On December 1, 2023. The European Commission has launched a series of open public consultations to evaluate the Nitrates Directive. Its importance continues to grow in the context of today’s environmental and sustainability challenges. The Nitrates Directive was introduced to protect waters from nitrate pollution from agricultural sources. These consultations are an extremely important part of evaluating and possibly revising existing regulations, as well as adapting them to current and future needs. As part of this process, the European Commission encourages all stakeholders to actively participate and express their opinions. These consultations, aim to gather the widest possible range of perspectives, ideas and experiences, which will allow a fuller understanding of the directive’s impact on various sectors and the environment. The online consultation will last until March 8, 2024.

Nitrate Directive

The Nitrates Directive, an important part of the European regulations contained in the Water Framework Directive, requires member countries to constantly monitor water quality and identify those areas from which pollutants are entering their waters (now or will in the future). This is especially important for reservoirs that are prone to eutrophication or may contain nitrates in concentrations exceeding 50 mg/L. Such areas are referred to as nitrate sensitive zones (NVZs). A review of the directive is necessary in the face of rapidly changing environmental, economic and social conditions.

Public consultation

The target audience for the consultation on the Nitrates Directive includes a broad spectrum of stakeholders and citizens who may be affected by issues related to nutrient losses in agriculture, as well as those involved in implementing the directive in the EU. Key stakeholders include authorities at various levels: national, regional and local. This group includes authorities responsible for agriculture, water management, environmental protection, climate, urban planning, public health and the economy. Important audiences also include farmers, entrepreneurs and professionals from various sectors such as agriculture, environment, water management, climate change, health, food, tourism or fisheries, as well as related trade associations.

These consultations are also relevant to European, international and multilateral organizations, including relevant EU agencies and regional maritime conventions. Stakeholders also include employers, trade unions, consumer organizations and environmental NGOs. Civil society bodies, academia and research institutes that focus on EU agricultural and environmental policy also play an important role.

Nitrate directive – what will be evaluated?

In the comprehensive evaluation process, the European Commission is focusing on a thorough examination of the timeliness and effectiveness of the Nitrates Directive in the context of contemporary challenges related to agriculture, food security and changing environmental and climate conditions. A key aspect of this analysis is to determine whether the directive is still effectively achieving its goals, helping agriculture to become sustainable and resilient to changing conditions. A crucial part of this evaluation focuses on how the Nitrates Directive supports farmers in adapting to new challenges, including increasing the resilience of their farms and introducing innovative agricultural practices. The Commission is paying particular attention to the directive’s ability to promote the effective recycling of nutrients from a variety of sources, including manure and slurry, which is crucial for sustainable agriculture.

The Commission also notes the potential simplification and reduction of administrative burdens and costs associated with implementing the directive, while seeking greater consistency with other EU legislation and taking into account advances in agricultural practices and technologies. It is also important to analyze the directive’s contribution to global commitments such as the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework, especially in the context of the goal of reducing nutrient losses by 50 percent. By 2030 on a global scale.

The evaluation process includes extensive consultation activities to ensure that the voices and interests of various sectors of society from across the European Union are properly heard and taken into account. This approach is intended to ensure that any proposals and potential changes reflect the real needs and challenges facing modern European agriculture and environmental management.

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