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European Parliament and Council found common ground on groundwater directive

Publication date 18.10.2006 7.45
Press release -

The European Parliament and Council reached an agreement on the contents of the new Groundwater Directive. The most important issues discussed were the concept of deterioration of groundwater status and the management of pollution caused by nitrates, including measures preventing such pollution. Moreover, pesticides pollution and measures preventing such pollution were key issues in the final stages of the discussions.

The Finnish EU Presidency managed through informal discussions to reach provisional agreement on more than half of the 41 amendments proposed by the European Parliament. The prolonged trilogue discussions involving the European Commission, Parliament and Council continued until an agreement was finally reached at midnight by a Conciliation Committee meeting.

"I am very pleased with the final results," said the Chairman of the Council, Mr Jan-Erik Enestam, the Finnish Minister for the Environment. "The negotiations were very detailed, and the final agreement could only be reached after lengthy discussions. However, I firmly believe that we have achieved the best possible results, and that this new Directive will enhance the protection of groundwater and help to improve its status across the whole of Europe."

The European Parliament and the Council must still formally agree to the new compromise draft. This is expected to happen during the final stages of the Finnish Presidency, enabling the new Directive to come into force during the first half of 2007.

The new Groundwater Directive will lay down provisions for assessing the chemical status of groundwater, including definitions of a 'good status', and procedures for identifying significant and upward trends, including identification of starting points for trend reversal.

To define the good chemical status of groundwater, the Directive lays down quality standards for nitrates and pesticides, in accordance with other Community legislation. For other substances, Member States must set their own threshold values, taking into account the natural background levels of these substances. Member states must also ensure they have programmes of measures in place to prevent or limit discharges of pollutants into groundwater.


In September 2003, the Commission submitted proposals for a new Directive on Groundwater to the European Parliament and Council, on the basis of the Water Framework Directive. The new Directive would replace the 'old' Groundwater Directive (80/68/EC), which mainly aimed to prevent and limit discharges of pollutants and hazardous substances into groundwater.

The Council reached political agreement on the Commission's proposals during the Luxembourg Presidency in June 2005, and a common position was adopted on 23rd January 2006. During a second reading of the proposed draft directive on 13th June 2006, the Parliament adopted 41 amendments to the common position. The Council could not accept all of the amendments, so informal discussions have been held during the Finnish Presidency involving the Council, the Parliament and the Commission. It was agreed that these discussions would be concluded in the meeting of the Conciliation Committee scheduled for 17th October 2006.

For more information:

Ms. Tuija Talsi, Councellor, the Permanent Representation of Finland, tel. +32 476 762 428. Mr. Juhani Gustafsson, Senior Researcher, The Finnish Environment Institute, tel. +358 400 148 557