Blue Deal declaration officially announced. What is the Blue Deal all about?

Blue Deal

On October 26 this year. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has published a declaration calling for the introduction of a Blue Deal strategy in Europe. It aims to stem the worsening water crisis. The document is aimed primarily at European organizations and member states, and addresses the fact that many of the provisions previously adopted for the protection of freshwater resources and the marine environment have not yet been implemented.

Meaning of Blue Deal

In the introduction to the declaration, Oliver Röpke, president of the EESC, recalls that the United Nations already in 2010. recognized access to drinking water and sewage disposal systems as basic human rights. Meanwhile, there are still shortcomings in the European Union. The idea behind Blue Deal is to make water a priority that requires an independent, comprehensive strategy. According to the EESC, a change in the scale of perception is needed – water should not be part of the Green Deal policy, but an equivalent, synergistic strategy complementary to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN.

Blue Deal’s main intentions are to anticipate future needs and to protect and properly manage water resources in the short and long term. Water need not be Europe’s problem. It can become a source of new opportunities, a motivation for technological and social progress, the creation of new jobs and the development of business and competence. All of this can be done with respect for the environment.

What does the Blue Deal declaration contain?

The Blue Deal proposal is short and to the point. First and foremost, the EESC proposes to adopt 15 guiding principles that will form the basis for a coherent and comprehensive water policy. At the same time, an immediate and concrete response is needed in the face of mounting pressure and the challenges facing Europe. Therefore, the second part of the Blue Deal Declaration includes a list of 21 measures that the EESC believes should be included in the emerging legislation. It is crucial that their implementation be closely monitored during the 2024-2029 period.

Blue Deal guiding principles

The first and basic principle advocated by the EESC in its declaration is that the new European water policy should be aligned with all other EU policies. All its provisions and actions should be based on up-to-date, precise, transparent, reliable and comparable information. The role of member states is to ensure easy access. Blue Deal focuses on the protection and restoration of ecosystems, wetlands and biodiversity. At the same time, the European Union should, in accordance with the 20th principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights, adopt an approach based on the human right to water and access to sanitation as basic services. Access to a healthy environment should also be considered a fundamental human right.

Water and sewer services should be governed by the principles of sustainability, fairness and high quality while being affordable. If a water crisis were to occur, the needs of EU citizens should be prioritized. The responsibility for the new water management is also placed on the users. Blue Deal envisions motivating them to use and consume water sustainably. One of the key issues is the need to support new technologies to increase the efficiency of water use, use closed-loop circuits and reduce pollution levels. In particular, the issue of increasing water consumption and losses in agriculture, industry and households should be emphasized. The European Union must prepare a strategic plan to enable adequate and sustainable food production in the face of water shortages.

The Blue Deal also considers the critical importance of water in industrial strategies. Operators should be guaranteed the right to use water resources, but based on the DNSH principle. A sectoral approach that takes into account the different needs of each industry, as well as the training of appropriately specialized personnel, is indicated as important. In the context of the financial plan, the need for fair and transparent pricing, taking into account the principle of full cost recovery, was declared. It also calls for a river basin area approach that integrates all stakeholders, including across national borders.

Proposed institutional activities

Blue Deal, in the context of the most urgent tasks, indicates the need to adopt guidelines for monitoring access to water and sanitation. The European Commission and the EESC would jointly launch a platform to exchange good practices and set standards for water quality and use in agriculture and industry. At the same time, it urgently calls for the development of systems for collecting information on water resources, access to water and sanitation, the state of infrastructure, surface and groundwater abstraction, and water consumption in individual processes. Each member state should conduct an analysis of its infrastructure and water resources as soon as possible, necessary to estimate investment needs. At the same time, it is recommended that national legislation include mechanisms for mandatory water retention.

The Blue Deal assumes that Europe’s industrial strategy will be revised over the next two years, with particular emphasis on those using the largest amounts of water. The establishment of Knowledge and Innovation Communities for water is also to be accelerated. At the European level, the creation of a Blue Transformation Fund is envisioned, which will pool public resources and launch innovative ways to finance projects in infrastructure construction and management activities, research and development of water-efficient technologies. The allocation of European funds should be based on the criterion of sustainable water use. The Blue Deal also plans to appoint a new EU commissioner who would be responsible for water issues. An international European Water Center is to be established to support the Union’s member states and neighbors.

Blue Deal in practice

Among the measures scheduled for urgent implementation were also very specific steps, in particular:

  • Establish a consistent approach to water pricing, taking into account the “polluter pays” principle and incentives for more sustainable consumption;
  • Conduct public awareness campaigns on the value of water in all member countries;
  • Introducing a water label on products (analogous to an energy label);
  • Implementation of an incentive system for the use of closed circuits;
  • Implementation of the UN-drafted Treaty on the Protection of Biodiversity in International Waters.

The Blue Deal also provides for cooperation in technology, infrastructure and knowledge with countries outside the EU and the creation of strategic economic partnerships for water.

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