Implementing the European Water Framework Directive in Greece

An integrated socio-economic approach and remaining obstacles

Authored by: Phoebe Koundouri , Osiel González Dávila

Routledge Handbook of Water Economics and Institutions

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415728560
eBook ISBN: 9781315851624
Adobe ISBN: 9781317916253


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The purpose of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is to establish a common framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater in order to prevent further deterioration and to enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems. Hence, achieving “good status” for all waters by 2015 is one of its key objectives (EC 2000). Each Member State is responsible for the implementation of this directive (adoption of implementing measures before a specified deadline, conformity and correct application) within its own legal system. Three main steps for the implementation of the WFD can be identified: 1) setting of ecological standards, 2) identification of anthropogenic pressures and 3) adoption of corrective measures. However, the implementation of the WFD in Greece has faced several challenges that range from technical problems to complex institutional issues. The Commission of the European Communities is responsible for ensuring that EU law is properly applied. Thus, if a Member State fails to comply with EU law, the Commission has powers of its own to try to bring the infringement to an end and, where necessary, may refer the case to the European Court of Justice. The European Commission has referred Greece to the EU Court of Justice a number of times for failing to take measures to guarantee that different water-related directives are correctly applied. In order to understand the requirements and challenges in implementation of the WFD in Greece the evolution of the different water-related directives and regulations will be analysed in this chapter. Then, we will move on to describe the situation of the water sector in Greece. In the context of a legal action of “Non-Conformity” started by the EC against Greece (case C-264/07), the reasons for not catching up fast enough with the implementation of the WFD will be outlined. The following issues will also be discussed: a) a methodology that enables rapid assessment of the status quo water situation in each Greek catchment and b) the implementation of this methodology on each of the fourteen Greek river basin districts (RBDs) and related outcomes. As will be explained in the following sections, it is evident that reforms in the current pricing policy are required in order for the water bodies to reach good ecological status and to ensure full recovery of the cost of water services. In general, it can be expected that Southern European countries with weak institutional structure and limited financial resources will face further difficulties during the implementation of the WFD.

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