• Clean water is a vital, important natural resource, demanding careful management. It is indispensable for life and a requirement for virtually all economic activities, including the production of food, energy and industrial outputs. The availability of clean water in sufficient quantities is not only a prerequisite for human health and well-being but also essential for the ecosystems.

    The EU has developed a comprehensive water policy that has gradually shifted from addressing mainly health concerns to the environmental impacts of major water-using sectors. With the adoption of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in 2000, water policy made a step change taking an integrated approach to water management, on the basis of the concept of “river basin management”, aimed at achieving good status of all EU waters by 2015. The 2007 Floods Directive and the 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive provided further legislative building blocks in this integrated approach. They were also completed by the Strategy on Water Scarcity and Drought (2007) and, in 2009, by the White Paper on Adaptation to Climate Change.

    However, pollution of water resources, degradation of hydro-morphology, over-abstraction, decline in soil organic matter and other problems are still present and have detrimental impacts on freshwater ecosystems and on economic activities. Furthermore, demographic evolution, land use change and economic development are projected to increase pollution and water shortages. This is expected to be exacerbated by climate change, particularly in the Mediterranean, at the same time increasing the intensity and frequency of floods in many parts of Europe. All these, make it increasingly difficult to achieve the WFD objective of good water status for all EU waters by 2015.

    With a view to respond to the above challenges and ensure the achievement of EU water policy objectives, the European Commission is planning to present by the end of 2012, a “Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources”. Its long-term aim is to ensure sufficient availability of good quality water for sustainable and equitable water use, in line with the WFD objective. Ιt is closely related to the Europe 2020 Strategy and will be the water milestone on the Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe.

    Τhe Blueprint will synthesise policy recommendations building on four on-going assessments:

    • The assessment of the River Basin Management Plans.
    • The review of the EU action on Water Scarcity and Drought.
    • The assessment of the vulnerability of water resources to climate change and other man-made pressures.
    • The Fitness Check, which addresses the whole EU water policy.

    The release of the Blueprint is expected around mid-November 2012. The Cyprus Presidency aims to bring the Blueprint policy options to the Informal Environment Council, which will be held in Nicosia on the 7th and 8th of July 2012. Τhe Presidency is also planning to co-organise a Conference in Cyprus, together with the European Commission, with the aim to present the main outcomes and recommendations of the Blueprint. The Conference will take place in Nicosia on the 26th and 27th of November, 2012  organised back-to-back with the Informal Meeting of the EU Water and Marine Directors, scheduled to take place in Limassol between the 27th and 29th of November, 2012.

    The ultimate objective is to present the December Environment Council with a proposal for Conclusions on the Blueprint and thus assist in its follow up.

  • Achieving sustainable development on a global level is currently the greatest challenge humanity is faced with. Sustainable development is defined as “the development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the options and abilities of the future generations to meet theirs”.

    The first proposal for a Sustainable Development Strategy, to act as the environmental pillar to complete the social and economic pillars set out in the Lisbon Strategy, was put forward by the Commission in 2001. The final version of the European Sustainable Development Strategy (EUSDS) was adopted at a meeting of the European Council in Göteborg, also in 2001.

    Through a broad public consultation process, the European Commission completed the Reviewed European Sustainable Development Strategy, adopted by the European Council in June, 2006. This review became necessary, because of negative development trends; the poor results of European economies; new global commitments to sustainable development (e.g. Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, 2002); new security threats; and the necessity for the adoption of national strategies for sustainable development by the Member States.

    The conclusions of the Göteborg European Council which adopted the EUSDS, made specific reference to the 6th Environmental Action Programme (6th EAP),  noting that the EUSDS objectives were to be met based on, inter alia, the measures set out in the 6th EAP. 

    Environment Action Programmes (EAPs) have guided the evolution of the EU’s environment policy since the early seventies. EAPs are adopted by Decisions that set out the framework for environmental policy-making in the EU for a given period and outline actions that need to be taken to achieve the objectives laid down.

    The 6th EAP was adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in 2002 with a ten year time- span (2002- 2012).

    Actually, the EUSDS and the 6th EAP were developed more or less in parallel. They are linked not merely by the reference made in the original EUSDS, but also by the role they play in relation to the Lisbon Strategy: they have both acted as a means to balance the economic and social objectives of this Strategy. The 6th EAP sets priorities for the environmental dimension of the EUSDS, which in turn completes the economic and social objectives of the Lisbon Strategy with an environmental dimension.

    Although the 6th EAP and the EUSDS have different perspectives and serve different functions, they are complementary and each adds value to the aims of the other. While there is a strong overlap between the environmental objectives and aims of the EUSDS and the 6th EAP, the latter  is more comprehensive, specific and detailed and provides concrete governance approaches and tools for framing new environmental policy action, such as the Thematic Strategies. The seven thematic strategies of the 6th EAP - air, pesticides, waste prevention and recycling, natural resources, soil, marine environment, urban environment – were developed in order to strengthen policy integration and improve the knowledge base.

    The Environment Council adopted (December 2010, October 2011) conclusions on the 6th EAP and on its possible successor and requested the European Commission to present its proposal for a 7th EAP.

    The Commission has already launched an on-line public consultation in preparation of the expected proposal. The consultation ran until the 1st of June, 2012.

    The new Programme is planned to be presented in November, 2012. The 7th EAP will be based, inter alia, on the outcome of the final assessment of the 6th EAP; the public consultation; discussions at the Working Party for the Environment; Presidency conclusions from the April Informal Environment Council; and new conclusions planned for June’s Council.

    The Programme may also be influenced by the outcome of the Rio+20 process (the Conference on Sustainable Development to be held next June in Rio de Janeiro).

    The 7th EAP is expected to contribute to the EU objectives for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy of the Europe 2020 Strategy, taking into account one of its flagship initiatives, that on “Resource Efficiency”. The Programme will aim to set targets for 2020, propose a vision for 2050 and deal with priority key challenges.

    During the second semester of 2012, the Cyprus Presidency will do whatever will be needed to move the proposal forward, when submitted.