EU Soil Policy

Detailed information on EU Soil Policy can be found on an official and dedicated website maintained by the European Commission DG Environment. Some of its contents is replicated under "background information". In December 2007, the Council rejected the Commission's proposal for a Soil Framework Directive, of which also an account is given below.

'The implementation of the Soil Thematic Strategy and ongoing activities', COM(2012) 46 (13 February 2012)

Some five years after the adoption of the Soil Thematic Strategy, on 13 February 2012 the European Commission published a policy report on the implementation of the Strategy and ongoing activities (COM(2012) 46).

The report provides an overview of the actions undertaken by the European Commission to implement the four pillars of the Strategy, namely awareness raising, research, integration, and legislation. It underlines that at the March 2010 Environment Council a minority of Member States blocked further progress on the proposed Soil Framework Directive and that the proposal remains on the Council's table. It also presents current soil degradation trends both in Europe and globally, as well as future challenges to ensure protection. 

The report invites the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions to submit their views on it in order to protect European soils, while at the same time ensuring their sustainable use.

2842nd Council meeting ENVIRONMENT (Brussels, 20 December 2007)

In spite of various attempts by the Presidency to present compromise proposals in order to meet delegations' concerns, it was not possible, at this stage, to attain the qualified majority needed to reach political agreement on a draft directive establishing a framework for the protection of soil. Germany, France, Netherlands Austria and United Kingdom could not accept the text of the proposed Directive.

  • Public Debate of the 2842nd Environment Council (Proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for the protection of soil)
  • Press Release of the 2842nd Environment Council (Proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for the protection of soil)

The Soil Framework Directive is intended to set common principles and objectives at EU level, and would require Member States to adopt a systematic approach to identifying and combating soil degradation. The failure to adopt the directive was largely due to concerns about subsidiarity, with some Member States maintaining that soil was not a matter to be negotiated at the European level. Others felt that the cost of the directive would be too high, and that the burden of implementation would be too heavy.

Background Information: A strategy to keep Europe's soils robust and healthy

The Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection consists of a Communication from the Commission to the other European Institutions, a proposal for a framework Directive (a European law), and an Impact Assessment.

The Communication (COM(2006) 231) sets the frame. It explains why further action is needed to ensure a high level of soil protection, sets the overall objective of the Strategy and explains what kind of measures must be taken. It establishes a ten-year work program for the European Commission.

The proposal for a framework Directive (COM(2006) 232) sets out common principles for protecting soils across the EU. Within this common framework, the EU Member States will be in a position to decide how best to protect soil and how use it in a sustainable way on their own territory.

The Impact Assessment (SEC (2006) 1165 and SEC(2006) 620) contains an analysis of the economic, social and environmental impacts of the different options that were considered in the preparatory phase of the strategy and of the measures finally retained by the Commission.


Various Studies

Evaluation of soil protection aspects in certain programmes of measures adopted by Member States

A study of 2007 by the European Commission. The objective of this study was two fold. On one side, to perform an analysis of the River Basin Districts characterisations, under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), to assess to what extent soil degradation has been identified as a pressure on the water bodies and as an obstacle to achieve good water quality. On the other side, the study identifies, describes and evaluates the measures taken by the Member States of the European Union (excepted Bulgaria and Romania ) under Cross Compliance (CC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that directly or indirectly contribute to the mitigation of the soil threats identified in the Soil Thematic Strategy.


Interesting Newsletters

(May 2009) Science for Environment Policy News Alert dedicated to Soil: Healthy soils for a healthy planet, Alpine soils may release carbon following climate change, The effects of future land use change on EU soil carbon stocks, Urban soils: how can we preserve their carbon and nitrogen sink? , Soil management: changes to crop rotations reduce carbon emissions, Deep ploughing reduces diversity and number of earthworms, Grassy field margins enhance soil biodiversity 

More information (News, Public Events, Studies and Publications)  from DG ENV can be found in the following Link