Main authors: Špela Železnikar, Matjaž Glavan, Sindre Langaas, Gerard Velthof, Susanne Wuijts, Susanne Klages, Claudia Heidecke, Marina Pintar
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Železnikar, S. et al. (2021) Evaluation report on barriers and issues in providing integrated scientific support for EU policy. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 7.1R 56 pp


Nowadays, society is challenged with the sustainable management of water resources. This includes implementing agricultural practices that make efficient use of water and safeguard water quality [107].

Assurance that water resources are allocated efficiently and equitably and achieve environmental, social and economic beneficial outcomes -including the conservation of ecosystems, should be the main responsibility of water managers and users and the scope of sustainable management of water resources in agriculture [108]. Agriculture can also deliver ecosystem disservices or undesirable effects that include groundwater depletion, habitat loss associated with agricultural development, the diversion of rivers and the potential contamination of surface waters with nitrates and pesticides [109].

The EU has a well-developed system of water protection legislation, the backbone of which is the WFD which protects water resources for human use and the environment. This directive is in-part a European Commission response to public concern over water pollution [99, 90]. Furthermore, the new CAP and Rural Development programme include cross compliance and other methods that will help ensure the quality and quantity of Europe’s freshwater systems. And also require MS to draw up RBMP.

The workshop debate pointed out issues in relation to nitrates which may not be necessarily bad since they are naturally occurring but pesticides are much more complex. Issues are also related to limited budged, for research and development, needed to achieve the targets of good drinking water for all EU population. Barriers for more efficient system at EU level are mostly connected to socio-cultural differences between member states countries and regions in Europe, reflecting value, education and policy system. All these influence the understanding of EU regulation and their transposition on local level. Reflection of relationship between science and policy in EU legislation opened discussion about public participation or “democracy” in science where public discussions and popular actions of politics can overlook or even change scientifically correct results to suit their agendas. Science as methodological process should be done independently, while policy is a democratic process. Research results should be made public and available for democratic policy making processes. Solutions for improvement call scientists to use language understandable by policy makers and to communicate and resolve with stakeholders in person.

Interviewees highlighted issues in connection to lack of field knowledge and that drinking water protection is local issue with local characteristics. These levees MS to decide on the process for addressing the issues. Nitrate directive does not have target date by which certain results have to be achieved, unlike the WFD. Very few MS set exact load reduction that needs to be achieved Implementation of the sustainable use of pesticides directive (SUPD) has been delayed in MS. There is a lot of legislation “under the implementation”, which does not need changes, but rather firm implemented by MS. Tools for that are available and only political will is needed to reach target goals. Expressed barriers are connected with lack of political will, scarce instruction on the legislation implementation process, lack of opportunities for science to be included in policy making. However, examples from MS show that each has their way of establishing links between environment and agriculture and science and policy making.

While EU research projects disseminations are not really followed through to EC, are service contract studies for DGs ongoing and available. Commission uses the results of these studies in the discussion with the MS, showing that there is a clear role of science in supporting the implementation EU legislation. Solution are clear as system at EU level can be improved, however much of this is a national implementation issue. A lot of work is possible to fulfil trough EU CAP, however clear indicators for the monitoring and evaluation of the CAP have to be defined. Goals of WFD should be much more reflected trough measures in RDP, to make sure that the costs are picked up by the CAP budged and by drinking water providers. Data bases used for agricultural subsidy payments could be used for implementation of environmental measures. Furthermore, some projects just focus on “their business” disregard whether the topic is on the political agenda of the EC or not, with the aim to “tick boxes” fulfilling the Grant Agreement obligations. One trend to make the research project more connected to “up to date” challenges is establishment of project clusters, aiming for longer-term the relationships/communication flows.   


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