Recent debate in the news has pointed the finger at EU legislation as responsible for the devastating floods affecting homeowners and farmers throughout the country. The EU has issued the following statement:
With regard to the widespread flooding in Ireland, the European Commission would like to clarify the following points:
Any suggestion that EU environmental rules are somehow to blame for the recent severe flooding in Ireland is completely without foundation.
· EU law does not ban dredging. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive do not include detailed rules on how Member States manage their water courses. That is decided by the Member States themselves.
· The Irish Government does not need to notify the European Commission about plans to dredge rivers as there is no such obligation in EU legislation.
· EU Nature Directives (Birds and Habitats) do not prevent measures being taken to protect lives and property. In particular they provide for situations of ‘over-riding public interest’ to permit activities that might damage a Natura 2000 site but which are necessary for human welfare. The Directives do however require an assessment of the options available before a conclusion is reached that such damage is unavoidable. (more below)
· Dredging is not always the solution for flooding. It may help to sort out a local problem but it may also transport the problem downstream, sometimes from rural to urban areas where the damage on properties and economic activities can be much higher. Therefore the basin-wide approach included in EU policies is essential to find effective and long-term solutions.