In Piet Verdonschot’s view, the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), introduced in 2000, is one of the most advanced directives the EU has ever produced. Verdonschot was involved in a project to specify the ecological criteria that the various types of running surface water types would have to meet, which was one of Alterra’s first European projects
What made the introduction of the Water Framework Directive special is that this was the first time that environmental policy was explicitly guided by biology, by the living environment as such, rather than abiotic environmental requirements which can be measured and expressed in exactly quantified numbers. Although it’s often claimed that ecology is a poorly defined concept, it’s precisely those ‘exact numbers’ which often turn out to be very vague when it comes to conserving the environment we live in. The authors of the WFD understood this very well. In fact, environmental protection is one of Brussels’ strongest points. Initially, the European Community’s jurisdiction was limited to a few areas only. The environment was one of the exceptions, probably because many Member States thought that such a ‘minor’ subject could safely be left to Brussels. This resulted in a number of highly dedicated officials in the European capital, as well as a really effective European policy. The Dutch government experienced this when it failed to meet its targets under the Nitrate Directive, and Brussels immediately imposed a large fine.
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Recent projects and publications by Piet Verdonschot: