The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) continues its work under the banner of “Call for Blue Deal.” We wrote about this idea in Water Issues a few weeks ago. Indeed, the Blue Deal is supposed to be the water equivalent of the Green Deal. The EESC recognized the need to support activities related to improving access to clean water and sustainable management of water resources.

In mid-July, the EESC plenary adopted its first Blue Deal opinions. They concern in particular:

One can already see the directions in which Blue Deal activities will develop. Great emphasis is placed on water use efficiency in various sectors of the economy, as well as on financing issues.

Does Europe need a Blue Deal?

Water problems are widespread in Europe. The South is suffering from increasingly frequent droughts and their derivatives in the form of fires. In July, forests caught fire in Greece, including a holiday resort on the island of Rhodes. Floods haunt more regions. This year, Italy’s Emilia-Romagna went under water. In terms of improving water status, none of the EU member states has achieved the environmental goals under the Water Framework Directive.

Progress in developing Water Management Plans also shows that only two member states have completed the process. So we have problems in Europe with access to water, excess water, but also with the quality and management of the resource. Each country faces a different set of problems and challenges. In the near future, the Old Continent will face further issues, such as the increasingly apparent impact of climate change on the hydrological cycle and the need for water to produce clean hydrogen.

On the other hand, it must be made clear that the European Union’s policies to date, while revolutionary in their tenets, are unlikely to achieve the goals of 2000. Although much has changed, both in terms of water levels and flood protection, the new scale of the problems we face in Europe goes beyond those assumptions. On the reasons why by 2027. waters do not reach a good state can be written a lot, as the problem is complex. The fact remains, however, that the EU water policy has not had the intended effect.

It is clear, then, that there is great demand at the EU level for setting new directions for water management. The Blue Deal may thus provide a new impetus to take care of the waters. This is how the whole idea of “Call for Blue Deal” is presented by the EESC.

Does Poland need a Blue Deal?

Poland, like every EU country, has its problems. On the one hand, compared to European countries, we have some of the lowest water resources per capita. More than half of Poland’s land area is at risk of shortages, as of 2018. Droughts occur virtually every year. We wrote about whether we might run out of water in the first issue of Water Issues. Poland also has a quality problem. We regularly see red maps when water assessments are published. Not to mention, last year’s golden algae bloom related to the salinity of the Oder River. As a country, we still have a lot of work to do in areas such as water and wastewater management, retention and agricultural irrigation.

In short, Poland needs a Blue Deal. Like almost every EU country.

What opportunities can the Blue Deal give us?

In addition to water policy directions for Europe, the Blue Deal is a potential source of funding for water management activities. These measures are badly needed for Poland’s water sector, which has been underfunded for many years, and many related industries. It will be all the more important to secure funding as there are other big challenges ahead: those related to the digitization of the sector, the purification of water from pharmaceuticals, hormones or PFAS persistent pollutants. We also need to invest in retention and support agriculture to counter the effects of drought. Money is needed for all this. The new EU regulations will require significant changes and investment. Blue Deal can provide such financing for water management.

What does it take to get Blue Deal money into Poland?

Blue Deal is still at the stage of forming directions. Slowly, we know more and more about what areas and topics will be part of the Blue Deal. This early stage is advantageous for Poland in that we can ensure that our national priorities are taken into account from the very beginning. However, Poland is not the only country with water management needs and challenges, and not only our country will be interested in securing its interest. That is why it is so important to build a common internal position on water priorities and to support these topics as widely as possible. Only involvement from the early stages will give the issues of importance to Poland a chance to be considered and potentially funded.

For the sake of completeness, however, it should be noted that for the time being not much is known about how the Blue Deal will be financed. There may be funds specifically earmarked for this purpose, but such a solution is more likely in the long term. It is also possible to “tag” funds included in other programs, such as the Cohesion Policy or the Common Water Policy. In this case, therefore, there is no question of new funding from the EU budget. At this stage, we also know nothing about the conditions under which the funds will be available. This makes it all the more important to take an active role in shaping the Blue Deal.

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