Six Member States in Court for failure to revise water plans

Six Member States in Court for failure to revise water plans

Member States in Court
The European Court of Justice decides about failing Member States. Photo: Pixabay.

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The European Commission has referred Bulgaria, Ireland, Spain, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia, to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to finalise the revision of their river basin management plans. The process was declared on 7 February. If it deems the responses unsatisfactory, the commission can take the next step in infringement proceedings which can include hefty fines.

The Commission sent letters of formal notice in February 2023, followed by reasoned opinions in September 2023 to those countries that had failed to update and review the plans, as required under the Water Framework Directive and/or of their flood risk management plans as required under the Floods DirectiveCyprus and Slovenia also received reasoned opinions in September 2023 but are not included in the six Member States which have now been referred to the Court.

Crucial for achieving good status by 2027

The European Water Framework Directive, adopted in 2000, provides a framework for integrated water management in river basin districts across the European Union. It obliges Member States to protect and restore all bodies of ground water and surface waters, estuarine waters and coastal waters to achieve ‘good status’ by 2027 at the latest. It is an essential part of the European Green Deal and necessary to reach its climate, nature, and pollution reduction targets. Compliance with the Floods Directive is critical for preparedness and management of floods.

Programme of measures

Under the Water Framework Directive, Member States must update and report their river basin management plans (rbmp) every six years. These plans, which include a programme of measures, are key to ensure good status or potential of all water bodies as required by the Directive. Under the Floods Directive, Member States must also update and report their flood risk management plans every six years. These plans are equally key to fulfil the objectives of the Floods Directive, that is to reduce and manage the risks that floods pose to human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity.

Member States in Court

Despite some progress, the six countries have still failed to comply with their obligations under either or both Directives: Spain, Malta and Portugal have still not fully reported their third river basin management plans and second flood risk management plans; Bulgaria and Ireland have still not fully reported third river basin management plans; and Slovakia has still not fully reported the second flood risk management plans.


In separate decision, also on 7 February 2024, the Commission opened an infringement procedure against Ireland for failing to fully comply with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive to be followed by a send a formal letter of notice. The Commission said: “In Ireland, in eight agglomerations with a population of more than 2,000 people, urban waste waters are not properly treated before being discharged.” A further three centres of habitation with a population of more than 10,000 are discharging wastewater in sensitive areas without the more stringent treatment the directive requires, the Commission said.


And, on the same date, the Commission announced that it was to send a letter of formal notice to Estonia for failing to transpose and to implement certain provisions of the both the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and the Industrial Emissions Directive.


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