European Council adds water resilience to strategic agenda

water resilience
The meeting was chaired by Charles Michel, President of the European Council. Photo: European Union

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The European Council has added water resilience to the strategic agenda for 2024-2029. The leaders of the European Member States met the 27th of June in Brussels to discuss the strategic agenda for the next institutional cycle. It is now up to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission to put this agenda into action.

The strategic agenda concentrates on challenges like the war, the energy crisis, the deterioration of nature and climate change. During the meeting the need for water resilience could not be forgotten, as in central Europe complete areas were flooded. The strategic agenda states the following. ‘Our natural environment is facing increasing damage and disruption due to climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The fast development of new technologies brings opportunities and potential risks. We will strengthen our competitiveness and become the first climate-neutral continent, making a success of the climate and digital transitions, leaving no-one behind. A prosperous and competitive Europe will also strengthen water resilience across the Union.

Water Resilience Initiative

In February 2024 the European Commission took the Water Resilience Initiative off its agenda. The Water Resilience Initiative is an EU response to climate change driven droughts and flooding. It aims to ensure access to water for citizens, nature and the economy, while also tackling catastrophic flooding and water shortages. The news to ‘pause’ the initiative for water resilience has been met with disbelief and concern by many sectors. The reason why the European Commission is postponing the Water Resilience Initiative remains unclear.

Action is needed

At that time EurEau, the European Federation of National Associations of Water Services, said that it “was deeply concerned that the European Commission postponed the publication of the Water Resilience Initiative. And now their reaction to the inclusion of water resilience is reluctant. Oliver Loebel,  EurEau Secretary General said: “Member States put ‘water resilience’ on their strategic agenda, but do they mean it? We can only hope that Member States are willing to throw their weight behind strong action.”

Long term water strategy

According to EurEau the add-on was slipped into the text of the strategic agenda at the last moment. “This is showing that enthusiasm for it was limited. This reluctance is surprising, as well-functioning, resilient and competitive societies need safe access to sufficient quantities of unpolluted water resources and healthy drinking water. Without water resilience, there will be no food security, no striving industries, and no social cohesion. Europe’s water service providers support all efforts to make Europe a truly water-resilient continent. For this to happen, we need a long-term strategy as to how ‘traditional’ (drinking water, agriculture etc.) and new water uses (hydrogen, chip plants etc.) can be met while restoring biodiversity. And we need to eliminate the release of hazardous chemicals to the aquatic environment at the source. This includes a prompt and far-reaching ban of the forever chemicals PFAS. The Strategic Agenda completely ignores the interaction between the green transition as proposed in the Green Deal and a competitive, secure and resilient continent. And this is worrying”, concludes Loebel.  

Water Europe

The European voice and promoter of water-related innovation, research, and technology development Water Europe welcomed the blue priorities in the strategic agenda because they emphasize the vital role of water in enhancing European economic competitiveness. Water Europe has actively advocated during the last months for the recognition of the socio-economic value of water.

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