122
On the general infringement procedure, see also MEMO/12/12