The European Commission takes Spain before the European Justice for the "deficient" response to water pollution by livestock and agriculture. In other words, due to the "insufficient application of the European directive on nitrates", a matter for which Spain has been drawing attention for three years. "The aim of the European Green Deal is for the EU to achieve zero pollution, which will benefit public health, the environment and climate neutrality," says Brussels.
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According to the European standard on nitrates (directive 91/676 / CEE), "Member States must control their waters and identify those affected or likely to be affected by pollution produced by nitrates from agricultural sources", recalls the European Commission: "They are also obliged to qualify the areas whose runoff flows into these waters as zones vulnerable to nitrates and to establish adequate action programs to prevent and reduce pollution from this cause ".
And the Commission considers that, to date, the efforts made by the Spanish authorities have been unsatisfactory and insufficient, which is why it has decided to refer Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The directive aims to protect water quality throughout Europe by preventing contamination of ground and surface water from agricultural sources and promoting the use of good agricultural practices.
Excessive levels of nitrates can damage freshwater and the marine environment through a process known as eutrophication, by stimulating the overgrowth of algae that suffocate other life forms and kill fish in lakes and rivers.
"The removal of excess nitrates from drinking water is also a very expensive process," says Brussels: "The nitrates directive helps to achieve the objectives of the Water framework directive and it is one of the key instruments in the protection of waters against agricultural pressures ".
And that is what Spain is not doing well enough.
"Despite some limited progress," says the European Commission, "Spain has yet to adopt additional measures to avoid eutrophication throughout the country, as those established to date have failed to achieve the objectives of the directive. Furthermore, it should review and continue to designate areas vulnerable to nitrates in seven regions (Castilla y León, Extremadura, Galicia, Baleares, Canarias, Madrid and Comunidad Valenciana); include all the mandatory elements necessary in the action programs of five regions (Aragón, Castilla- La Mancha, Castilla y León, Extremadura and Madrid); and adopt additional measures in the four regions in which the established measures have been insufficient to achieve the objectives of the nitrates directive (Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León and Murcia).
The Community Executive, before the decision of this Thursday, had already sent a letter of formal notice to Spain in November 2018 and a reasoned opinion in June 2020 in which it pointed out the breach by Spain of the provisions of the directive on nitrates.