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Policy instruments for soil protection among the EU member states: A comparative analysis

Many factors threaten European Soils, and currently, all the Member States (MS) are introducing many types of soil protection measures. Erosion, pollution, sealing and decline of the organic matter are just some of the threats that affect one of the primary non-removable resources of the planet. Soils play a vital role in the biodiversity and are the provider of numerous Ecosystem Services that support human life on Earth. Following the withdrawal of the Soil Framework Directive proposal by the European Commission, we investigate how the different MS of the European Union (EU) address sustainable soil management under the pressures of different threats. The methodology used is based on a gap analysis applied to the instruments and/or policies adopted by the MS to contrast the various threats according to their specific level of intensity. The study presents for the first time a systematic review of the current EU policies covering all the regulatory instruments, the economic instruments, the information tools, the monitoring systems, and the research and innovation activities. The comparative analysis of the different approaches adopted by MS reveals the absence of a common EU strategy to address soil protection and the inefficacy of the subsidiary principle in the sustainable management of soil resources especially in the view of addressing the Sustainable Development Goals achieving the targets by 2030. Results show how the lack of a Soil Framework Directive has weakened the possibility to have strong coordination among the MS for soil protection. Each Country is adopting an autonomous legislative framework which reveals a huge dis-homogeneity and un-coherences among approaches.