Farm Ministers unlikely to heed Environment Council promise to protect EU inland waters

Posted on 17 December 2012    
The Danube river basin.
The Danube river basin.
© Alexander Ivanov

 (Brussels 17th December) Today Ministers at the Environment Council gave their support to a European Commission strategy to protect and sustainably manage the Europe's water resources, the so-called Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water. This concludes the Year of Water Policy in the EU and delivers one of the priorities highlighted in the Roadmap to a more Resource Efficient Europe.  

While the survey shows that the health of EU’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are improving, EU Member States look set to miss the EU targets of bringing all water bodies to ecological health by 2015. By that date only 53 % of EU’s rivers, lakes and wetlands will be deemed healthy.
WWF is particularly concerned with the lack of integration the current CAP proposals forward with water policy. Despite the wishes of Environmental Ministers for progress, their Agricultural colleagues and MEPs who are agreeing how the next CAP should be structured are showing little interest. Farm pollution and excessive use of water are just two areas where agricultural policy needs to match the requirements.
Quotes Mr Tony Long Director WWF European Policy Office
On improving implementation of the current policy
“Ministers agreed today with the European Commission’s assessment that they are due to miss the water targets by a wide margin and need to significantly intensify efforts to tackle pollution and take additional actions that work with nature such as restoring floodplains. This also calls for better use of pre-planning and biodiversity safeguards for new water infrastructure projects serving hydropower, inland navigation or flood defense especially in Europe’s most iconic rivers such as the Danube. “
On integrating water protection rules into CAP
“The Commission’s proposals to better integrate water protection objectives in the EU agricultural policy were supported by the Council today. Unfortunately, they risk becoming  well-founded intentions if they are not acted upon by the Agricultural Ministers and Members of the European Parliament who are currently debating how the EU Agricultural Policy should be reformed.  
“It is not even an option for policy makers – farmers who fail to respect water protection rules should not receive any CAP subsidies. Full stop. They have to respect the existing water laws like everyone else.”
Notes for the Editor
The Blueprint analysis concluded that the health of EU’s rivers, lakes and wetlands is improving, but EU Member States look set to miss the EU targets of bringing all water bodies to ecological health by 2015 - in fact only 53 % of EU’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are predicted to be healthy by 2015, according to Member States own plans. To achieve the objectives of the landmark EU Water Framework Directive, the European Commission and the Ministers agreed today to a three-tier strategic approach:
Improving implementation of current EU water policy by making full use of the opportunities provided by the current laws. For example, increasing the take-up of natural water retention measures such as the restoration of wetlands and floodplains or improving implementation of the "polluter pays" principle through metering, water-pricing and better economic analysis.
Increasing the integration of water policy objectives into other relevant policy areas such as Common Agricultural Policy, renewable energy, transport and the EU Budget.
Filling the gaps of the current framework, particularly in relation to the tools needed to increase water efficiency. In this regard, the Water Blueprint envisages water accounts and water efficiency targets to be set by Member States and the development of EU standards for water re-use.
The Water Blueprint highlights that preserving water is not only about environmental protection, human health and well-being. It is also about economy and prosperity. It is a way of ensuring that all the economic sectors that depend on availability of water of a certain quality can prosper and drive forward green economies and job opportunities. 
For further information:  
Philippe Carr
Media & Communications, 
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 476 25 68 79
Sergiy Moroz 
Senior Water Policy Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 499 53 97 34
The Danube river basin.
The Danube river basin.
© Alexander Ivanov Enlarge