Water framework directive passes EU council

Common position finally forwarded to European Parliament for second reading

EU governments have finally approved a common position at first reading for the draft water framework directive, an ambitious law designed to set new standards for water resources management into the next century. The European Parliament will now scrutinise the controversial dossier for a second time, setting the stage for a renewed battle between the two institutions over 12 key points where no compromise could be found during a special round of talks held earlier this year (ENDS Daily 3 February). The common position is identical barring technical revisions to a political agreement reached by environment ministers in March (ENDS Daily 12 March) and was formally approved today by social affairs ministers. Deep divisions between the Council and the Parliament even after last spring's negotiations make it almost certain that the law will be subject to a further round of "conciliation" talks once the two institutions have completed their second readings. In particular, the Parliament is calling for reductions in derogations from the directive's requirements available for up to 34 years, tougher requirements to end releases of hazardous substances in line with an agreement made by members of the north-east Atlantic treaty Ospar, and a stronger commitment to "full cost pricing" for water resources.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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