Environment MEPs ask for stricter enforcement of EU water legislation
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Environment MEPs ask for stricter enforcement of EU water legislation

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted today on a motion for resolution to improve the implementation of the EU water legislation, in particular the Water Framework Directive. The resolution was approved by an overwhelming majority of Environment Committee members.

WWF, along with other members of the Living Rivers Europe coalition welcomes the Environment Committee’s resolution for highlighting the need to step up the implementation and enforcement of EU water legislation. The resolution comes a year after the conclusions of the Water Framework Directive’s positive fitness check evaluation and a few months after the Commission’s decision that the law would not be open for revision, following unprecedented support from citizens and scientists.

MEPs rightfully call on the Commission "to swiftly and systematically pursue infringement proceedings when exemptions are not justified” to step up enforcement and curb the abuse of exemptions to the Water Framework Directive by many Member States. Living Rivers Europe also welcomes the Committees’ support for increasing investments in nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation, such as wetland and floodplain restoration, especially 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.

MEPs failed however to send a strong enough statement on the destructive role played by the expansion of hydropower for Europe’s freshwater ecosystems. A few weeks after a call by 150 organisations to end EU financing for future hydropower projects in Europe, MEPs called "on the Member States to refrain from building hydropower stations, and from building other projects which lead to significant hydromorphological pressures on water in protected areas". However, they missed a crucial opportunity to signal the need to phase out subsidies and public finance to new hydropower projects in Europe, and to move financing to less impactful renewable energy alternatives [1].

Claire Baffert, Senior Water Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office, said: “Today the Environment Committee sent a strong signal to the Commission and Member States that enforcement of the Water Framework Directive needs to be stepped up, but failed to speak out loudly enough against harmful practices that undermine the objectives of the law, such as EU subsidies and public finance towards future hydropower projects. Without subsidies, many small hydropower projects would not be profitable”.

The European Parliament is due to vote on the resolution in plenary on the 16 December.

Notes to the editor:

[1] EEA, State of Nature in the EU report, 2020, fig. 4.11, https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/state-of-nature-in-the-eu-2020

Alexandra Chevalier
Senior Communications Officer
+32 484 4943 54

Water pollution
Water pollution © WWF Slovakia

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