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European Union Water Framework Directive Legislation Will Be Retained

BRUSSELS, Belgium

The European Commission has confirmed that the European Union’s strong water legislation, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), will not be changed.

The landmark confirmation for Europe’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands marks a success for the #ProtectWater Campaign that was launched in 2018 by WWF and European partners who, together, form lobgying group Living Rivers Europe.

The 23 June decision comes six months after the law was determined “fit-for-purpose,” following a thorough two-year evaluation. During the evaluation, Living Rivers Europe obtained support from than 375,000 European citizens, including many thousands from Central and Eastern Europe, who demanded that the law be kept in its current form.

The WFD is an ambitious and holistic piece of environmental legislation and establishes targets of 100 percent of the EU's freshwater ecosystems in good health by 2027, up from just 40 percent currently. The objective of this target is to preserve water resources in order to assist in climate adaptation. Member State implementation is erratic and political will to enforce it is low.

Although some groups have lobbied to weaken the bill, a group of 26 European and international companies have signed a joint letter in support of the legislation, which reads in part:

“We, the undersigned businesses, stand with the 375,000 European citizens who have urged the EU governments and the European Commission to preserve the European Union’s groundbreaking Water Framework Directive in its current form, as advocated by the #Protectwater campaign. The Water Framework Directive is the key law to ensuring that freshwater ecosystems in Europe are protected and restored and water is sustainably managed, fully supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. This law has provided a stable regulatory framework and has encouraged collective water stewardship action in river basins across the EU.”

Read full text HERE.

In a statement to POLITICO, the EU’s Commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius confirmed the need to focus on supporting implementation and enforcement "without changing the directive."

The message from the Commission is clear: the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is an essential piece of EU environmental legislation and is here to stay in its current form.

Ester Asin, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office, said “Good legislation is not something to be tampered with. The EU needs the Water Framework Directive to safeguard its water supply, halt and reverse biodiversity loss and tackle climate change. We congratulate the Commission for standing by the strong evidence, taking the views of EU citizens on board, and following up on the ambitions of the European Green Deal and EU Biodiversity Strategy".

With the confirmation of the legislation, there can be no further delays from Member States in effecting implementation. The European Commission must now work with all relevant stakeholders, most especially Central and Eastern European countries, to fast-track implementation and ensure that the WFD’s objectives are achieved by 2027.

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