B5.4 EC Directives and Regulations


The effects of soil degradation can have transboundary consequences. For example, dams may be blocked by sediments, which eroded in another country farther upstream. Groundwater bodies flowing through bordering nations can also be polluted by contaminated sites in other countries.

According to Europa (the portal website for the European Union), at present, only nine EU Member States have specific legislation on soil protection (especially on contamination). The UK is one of these.

There are different factors in each Member State that affect their approach to contaminated land. Examples include:

  • In some countries a waste licence is needed to treat contaminated soil on site, making time constraints a problem for on site treatment technologies.
  • There are large differences in prioritisation of protection of groundwater, very much dependent on the degree of utilisation of groundwater, e.g. in countries like Norway, where only 15% of the groundwater resource is utilised for water supply, remediation is rarely initiated to protect the groundwater.
  • The economic framework differs, e. g. differences in landfill taxes in the countries.
  • The policy framework differs, e.g. some European countries (e.g. Portugal, Greece, and Hungary), have not implemented Risk Based Land Management (RBLM) for decision-making. There are large differences in economic framework, (i.e. for supporting innovative technology implementation, sustainable remediation solutions, or remediation of derelict land or brownfields).


Different EU policies do exist that contribute to soil protection, covering issues such as water, waste, chemicals, industrial pollution prevention, nature protection, pesticides, agriculture. However, these policies all have other aims and other scopes of action, they are not considered sufficient to ensure an adequate level of protection for all soil in Europe.

It was for this reason that the European Commission adopted a Soil Thematic Strategy (COM(2006) 231).

The strategy is one of seven Thematic Strategies that the Commission has presented. The other strategies cover air pollution, the marine environment, waste prevention and recycling, natural resources, the urban environment and pesticides.