European Parliament urges Spain to stop Ebro basin plan after MEP assessment on the ground
The European Parliament (EP) approved this Wednesday the assessment presented by a delegation of MEPs who visited the Ebro Delta on the 8th of February. In their report, the MEPs focused on the “lack of ecological flow” and questioned whether Spain’s Ebro Water Plan (PHE) was in compliance with community law. Catalan MEPs and the Platform for the Defence of the Ebro Delta (PDE) celebrated the decision but urged the European Commission to act “quickly, clearly and firmly” and stop the plan projected by the Spanish Government. Even so, PDE’s spokesperson Manolo Tomás and Susana Abella considered the EP’s decision to be “an important step toward modifying Spain’s Water Plan” and “recognition” of the social demonstrations of the last years.
Catalan MEPs and the Platform for the Defence of the Ebro Delta (PDE) urged the European Commission to act “quickly, clearly and firmly” to stop the Ebro basin plan projected by the Spanish Government, after the European Parliament (EP) approved a report which called on the Government to do so.PDE’s spokesperson Manolo Tomás and Susana Abella urged the European institutions to go beyond this, since the approved report is not binding, but considered the EP’s decision to be “an important step toward modifying Spain’s National Water Plan” and “recognition” of the social demonstrations of the last years. The report was drafted for the Euro Chamber by a delegation of MEPs who visited the Ebro Delta on the 8th of February, after several petitions warning of possible infringement of EU water standards were presented.
PDE’s spokesman, Manolo Tomás, also called for the Spanish Government to use “common sense” and “review Spain's National Water Plan” after the EP has approved the report. Another spokesperson from the PDE who travelled this Wednesday to Brussels, Susana Abella, explained that the PDE also presented a new complaint, similar to that presented in 2014, warning that “the Spanish Government hasn’t made any substantial modification in the hydrological plan” nor “taken into account the recommendations” that Brussels made in March 2015. The Platform for the Defence of the Ebro Delta (PDE) expect that the report approved by the EP, which urges the immediate withdrawal of the Ebro basin plan, will reaffirm their arguments before the EC.
Catalan MEPs celebrated the EP’s decision
Catalan MEPs Josep Maria Terricabras and Ernest Maragall, from left-wing pro-independence ERC, Liberal CDC MEP Ramon Tremosa, Eco-Socialist ICV’s Ernest Urtasun, Catalan Socialist Party MEP Javi López and Christian Democratic Unió MEP Francesc Gambús celebrated the EP’s decision to approve the report. They regard it as a rejection of the Conservative People’s Party (PP)’s water policy.
Catalan Socialist Party MEP Javi López emphasised that this Wednesday represented the culmination point of “a long task”. “It is a positive day because we have shown we are useful”, he said adding that Brussels has shown its “ability to listen and respond to a citizen petition which emerges from civil society”.
In a similar vein, MEP Enrest Maragall, from left-wing pro-independence ERC emphasised that the “values which define Europe” won this Wednesday. “Today the Ebro brings back hope and restores our trust in the EU”. His party partner, Josep Maria Terricabras, considered the report approved this Wednesday to “reflect the facts” and that therefore it has been approved by the majority of the Commission of Petitions. He also thanked the PDE for its efforts. “They have been working, defending and fighting for the Ebro for more than 30 years and for 16 they have been coming to Brussels”, he added.
Eco-Socialist ICV’s Ernest Urtasun stated that “despite all the pressure from the PP” the European Parliament has understood that Spain’s Water Plan “endangers the Ebro Delta”. “A very clear message has been sent: the European Commission has to reject the Ebro basin plan, so we now have to urge the European Commission to comply with the mandate we have issued”, stated Urtasun.
Liberal CDC MEP Ramon Tremosa emphasised that despite the report not being “binding” it has “strong political value”. “I urge the Spanish Government to comply with the water policy”, he added and congratulated the PDE, which he considered “the real heroes of this Wednesday’s victory”.
Christian Democratic Unió MEP Francesc Gambús stated that the report is “useful for the European Commission” which would have to stop the Ebro plan as “a censor”.
An assessment warning of the “lack of ecological flow”
After visiting the Ebro Delta on the 8th of February, a delegation of MEPs drafted a report on their findings after several petitions warning of possible infringement of EU water standards were presented. In the assessment, the main concern the MEPs focus on is the “lack of ecological flow”. Additionally, the delegates question whether European standards are met, and if the Ebro Water Plan (PHE) is in compliance with community law. As a result, the delegation of MEPs headed by European People’s Party MEP Pál Csáky now urge the European Parliament to conduct an “in-depth study” on ecological flow of “protected areas”. To do this, the MEPs have urged the Parliament to use European funds to complete the study, and to take the views of all stakeholders into account in order to re-establish the necessary ecological flow of sediments in the Ebro Delta while still meeting other environmental and community concerns with the PHE.
During their visit in February, experts carried out tests to see how regression and climate change has affected natural habitats and species such as poultry and seafood in the area. In the report, findings show that issues with ecological flow, subsidence, erosion, and salinisation are also negatively impacting rice farmers and fishermen in the area, and have raised the concerns of community members as well as environmentalists and bird experts.
As a result of these findings, Csáky and the delegation hope to suggest and take “possible measures to mitigate the effects of climate change”. Additionally, Csáky warned the Spanish Government that “construction of water works, dams, and irrigation channels” should not impede “the flow, so that adequate sediments can move into the delta”.