The consequences of the European Soil Framework Directive for Dutch policy
The European Commission has made a proposal for a Framework Directive for soil protection. Many basic principles in this Directive link up with Dutch soil policy. The broad framework of the Directive offers flexibility, but also leads to uncertainty about its possible effect in concrete situations in practice involving soil sealing, loss of organic matter and salinization caused by sea level rise.
European Soil Directive offers the Netherlands policy flexibility and obligations
The Commission's proposal
The Directive establishes a European framework for the protection of the soil with the aim of maintaining the capacity of the soil to fulfil ecological, economic, social and cultural functions. Member States are obligated to take measures to reduce seven large-scale threats to European soils: pollution, erosion, loss of organic matter, compaction, salinization, sealing and earthquakes. In addition, the Directive calls for Member States to include care for the soil in their policy in a large number of sectors. In many EU countries, the Directive provides a framework for the introduction of soil policy. However, the Netherlands has a 25-year soil policy tradition.
Soil problems and soil protection in the Netherlands
The intensive use of the soil in the Netherlands, certainly in the past, has not always been sustainable. Due to policy, this situation has changed: the remediation of local soil contamination is progressing, and the diffuse soil contamination in agricultural areas and nature areas is steadily decreasing. In the Netherlands, the problem of salinization is manageable for the time being, erosion takes place only on a small scale and soil compaction is still a topic for further research. But the Directive also refers to two soil problems which Dutch policy does not address directly: the loss of organic matter from soils, which takes place especially in peat soil areas in the Netherlands, and the increased soil sealing caused by building and paving.
The consequences of the Soil Framework Directive for the Netherlands
The Directive states that the protection level can depend on the function of the soil and can be determined by local authorities. This is compatible with the basic principles of Dutch policy. The Directive describes, among other things, how the approach to soil contamination should be organized in the Member States. This description largely links up with the soil remediation practice in the Netherlands and offers opportunities to export Dutch expertise in this area.
The Directive contains a number of points of attention for the Netherlands. Essentially, the effect of the Directive is broader and potentially more obligatory than Dutch soil policy. This applies, for example, to the limitation of the effects of soil sealing caused by construction and paving. In addition, peat soils must very probably be identified as a risk area. In peat soil areas, measures must therefore be taken to limit the loss of organic matter. In addition, the Directive contains many general points of departure. These provide a great deal of policy flexibility, but can also be interpreted differently by local authorities. Third parties can then appeal to the courts for an unequivocal interpretation of the obligations from the Directive. This could lead to a more uniform application and a limitation of policy flexibility.
The broad framework of the Directive offers flexibility, but there is also a great deal of uncertainty about its possible effects in concrete situations in practice. The Netherlands can request clarification of these issues from the Commission.
|Author(s)||Wesselink LG ; Notenboom JGM ; Tiktak A|