Committee of the Regions demands Blue Deal for Europe to combat water shortages, droughts and floods

The next European Commission needs to present an ambitious and cross-sectoral European Water Strategy, say cities and regions

Against recurring floods, droughts, pollution and other water-related threats, EU regions and cities urge the European Commission to make water a strategic priority for its next mandate 2024-2029, as well as to appoint an EU Commissioner responsible for the water dossier.

Local and regional leaders, gathered at the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), warn that prolonged and widespread mismanagement of water resources and worsening climate change are affecting the availability of drinking water, sanitation and agriculture and threatening EU food security, energy production and industry.

Water is a fundamental resource for life and all economic activities. However, more than a quarter of the EU's territory is currently under drought warning.

Water shortages are already forcing many local and regional authorities to declare drought emergencies, fueling tensions in local communities and cross-border regions.

With two opinions adopted at the plenary session on 20 June, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) calls on the next European Commission to present an ambitious European Water Strategy that restores the water cycle and integrates water-related objectives across all European sectoral policies. with a strong emphasis on multi-level water governance and transboundary cooperation, especially in river basins.

Frenchman André Viola (FR/PES), member of the Aude Departmental Council and rapporteur of the opinion "Towards resilient water management to combat the climate crisis within the framework of an EU Blue Agreement", highlights that "climate change is worsening floods and droughts and reducing water quality, putting people's health and living environment at increasing risk».

“To ensure our future well-being, all levels of government need better coordination between sectors. implement concrete and resilient solutions and inspire others», adds the French member of the CoR.

For his part, Belgian Karl Vanlouwe (BE/EA), member of the Flemish Parliament and rapporteur of the opinion on the “Creation of an EU Blue Deal from the perspective of Agriculture and Rural Development in all EU regions”, argued that « Minister Zuhal Demir's Flemish Blue Agreement was praised internationally by experts and policymakers. It is therefore time to share and implement best practices from Flanders, but also from the entire EU, investing in innovation and cooperation beyond national borders and regions».

Under the CoR proposal, an EU Commissioner responsible for water should oversee the cross-sectoral strategy, which should also provide more financial support to subnational governments and water actors, with better coordination of EU and other funds. financing instruments.

Highlighting that the future of agriculture and food security largely depends on the availability of water, regions and cities emphasize the need to reinforce sustainable water practices in the Common Agricultural Policy.

Your budget should continue to allocate funds for infrastructure and water management and support the transition to more water-efficient agricultural techniques.

This means prioritizing nature-based solutions, such as restoring natural floodplains, and supporting innovative and sustainable agricultural practices that include crop rotation, soil protection and precision irrigation.

The CoR also recommends the adoption of a water efficiency principle to promote the effective reuse and saving of water for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes, and combat pollution at source through the effective application of the 'polluter pays' principle.

It also highlights the importance of soil health for water retention and filtration and considers that this should be a fundamental pillar of the Soil Monitoring Law.