Brussels, 20 February 2014
Environment: Commission takes Denmark to Court over water management problems
The European Commission is taking Denmark to Court for a failure to present plans for managing its river basins. These plans are essential to put the measures in place to achieve the objective of 'good status' for Danish waters by 2015 and should have been adopted before December 2009. 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.
Under European legislation, Member States must publish a management plan for each river basin district under their control, with Member States that share international rivers working together to produce a single international river basin management plan. The public and other interested parties must be consulted on such plans, which are then published in draft form, allowing six months for comments in writing. The plans had to be sent to the Commission in 2010.
Denmark missed the original deadline for submitting its plans, and the Commission opened an infringement procedure. Denmark then adopted the required plans in 2012. Shortly after their adoption however, the Danish Courts found that the consultation period set by the authorities for comments on the draft plans had been too short under Danish law, and the plans were therefore annulled.
This led to a situation in which, several years after the deadline, Denmark still had no river basin management plans in place. The Commission therefore re-opened the infringement procedure and Denmark confirmed in December 2013, the absence of management plans, noting that adoption was unlikely before mid-2014. The case is therefore being referred to the Court.
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 are as clean 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.
If Member States delay putting in place legislation agreed at EU level, this delays the benefits of getting cleaner water and leads to unequal treatment of people and businesses across Europe. So action to ensure that legislation is actually put in place by each Member State 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.
For more information:
For further information on the consultation and adoption status of river basin management plans, visit:
More details on water policy:
On the February infringement package decisions, see MEMO/14/116
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12
For more information on infringement procedures:
For current statistics on infringements in general, see: