Brussels refers Spanish authorities to the European Court of Justice for insufficient water management

by Lorraine Williamson
water management

The European Commission has announced that it is referring Spain to the European Court of Justice (CJEU). Too little attention is paid to water management and the waste policy is also inadequate.  

“Spain has not made sufficient efforts in the field of water management,” says Brussels. Especially given the drought problems that are occurring in Spain, particularly in Catalonia. 

Specifically, Spain has not completed the revision of its river basin management plans under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The same applies to the flood risk management plans under the Floods Directive.  

Water management and the Water Framework Directive  

‘The WFD focuses on ensuring the qualitative and quantitative good health of European water bodies, such as rivers and lakes. It aims to reduce and eliminate pollution. In addition, we must ensure that there is enough water to meet the needs of both people and wildlife,” the Commission said. This is ‘an essential part of the European Green Deal and necessary to achieve climate, nature and pollution reduction targets’.  

Water management and the Floods Directive 

Compliance with the Floods Directive is essential ‘for flood preparedness and management’. The Commission sent letters of formal notice in February 2023. This was followed in September 2023 by reasoned opinions to all countries that had not updated and revised the plans. 

Illegal landfills 

On the other hand, Spain also ends up in front of the European Court of Justice because of at least 195 illegal landfills. They are kept in operation. And that is in violation of EU regulations. These 195 illegal landfills have been closed since 2008. They cause significant damage to the environment and endanger human health.” 

It also shows that Spain ‘has failed to meet its obligations of control, inspection and enforcement in the field of landfill of waste’. This, says the Commission, “creates health and environmental risks, which the European Green Deal aims to solve.” 

Spain does not comply with the Waste Framework Directive 

The Waste Framework Directive requires Member States to take all necessary measures to ensure that waste management does not endanger human health or damage the environment. Member states must also ensure that waste is disposed of safely and that the original producers of waste treat it themselves or ensure that the treatment is carried out correctly, explains the European Commission. 

The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Spain in December 2015, followed by a reasoned opinion in November 2018. Despite some progress, “the Spanish authorities have not fully addressed the shortcomings,” Brussels said. The Commission considers that the efforts made by the Spanish authorities so far have been insufficient. That is why it is referring Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union. 

Also read: Cost of drought in Spain

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