EFA expects further pressure from the EU to protect the Doñana National Park in Andalucía

This story reveals that the EU’s powers to enforce its own laws are slow and insufficient and that the Commission should have the competence to negotiate directly with the regional government

EFA expresses its grave concern at the repeated attempts by the PP and Vox in the Andalucian Parliament to drive through a law that will cause enormous environmental damage to the Doñana National Park in Andalucía – a UNESCO World Heritage site that boasts a unique level of biodiversity. This law is in clear violation of the EU law and the existing judgements of the European Court of Justice, which obliged Spain to adopt all necessary measures to protect the ecosystems in the area. Under EU Directive 2001/42, all projects likely to have an environmental impact must be preceded by an evaluation prior to their construction. This has clearly not been the case for the illegal wells, and the proposed law seeks to legitimise them without any evaluation having taken place.

EFA welcomes that the European Commission has once again intervened in the debate to demand an explanation and to warn the Government of Andalucía that it will pursue further legal measures – including financial sanctions – if it pushes ahead with the law as planned. It is very welcome that the European Commission has taken such a strong stance. But ultimately, this story reveals that the EU’s powers to enforce its own laws are slow and insufficient. The Commission should have the competence to negotiate directly with the regional government. Now, while the politicians exchange letters, Doñana is turning into a desert.

An illegally overexploited national park

The national park – famous for its wetlands – has been suffering from the overexploitation of illegal wells for decades. These wells, used for agricultural purposes in the county of Huelva, also contaminate the precious wetlands by introducing heavy metals, fertilisers and pesticides.

Far from taking action to address this intolerable situation by shutting down illegal farms and wells, last year the Government of Andalucía proposed a law that would regularise and legalise the water extraction infrastructure in the park: a plan that would represent an acceptance that the illegal activities that have already caused so much damage can continue, virtually guaranteeing that the situation will decline further.

At the time, EFA wrote to the European Commission on behalf of its member party, Andalucía por Sí, to highlight the issue and demand that it step in to protect EU Directives relating to water management and environmental impact. Eventually, the plan was dropped. Now, the Government is trying again, and is attempting to rush the law through the Parliament using an urgent procedure. EFA condemns this undemocratic move.

EFA demands an independent investigation to assess the real threat to the ecosystems of the Doñana National Park, to develop a plan against desertification and for a new model of agricultural management – one that respects EU environmental law while protecting the region’s economic activity, and does not reward illegal activity. At the same time, the EU should have real power to enforce its laws quickly and clearly, including a tool of direct dialogue with regional governments.