Hungary to push water policy overhaul at EU helm

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Politicians from Hungarian governing party-in-waiting Fidesz said they would push for a revision of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in 2011 to help tackle water scarcity and drought. EURACTIV Hungary reports.

The centre-right party, which is widely expected to triumph in national elections later this month, plans to use its 2011 EU presidency to push for far-reaching changes to the directive.

The intention is to stop wasteful practices and tackle future droughts, Fidesz officials said.

On 31 March, the president of the environmental committee in Hungary's National Assembly, Andor Nagy, urged the government to prepare a strategy to tackle water scarcity by 2012 to put a stop to hugely wasteful trends in the country.

Hungary takes up the rotating EU presidency from January to June 2011. After winning 53% of the vote in the first round of national elections, Fidesz could win an absolute two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament in the second round later this month (EURACTIV 12/04/10).

Adopted in 2000, the WFD was established to streamline and improve water management and water quality policies in the EU. The European Commission has since proposed ways to increase water savings amid growing fears of shortages.

The Hungarian EU Presidency will not have a lot of time to rework the decade-old WFD, which aims to achieve "good quality of surface water and groundwater" by 2015.

Meanwhile, Hungary has been making steady progress in implementing the directive, establishing a Water Management Plan (WMP) at the end of 2009.

EU Danube strategy

Experts and politicians in Hungary have agreed that the European Danube Strategy (EDS) will play a key role during the Hungarian presidency in early 2011. As water will be one of the main priorities, the EU's regional development project will be particularly relevant.

Hungary's WMP highlighted the problems pollution is causing in the Danube area and stated that the quality of surface water in Hungary appears to be worse than in all the other countries in the catchment area.

An MEP belonging to the Fidesz party, Tamás Deutsch, has stressed that the Danube strategy can do a lot more than help improve water management in the region but cautioned that there are also risks.

The Commission recently stated that there would be no additional funding for the Danube Strategy, although the budget is co-decided by EU member states and the European Parliament.

According to Hungary's National Council for Sustainable Development (NFFT), the European Danube Strategy (EDS) is the right instrument to solve water management problems.

''The Council supports the endeavour according to which Hungary feels great responsibility and commitment towards the successful preparation of the strategy, with special regard to the circumstance that the adoption thereof in the European Council will expectedly take place in the first half of 2011, which may be an outstanding achievement of the Hungarian EU Presidency due at that time,’'' the NFFT said in a position paper on the EDS.

''The currently most important task of strategic importance in the field of water management of the countries sharing the Danube basin is the provision of the good ecological status of all surface and ground waters, in accordance with the Water Framework Directive, by 2015, and, if that is not possible, by 2021 or 2027," it continues. 

"In the river basin management plans the environmental objectives pertaining thereto were determined, and the action plans to achieve those were designed. In the establishment of the EDS, the execution of these action plans and by that the achievement of the stipulated environmental objectives shall be viewed as major strategic goals,'' the paper adds. 

The EU's Water Framework Directive (WFD) was adopted on 23 October 2000 to streamline the large body of water legislation into one overarching strategy.

One key element is the introduction of a water management model based on 'river basins', or geographical areas, rather than administrative or political boundaries.

In 2006 and early 2007, the European Commission carried out in-depth assessments of water scarcity and drought in the European Union. The Commission then presented a set of policy options to increase water savings in July 2007. It also highlighted the need to improve water efficiency in existing policies, such as agriculture.

  • 25 April 2010: Second round of national elections in Hungary.
  • Jan-Jun 2011: Hungary to hold rotating EU presidency.

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