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News EC asks three Member States to comply with EU water quality legislation

The Commission is asking Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Estonia to comply with EU legislation on environmental quality standards for surface water. These Member States have failed to inform the Commission about the transposition of this legislation into national law. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. The three Member States have two months to respond.

The Priority Substances Directive protects the environment and human health by setting limits for certain substances and groups of substances that are known to pose a substantial risk to the aquatic environment.

Member States had to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Priority Substances Directive by 13 July 2010, and inform the Commission they had done so. As Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Estonia did not notify the Commission of all the implementing measures in time, a letter of formal notice was sent on 20 September 2010. Since the legislation has still not been adopted, a reasoned opinion is being sent. If these Member States do not take appropriate action within two months, the Commission may refer them to the European Court of Justice.


The Priority Substances Directive is a consequence of the Water Framework Directive, the main piece of legislation protecting Europe's waters. The framework directive aims to achieve high environmental quality standards in various areas by set deadlines (surface waters, for instance, have to achieve good chemical status by 2015), and the Priority Substances Directive refines these requirements by means of further specific measures for pollution control and environmental quality standards.

The Water Framework Directive establishes a list of 33 priority substances and 8 other pollutants which have been shown to be of major concern for European waters. To adequately protect the aquatic environment and human health, the quality standards are expressed as maximum allowable concentration and annual average reflecting both acute and chronic effects due to short and long-term exposure. Member States must ensure compliance with these standards.

Further information

Further information on the Directive, visit:

More details on water policy:

For current statistics on infringements in general see:


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News type Inbrief
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Source of information Europa Rapid
Keyword(s) EU-WFD, water quality legislation
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Working language(s) ENGLISH