Implementation Performance

In spring 2007, the European Commission published an Implementation Report (brief summary) providing background information (in accordance with Article 18 WFD) on the first stage of the implementation progress of the WFD made by the EU Member States. This report is based on on the summary reports from the Member States and aims at informing both EU institutions and the public about the ongoing implementation performance. It assessed the compliance and checked the performance of each country with regard to the first three reporting steps due by the end of 2004 (see time schedule), and evaluated the overall reporting performance:

The implementation report represents a valuable feedback document for the Member States, and focuses attention to the preparation of the river basin management plans, the drafts of which are due by the end of 2008. Upon publication of this report, issues of concern have since then been addressed both through the CIS as well as bilaterally. The next update of this report by the Commission is not due until 2012, when the 'first comprehensive implementation report' is to be delivered. However, in the meantime, the Water Information System for Europe (WISE) is used for regular updates regarding the ongoing implementation progress.

This section summarizes the findings of the report in the chronological order of the reporting steps and tries to explore possible reasons for noncompliance with the time schedule or inadequate reports. While most Member States have been able to fulfil almost all of their reporting obligations in time, only two countries - Italy and Greece - submitted their reports with serious delays, it turned out that this indeed said nothing about the quality of the reports. However, handing in reports in time is no clear indication that sufficient measures have been taken 'on the ground' (see Issues & Critique).


Transposition into national legislation

Of the core 15 European Member States (EU-15), only few transposed the WFD into their national legislation by the required deadline, which was December 2003. Consequently, the Commission launched eleven infringement cases and the Court of Justice ruled against five Member States (Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Italy, Portugal) for not communicating transposition of the WFD. As for the new Member states (Eu-12) who joined the EU in May 2004 (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and January 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania), their deadline for transposition was their respective day of accession - which was kept by all of them.

The reasons for the considerable performance gap between old and new EU members regarding the timely are manifold, the most straightforward being that the EU-12 had more time for transposition. Furthermore, they would have been highly motivated to join the EU and would try to avoid anything that could possibly jeopardize their accession and access to the highly beneficial common market. Also, their performance would have most certainly been closely monitored and, if necessary, political pressures excerted, in order to ensure compliance with EU legislation and policies. The reasons for poor performance of the EU-15 seem less obvious, but are likey to be found in the lack of political will and, following from that, inadequate funding.

The implementation report further states that the quality of legal transposition has been poor, with as much as 19 Member States having serious shortcomings with regard to Articles 4, 9, and 14 of the WFD. Article 4 lays down the environmental objectives, Article 9 deals with recovery of costs for water services and Article 14 concerns public information and consultation, and thus represent core elements of the WFD. Almost all of the Member States failed to transpose the directive in full conformity.


River basin districts and competent authorities

The requirement to set up river basin districts and to designate competent authorities by th end of 2003 have been fulfilled by most Member States; nine infringement cases were launched by the Commission, of which all but one have been resolved. According to the implementation report, while adequate administrative arrangements that ensure the full implementation of river basin management schemes, actual performance will only become evident over the next years. Nonetheless, the report states that coordination and cooperation arrangements between different authorities within the Member State appear vague and often unclear.


Environmental and economic analysis

Apart from two Member States, who submitted incomplete reports with delay, all other EU countries have carried out an environmental assessment of all human-induced impacts as well as an economic analysis of water uses and cost-recovery levels. While this has resulted in an unprecedented EU-wide information base information base, the quality of the reports and the level of detail vary significantly. Data gaps have been detected in all reports, which need to be filled in order to provide a solid basis for the river basin management plans. There are also some reports that have not met the minimum requirements of the WFD, the economic analysis often being the weakest component. Many countries seemed to have difficulties identifying water services and uses, and the realistic assessment of the level of cost-recovery (for more details, see the long version of the implementation report: Commission Staff Working Document).


Reporting performance

Reports of the WFD implementation in each Member State are an important means to ensure performance and compliance with EU legislation and help to communicate intermediate results to the public, thus being integral part of the participartory approach involving stakeholders at all levels. Improving clarity and completeness of reports are essential to foster communication of results to the public; according to the report, there is still considerable room for improvement.


Recommendations to Member States

Based on the reports received from the Member States and their subsequent analysis, the Commission has highlighted several areas that need to be focused on in order to complete first river basin management plans by December 2009:


Current issues and critique

This section is being updated and will be available soon ...