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Withdrawal of the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive

The European Parliament adopted its first-reading opinion on the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive on 14 November 2007 (OJ C 282 E, 6.11.2008, p.281); the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee delivered their opinions on 13 February (OJ C 146, 30.6.2007, p. 34) and on 25 April 2007 (OJ C 168, 20.7.2007, p. 29) respectively. In Council, the proposal was repeatedly discussed but always ran into a blocking minority.

In October 2013 the Commission adopted the Communication on "Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT): Results and Next Steps"(COM(2013) 685 and its Annex) in which it noted that the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive had been pending for eight years during which time no effective action has resulted. The Commission would therefore examine carefully whether the objective of the proposal, to which the Commission remains committed, would be best served by maintaining the proposal or by withdrawing it, thus opening the way for an alternative initiative in the next mandate. This would have been judged on the feasibility of reaching adoption before the European Parliament elections of May 2014.

A possible way forward on soil protection at EU level was discussed over lunch during the Environment Council meeting under Greek Presidency on 3 March 2014 (see the background document prepared by the Presidency). The debate indicated that protecting soils remained an important objective for the Union, despite the fact that, in its present format, the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive could not be agreed by a qualified majority.

In light of the above, the Commission on 30 April 2014 took the decision to withdraw the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive. Such decision entered into force on 21 May 2014 upon publication on the Official Journal (see OJ C 153 of 21 May 2014 and corrigendum in OJ C 163 of 28 May 2014). In taking its decision, the Commission stated that it remains committed to the objective of the protection of soil and will examine options on how to best achieve this. Any further initiative in this respect will however have to be considered by the next college.

This decision should be seen in the context of the Seventh Environment Action Programme, which recognises that soil degradation is a serious challenge and that the Union and its Member States should reflect as soon as possible on how soil quality issues could be addressed using a targeted and proportionate risk-based approach within a binding legal framework.

The proposal for a Soil Framework Directive

The proposal for a Soil Framework Directive is subject to the co-decision procedure in accordance with Article 294 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This means that both the European Parliament and the Council have to agree on a common text on the basis of a proposal from the Commission and taking into account the opinions of the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee:

  • The Committee of the Regions has adopted its opinion on 13 February 2007 (Rapporteur: Mr Cor Lamers)
  • The European Economic and Social Committee has adopted its opinion on 25 April 2007 (Rapporteur Mr Staffan Nilsson)
  • The European Parliament has adopted its first reading opinion on 13 November 2007 (Rapporteur: Mrs Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines)

The texts of the above-mentioned documents are available in all official languages in the Pre-Lex database.

Council documents relative to the proposal are available here.