The paper, developed by WWF, EEB, Wetlands International, the European Anglers Alliance and European Rivers Network – who together form the Living Rivers Europe coalition – is published ahead of an informal meeting of the Environment Council in Bucharest, Romania on 20 and 21 May. Environment Ministers from all EU Member States will come together to discuss, amongst other topics, issues related to water management across the EU. The gathering comes in the wake of scientists declaring a state of ecological emergency, with extensive research confirming that nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to agriculture alone, and freshwater ecosystems are showing the highest rate of decline.
The briefing shows the clear alignment between the wishes of some Member States and those of lobby groups representing the interests of the agriculture, hydropower and mining sectors, as well as German industry associations (comprised of representatives of the construction, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals industries, amongst others). These parties want to weaken the WFD’s ambitious scope and environmental objectives, and attack two of the law’s most visionary cornerstones – the “one-out, all-out principle”, as well as the “non-deterioration obligation”, both crucial in assessing the health of freshwater bodies.
Where they differ is in their reasoning, which is completely contradictory – whilst Member States argue that these changes are needed to maintain ambition in EU water management, industry groups ask for changes because the current system is too ambitious.
Sergiy Moroz, Water and Biodiversity Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau, said:
“Industry groups and some EU member states are calling for the same changes to the EU water law – but, bizarrely enough, how they justify the need for these changes is poles apart: Whilst some governments say they are trying to be more ambitious to protect water, the industry groups say they want these changes because the current rules are too stringent. So, if Member States want to be truly ambitious, the current law needs to be kept and the focus needs to be on properly implementing it to protect the environment and human health.”
Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF’s European Policy Office, said:
“Rivers, lakes and wetlands are our life-support systems, but they are being annihilated under our very eyes. We have the legal tool to stop this – the EU water law – but Member States must actively stand up to the sectors that pollute and destroy the most. Through the civil society-led #ProtectWater campaign, more than 375,000 citizens called for the water law to remain unchanged. Member States’ alignment with the positions of business lobbies begs the question: Do they really have the best interests of their citizens at heart?”
The Living Rivers Europe coalition has sent a letter to the Environment Ministers of EU Member States ahead of next week’s meeting in Bucharest outlining these concerns.
 Living Rivers Europe, 2019, Weakening the EU water law: Industry’s wish list
 According to the “one-out, all-out principle”, a water body (such as a river, lake or wetland) is only considered healthy if all the quality elements (for example the flow, whether it is biodiversity-rich, whether there are chemical substances) are in good status, and the overall status is defined by the quality element in the lowest class.
 Within the Water Framework Directive, Member States must ensure that the current state of of any given water body does not deteriorate any further.
 Officials from several Member States have drafted a paper on the Future of the EU Water Policy for the meeting of EU Water Directors in November 2018. The paper put forward several amendments to the WFD.
Notes to the editor:
About the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD)