B5.5 The Soil Thematic Strategy


The Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection consists of a Communication from the Commission to the other European Institutions, a proposal for a framework Directive and an Impact Assessment.

The proposal for a framework Directive sets out common principles for protecting soils across the EU. Within this common framework, the EU Member States will be in a position to decide how best to protect soil and how use it in a sustainable way on their own territory.

It explains why further action is needed to ensure a high level of soil protection, sets the overall objective of the Strategy and explains what kind of measures must be taken. It established a ten-year work program for the European Commission.

The Explanatory Memorandum states that the proposed legislation aims at protecting soil and the preservation of the capacity of soil to perform its environmental, economic, social and cultural functions. It is based on the Precautionary Principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay. It has been based on an analysis of the potential benefits and costs of action (or lack of action) as well as the respect of the economic and social development of the Community as a whole and the balanced development of its regions.

The proposed Directive includes:

  • The establishment of a common framework to protect soil on the basis of the principles of preservation of soil functions, prevention of soil degradation, mitigation of its effects, restoration of degraded soils and integration in other sectoral policies.
  • The requirement to identify, describe and assess the impact of some sectoral policies on soil degradation processes with a view to protect soil functions.
  • The requirement for land users to take precautionary measures when their use of the soil can be expected to significantly hamper soil functions.
  • An approach to soil sealing to ensure a more rational use of land and to maintain as many soil functions as possible. [*]
  • Identification of areas at risk of erosion, organic matter decline, salinisation, compaction and landslides, and establishment of national programmes of measures.
  • Measures to limit the introduction of dangerous substances into the soil, to avoid accumulation in soil that would hamper soil functions and create a risk to human health and the environment.
  • Setting up an inventory of contaminated sites, a mechanism for funding the remediation of orphan sites, a soil status report, and establishing a national strategy for remediation of the contaminated sites identified. The definition of contaminated sites and a list of potentially soil polluting activities are established.


The proposal for a Soil Framework Directive (COM(2006) 232) was issued on 22 September 2006. At the EU Environment Council meeting on 20 December 2007, Environment Ministers were unable to reach political agreement on European Commission proposals for an EU Soil Framework Directive. It remains unclear if and when further work on these proposals will take place.

[*]         Soil sealing is the loss of soil resources due to the covering of land for housing, roads or other construction work, especially where urban population and the density of built structures is increasing and residual inner-city green zones are reduced. This causes many pressures on soil ecosystems as well as other environmental impacts. By interrupting the contact between the soil system (pedosphere) and other ecological compartments, including the biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere, sealing affects natural processes including the water cycle (infiltration, filtering of rainwater, groundwater renewal and evapotranspiration), geochemical cycles and energy transfers.