EU ‘must get tough’ on soil protection

The European Union needs a robust soil protection policy to protect the environment and agricultural industry from problems such as pollution and land degradation.

That is one of the key demands of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) ahead of this year’s final meeting of the EU Environment Ministers Council.

The EEB is urging the Council to agree that the Soil Framework Directive maps out a common approach to identifying and dealing with contaminated sites.

Bureau chiefs also want the emphasis of the legislation to be on prevention rather than cleanup, and argued that it should require mandatory chemical analysis of sites.

In a letter to the Council, the EEB said it was pleased with progress on negotiating the dossier since Portugal took over the EU Presidency.

But the organisation said it was becoming increasingly worried that there was not enough support among the Council for important proposals agreed by the EU Commission.

John Hontelez, EEB secretary general, said: “Pollution, erosion, desertification, land degradation, land-take and sealing together affect soils in large parts of the EU, with negative impacts on agriculture, water quality and biodiversity.

“Many of these effects are directly linked to common pressures, so we need common answers.

“In many Member States, progress in environmental policy is dependent on explicit, targeted and timetabled EU legislation.

“We are glad that there is no longer opposition against the directive as such, but we call upon the Council not to weaken the content of the Commission’s proposal.”

The letter also raised concerns over aviation, calling for the industry to be included in the EU Emission Trading Scheme no later than 2010 – a year earlier than currently planned.

The EEB also wants the scheme to apply to all flights, not just those starting and ending in the EU.

Kate Martin

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