Spain faces EU court over water policies

Spain's water management land them in court

Flags of Spain and the EU. Credit: Rob Wilson/

European law-makers are taking Spain to court along with several other member states for not adhering to EU water directives.

In a significant move, the European Commission has escalated its concerns to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), challenging Spain, among other nations, for not adhering to essential water management directives.

This legal action, which was first announced in February 2023, targets Spain alongside Bulgaria, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, and Slovakia.

These countries have been under scrutiny for not updating their water and flood risk management plans, a critical step mandated by the European Union’s water and flood directives.

Directive delays and legal actions

The European Commission’s decision to proceed to court stems from the countries’ incomplete submissions related to their hydrological and flood risk management strategies.

Spain, Malta, and Portugal, in particular, have failed to fully report on their third basin hydrological plan and their second flood risk management plan.

These plans are crucial for maintaining the health of Europe’s water bodies, aiming to mitigate pollution and balance the needs of human and wildlife populations.

Important water framework directive

The Water Framework Directive is a cornerstone of the European Green Deal, seeking to ensure the qualitative and quantitative well-being of European aquatic ecosystems.

It sets out a comprehensive approach to reduce pollution and manage water resources sustainably.

Member states are required to regularly update their river basin management plans, which include measures to ensure the good condition of all water bodies.

Compliance and sustainability

The legal steps taken by the European Commission highlight the urgency of complying with environmental directives to achieve broader climate and pollution reduction goals.

The failure of Spain and the other nations to meet their obligations not only risks the health of Europe’s water systems but also demonstrates the challenges in aligning national practices with EU-wide environmental standards.

As the case progresses, it will be critical to monitor how these countries respond and adapt their policies to meet the EU’s ambitious environmental objectives.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • John Lightfoot

      09 February 2024 • 13:07

      Funny how the wettest countries of the EU are deciding the rules and regulations for the driest countries.

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