European Parliament calls for tougher EU water law enforcement

Posted on 17 December 2020

Today, the European Parliament’s Plenary has voted in favour of improving the implementation of EU water legislation, in particular the Water Framework Directive. The motion for resolution passed with an overwhelming majority.
WWF, and members of the Living Rivers Europe coalition, back this move which will boost the implementation and enforcement of EU rules to protect water from environmental damage. These rules are too frequently disregarded and abused in EU countries. 

MEPs call on the Commission to “swiftly and systematically pursue infringement proceedings when exemptions are not justified”. They  recognise the need for more policy coherence with regards to agriculture and call on the Commission “to make freshwater pollution and over-abstraction priority topics in CAP related recommendations to Member States”. Living Rivers Europe also welcomes the Parliament’s support for increased investments in nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation, such as wetland and floodplain restoration. This is especially important in the light of the European Commission’s commitment in the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy to put forward a proposal for legally binding EU nature restoration targets.

With EU ministers agreeing today on the EU Climate Law, MEPs also moved  towards a better alignment of energy and water policies. Living Rivers Europe welcomes, as a step in the right direction, the call on Member States to “refrain from building hydropower stations and avoid other building projects which would lead to significant hydromorphological pressures on water in protected areas”. MEPs in plenary also voted down a paragraph which called the contribution of electricity generated by hydropower plants to reaching the EU’s climate and energy targets “striking”.

However, MEPs have missed the opportunity to signal the need to phase out subsidies and public finance for new hydropower projects in Europe. 150 NGOs have called for an end to new hydropower, and 130 NGOs urge the Commission not to list small new hydropower as a sustainable investment in its green finance rules or ‘Taxonomy’. 

Claire Baffert, Senior Water Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office, said: “The European Parliament has sent a strong signal to the Commission and Member States that EU water protection rules need tougher implementation, and that this requires alignment of  sectoral policies including agriculture, transport and energy. However, MEPs failed to take a strong enough stance against hydropower. The thousands of planned hydropower plants will devastate our already battered freshwater biodiversity, while only producing a negligible contribution towards EU climate and energy targets - they should not see the light of day.”

Alexandra Chevalier
Senior Communications Officer
+32 484 4943 54 
The WFD is one of the EU’s most ambitious and holistic pieces of environmental legislation, setting the target of having 100% of the EU's freshwater ecosystems in good health by 2027.
© A. Mohl