Protect European soils: open a new way to the European Soil Directive
TO His Excellency Matteo Renzi
Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Soil represents the outer reactive skin of the Earth and a finite resource that sustains all terrestrial life. Soil allows numerous essential ecosystem functions to operate that are vital for the economy, including food and biomass production, carbon regulation (sink), filtering and attenuation of pollutants, habitat creation for biodiversity, in addition to acting as a direct source of raw material, and infrastructure support. Furthermore, soil is one of the key components contributing to the rich European landscape and its cultural and heritage.
Despite their central importance, European soils continue to be seriously and in many cases permanently degraded. Costs associated with these soil degradation processes were evaluated by the European Commission, in 2006, to be on the order of about €38 billion per year (EU25) (see SEC (2006) 1165).
In September 2006, the European Commission adopted a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection (see COM(2006) 231) and a proposal for a Soil Framework Directive (see COM (2006) 232). The legislative proposal was aimed at ensuring a sustainable use of soil and protecting its ability to perform crucial environmental, socioeconomic and cultural functions.
The European Parliament adopted its first reading of the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive in November 2007 by a majority of about two thirds. Unfortunately a blocking minority has prevented progress so far in the Council, despite the support of more than 20 Member States. Sadly it appears that in the last eight years very little progress has been achieved with respect to the Soil European Policy and degradation of this finite resource continues in all European countries. Of further concern is that recently the European Commission - despite its commitment to achieve soil protection (see OJ C 163 of 28 May 2014) - has even withdrawn the Soil Framework Directive proposal from its agenda (see OJ C 153 of 21 May 2014).
Here we – scientists working in the field of soil and landscape - are asking you to give a clear strong political signal in order to revitalize the European Policy on Soil, and by doing this give a chance to ensure the protection and sustainable management of European soils and their pivotal value for the life of future generations, for food security and for protecting our precious landscapes.
The current Presidency of the Council of the European Union has a great opportunity to open a new way to a European Soil Directive also considering the proclamation by the UN General Assembly of the World Soil Day (5 December), the International Year of Soils 2015 and the feeding the planet theme of EXPO2015.
We are inviting you to work actively to ensure that the Soil Directive finally becomes an official regulatory instrument for all the EU citizens.