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European Commission postpones its Water Resilience Initiative

  • European Commission postpones its Water Resilience Initiative
    Valletta, Malta
    Pablo González-Cebrián/Photos SWM
  • The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, highlighted the initiative as a priority.

  • The European Commission has been called upon to reconsider its decision and prioritize water resilience in its policy agenda.

The European Union has decided to postpone a major initiative to improve its resilience against droughts and floods, just at a time when southern Europe is facing serious water scarcity problems. This initiative, which was highlighted as a priority by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in September, has been unexpectedly excluded from the Commission's most recent agenda.

According to statements from the European Commission, the development of this initiative is still ongoing, although no specific timetable has been set for its presentation. The Commission has explained that the topics covered in its planning documents may change in response to current events, which may alter the agenda of its meetings.

The development of this initiative is still underway, although no specific timetable has been established for its presentation

This explanation, however, has not prevented the wave of criticism and concern that has arisen, as the initiative is seen as crucial to address the growing challenges of droughts and floods in Europe, and the decision is not understood given the current situation, such as that in Catalonia. "I am appalled that the von der Leyen Commission has taken the irresponsible decision to stop the water resilience initiative when intense floods and droughts are already drowning or parching parts of Europe at an immense cost to communities, farmers, our food supply and nature," said Claire Baffert, senior water policy officer at WWF's European Policy Office. "It makes absolutely no sense and can only be aimed at making political gains in the run-up to elections. I urge the European Commission to put water resilience back on the political agenda."

The relevance of this initiative is particularly high for Spain, a country severely affected by droughts. This was emphasized by the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, who announced that they were preparing the water resilience initiative, highlighting its "utmost importance". Furthermore, during the plenary session of the European Commission on February 8, the water and drought crisis in Europe was discussed, where Sinkevičius assured that the Water Resilience Initiative would introduce actions to ensure the availability and quality of water in Europe.

Experts and environmental organizations consider the postponement of the initiative as a setback in the fight against climate change and the protection of aquatic ecosystems, as the initiative was expected to send a strong message on the importance of water resilience and adaptation to climate change by the next EU administration. “Boosting Europe’s water resilience through healthy freshwater ecosystems is essential to providing water for our crops and livestock and ensuring our drinking water supply for the long-term. Why the European Commission is jeopardising something as essential as water resilience in the face of a climate emergency is unfathomable,” said Sergiy Moroz, director of water and biodiversity policy at the European Environmental Bureau, after the news broke. 

Postponement of the initiative as a setback in the fight against climate change and the protection of freshwater ecosystems

In this regard, Living Rivers Europe, a coalition of six NGOs (EEA, EEB, ERN, the Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International and WWF) calling for a new EU Climate and Water Resilience Act that prioritizes the restoration and protection of freshwater ecosystems, called on the European Commission to reconsider its decision and prioritize water resilience in its policy agenda, stressing that action at the EU level is crucial to reduce water-related risks and ensure a safer and more sustainable future for all affected sectors. "Such an unexpected move not only undermines the entire Green Deal but also puts Europe's water resilience at risk. We must take into account global repercussions where the international community has already recognized the importance of resilience in mitigating the impacts of climate change," said Andras Krolopp, Head of Biodiversity Policy for Europe at The Nature Conservancy. "If the EU fails to prioritize water resilience, it risks undermining its credibility in global negotiations and fora, thereby diminishing its ability to effectively address pressing environmental challenges."

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