Euro-Mediterranean Information System on know-how in the Water sector
International portal

News Infringement Procedures Related to River Basin Plans

On 6 April 2011 the European Commission announced that it would take four Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Portugal) to the EU Court of Justice for failing to comply with EU water legislation and submit their river basin plans. All public consultations should have started in December 2008 and the plans adopted by 22 December 2009 at the latest. These plans are essential for achieving the EU's objective of "good status" for European waters by 2015; if delayed, they could mean a failure to deliver the water quality required.

Directive 2000/60/EC ("Water Framework Directive") establishes a framework for Community action in the field of water policy. It 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 show as few traces of human impact as possible. To achieve this, Member States had to publish, within the nine years following the entry into force of the Directive, a management plan giving a comprehensive overview of the main issues for each river basin district. Where any exemptions are applied, a thorough justification must be provided.

Following up late transposition of EU legislation by Member States is a priority for the Commission and Directive 2000/60/EC is Europe's key tool for protecting the quality of its waters.  Although work has started in the four Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Portugal), they have so far failed to adopt and publish their plans. In Belgium, the Brussels-Capital and the Walloon Regions only started public consultations in 2011 and expect to publish their plans in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Denmark aims to publish its plans in September 2011, following the end of public consultations in April 2011. Greece has not yet started public consultations and will only publish its plans by March 2012. Finally, Portugal is expected to start public consultations in 2011 but it is not yet clear when the plans might be adopted.

As these Member States have failed to publish all the necessary river basin management plans, their citizens have no certainty yet as to how their river basins water resources will be managed according to the Water Framework Directive. The delay in submitting river basin plans puts the achievement of the Directive's objective at risk. Further delays will have a repercussion on the overall implementation of the Directive, on the establishment of measures and most importantly on improvement of the water environment.

Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information
Keyword(s) water policy, water legislation
Geographical coverage Belgium,Denmark,Greece,Portugal,
News date 07/06/2011
Working language(s) ENGLISH