Tag Archives: Water

Water Protection and Management

Water protection and management

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Water protection and management


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Environment > Water protection and management

Water protection and management

Some 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by seas and oceans, and these produce almost three quarters of the oxygen we breathe. We can use directly only 1% of this water, however, and many forms of human activity put water resources under considerable pressure. Polluted water, whatever the source of the pollution, flows one way or another back into our natural surroundings – into the sea or water tables – from where it can have a harmful effect on human health and the environment. One of the most important pieces of legislation in this area is the Water Framework Directive.


  • Water protection and management (Water Framework Directive)
  • Pricing and long-term management of water
  • Flood management and evaluation
  • Droughts and water scarcity
  • Urban waste water treatment


  • Quality of drinking water
  • Bathing water quality (until 2014)
  • Bathing water quality
  • Water suitable for fish-breeding
  • Quality of shellfish waters


  • Strategy for the marine environment
  • Maritime safety: compensation fund for oil pollution damage
  • Maritime safety: prevention of pollution from ships
  • Ship-source pollution and criminal penalties
  • Maritime safety: prohibition of organotin compounds on ships
  • Maritime safety: Bunkers Convention


  • European Union Strategy for Danube Region
  • Baltic Sea Strategy
  • Environment strategy for the Mediterranean
  • Strategy to improve maritime governance in the Mediterranean
  • Black Sea Synergy
  • Danube – Black Sea region

Regional convention

  • Barcelona Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean
  • Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea
  • Helsinki Convention: trans-boundary watercourses and international lakes
  • Convention for the Protection of the Rhine
  • OSPAR Convention


  • Industrial emissions
  • Integrated pollution prevention and control (until 2013)
  • Environmental quality standards applicable to surface water
  • Protection of groundwater against pollution
  • Detergents
  • Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
  • Agricultural nitrates
  • Community strategy concerning mercury
  • Protection of the aquatic environment against discharges of dangerous substances (until 2013)
  • Other substances: protection of groundwater



Another Normative about Water protection and management


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic

Agriculture > Environment

Water protection and management (Water Framework Directive)

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy [See amending acts].


The European Union (EC) has established a framework for the protection of:

  • inland surface waters *;
  • groundwater *;
  • transitional waters *; and
  • and coastal waters *.

This Framework-Directive has a number of objectives, such as preventing and reducing pollution, promoting sustainable water usage, environmental protection, improving aquatic ecosystems and mitigating the effects of floods and droughts.

Its ultimate objective is to achieve “good ecological and chemical status” for all Community waters by 2015.

Administrative arrangements

Member States have to identify all the river basins * lying within their national territory and to assign them to individual river basin districts *. River basins covering the territory of more than one Member State will be assigned to an international river basin district.

Member States are to designate a competent authority for the application of the rules provided for in this Framework-Directive within each river basin district.

Identification and analysis of waters

By 2004 at the latest, each Member State shall produce:

  • an analysis of the characteristics of each river basin district;
  • a review of the impact of human activity on water;
  • an economic analysis of water use;
  • a register of areas requiring special protection;
  • a survey of all bodies of water used for abstracting water for human consumption and producing more than 10 m³ per day or serving more than 50 persons.

This analysis must be revised in 2013 and every six years thereafter.

Management plans and programmes of measures

In 2009, nine years after the Framework-Directive entered into force, management plans were produced for each river basin district, taking account of the results of the analyses and studies carried out. These plans cover the period 2009-2015. They shall be revised in 2015 and then every six years thereafter.

The management plans must be implemented in 2012. They aim to:

  • prevent deterioration, enhance and restore bodies of surface water, achieve good chemical and ecological status of such water by 2015 at the latest and to reduce pollution from discharges and emissions of hazardous substances;
  • protect, enhance and restore the status of all bodies of groundwater, prevent the pollution and deterioration of groundwater, and ensure a balance between groundwater abstraction and replenishment;
  • preserve protected areas.

The management plans for river basin districts can be complemented by more detailed management programmes and plans for a sub-basin, a sector or a particular type of water.

Temporary deterioration of bodies of water is not in breach of the requirements of this Framework-Directive if it is the result of circumstances which are exceptional or could not reasonably have been foreseen and which are due to an accident, natural causes or force majeure.

Member States shall encourage participation by all stakeholders in the implementation of this Framework-Directive, specifically with regard to the management plans for river basin districts. Projects from the management plans must be submitted to public consultation for at least 6 months.

From 2010, Member States must ensure that water pricing policies provide adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently and that the various economic sectors contribute to the recovery of the costs of water services, including those relating to the environment and resources.

Member States must introduce arrangements to ensure that effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties are imposed in the event of breaches of the provisions of this Framework Directive.

A list of priority substances selected from among the ones which present a significant risk to the aquatic environment has been drawn up at European level. This list is set out in Annex X to this Framework-Directive.

Key terms used in the act
  • Inland waters: all standing or flowing water on the surface of the land, and all groundwater on the landward side of the baseline from which the breadth of territorial waters is measured.
  • Surface water: inland waters, except groundwater, transitional waters and coastal waters, except in respect of chemical status, for which territorial waters are also included.
  • Groundwater: all water which is below the surface of the ground in the saturation zone and in direct contact with the ground or subsoil.
  • Transitional waters: bodies of surface water in the vicinity of river mouths which are partly saline in character as a result of their proximity to coastal waters but which are substantially influenced by freshwater flows.
  • Coastal water: surface water on the landward side of a line every point of which is at a distance of one nautical mile on the seaward side from the nearest point of the baseline from which the breadth of territorial waters is measured, extending where appropriate up to the outer limit of transitional waters.
  • River basin: the area of land from which all surface run-off flows through a sequence of streams, rivers and, possibly, lakes into the sea at a single river mouth, estuary or delta.
  • River basin district: the area of land and sea, made up of one or more neighbouring river basins together with their associated groundwaters and coastal waters, which is identified under Article 3(1) as the main unit for management of river basins.


Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2000/60/EC



OJ L 327 of 22.12.2000

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Decision 2455/2001/EC


OJ L 331 of 15.12.2001

Directive 2008/32/EC


OJ L 81 of 20.3.2008

Directive 2009/31/EC


OJ L 140 of 5.6.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2000/60/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated versionis of documentary value only.


Annex X – List of priority substances in the field of water policy

Directive 2008/105/EC [Official Journal L 348 of 24.12.2008].

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 22 March 2007 – Towards sustainable water management in the European Union – First stage in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC [COM(2007) 128 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

In this report the Commission sets out the results provided by the Member States concerning the application of the Water Framework Directive. Among other things, it mentions that there is a considerable risk that several Member States will fail to meet the targets set in the Framework Directive, in particular because of the physical deterioration of aquatic ecosystems, especially as a result of overexploitation of water resources and disturbing levels of pollution from diffuse sources. The Commission also indicates that there have been problems with meeting the deadline for incorporating the Framework Directive into national law and shortcomings in the actual transposition process in some cases. However, the establishment of river basin districts and the designation of the competent national authorities seem to be well under way, although progress does still need to be made with regard to international cooperation in some instances. The Commission also indicates that there are considerable differences in the quality of the environmental and economic assessments made in respect of river basins as well as shortcomings in the economic analyses carried out. The Commission finishes by making a number of recommendations to the Member States with a view to making good the shortcomings reported, integrating sustainable management of water into other national policies and making the most of public participation, and gives advance notice of what it plans to do in future in the context of European water management policy.

Report from the Commission of 1 April 2009 published in accordance with article 18.3 of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC on programmes for monitoring of water status [COM(2009) 156 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Water Protection and Management in other Legal Encyclopedias

Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000 – American Legal Encyclopedia

Coastal Zone Management Act Of 1972 in the American Legal Encyclopedia

European Water Facility for the ACP countries

European Water Facility for the ACP countries

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European Water Facility for the ACP countries


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Development > African Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP)

European Water Facility for the ACP countries

Document or Iniciative

Communication of 26 January 2004 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the future development of the EU Water Initiative and the modalities for the establishment of a Water Facility for ACP countries [COM(2004) 43 final – Not published in the Official Journal].



The Water Facility for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, is intended to serve as a catalyst by supporting development and reform of the relevant sectoral policies and through flexible and innovative methods of financing water supply and sanitation projects and programmes.

Basic principles

The Facility is based on three key principles:

  • Governance: The Water Facility is to concentrate its activities on ACP countries which have a sound national water policy or which are strongly committed to developing one, and on countries that prioritise spending on social sectors. It will help those countries to establish the institutional and regulatory framework necessary to attract additional financial resources;
  • Ownership: The facility is entirely demand-driven. It will be an instrument for supporting and deepening the involvement of ACP actors in the design and implementation of water policies;
  • Innovation and flexibility: In order to achieve maximum impact a creative combination of grants and other sources are envisaged to fund basic infrastructure. The proposed grants could constitute the necessary seed capital to get projects off the ground and be a tool in forging the public-private partnerships needed to increase funding.

Activities funded

The Water Facility will mainly fund two types of activity: improving water management and governance, and cofinancing drinking water and sanitation infrastructure.

The activities relating to improved water management and governance are:

  • institution building and support for reforming the sector;
  • integrated management of water resources at national level and at that of ACP river basins.

For the second category of activities the Water Facility uses flexible and innovative methods to finance water and sanitation projects and programmes for low-income users and socially disadvantaged areas.

Management of the Facility

The organisational structure for the management of the Water Facility has been set up within the European Commission, staffed with EU officials. The officials on this team are responsible for establishing implementing procedures for the facility.

However, in the preparation and implementation of projects to be financed, maximum use should be made of the expertise available outside the Commission, in particular through expert groups and collaboration with the European Investment Bank and other development finance institutes, and, where appropriate, the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The projects are selected on the basis of a call for proposals open to most of the state and non-state actors concerned in the ACP and EU countries. Proposals are selected on the basis of criteria defined by the European Commission in the call for proposals, which must be consistent with the general objectives of sustainable development and the EU’s water management policy in the developing countries and with the integrated river basin water management programmes, and take account of factors such as the implementing capacity of the partners and the maturity of the project.


The Communication also assesses the outlook for the EU Water Initiative launched during the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

It finds that the Initiative has made considerable progress, noting that the drinking water and sanitation objectives will have to be achieved within the framework of integrated management of the river basins.

The Initiative concentrates on Africa, the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, the Mediterranean and Latin America.

The Commission considers that the progress made is not sufficient to meet the Millennium Development Goals without a significant increase in financing and improved mechanisms to help development aid attract other resources (private sector, development banks); the creation of a European Water Facility will serve both these purposes.


The Communication follows up on the EU Water Initiative launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002. The summit confirmed the objective, set in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, of halving the number of people in the world who do not have access to drinking water or basic sanitation by 2015.

Unsafe water causes more deaths than war does. More than 1 100 million people in the world have no access to drinking water, and 2 400 million do not have access to adequate sanitation. In Africa more than 40 % of the population is without drinking water, and even more lack appropriate sanitation services.

Related Acts

Decision No 7/2005

of the ACP-EC Council of Ministers of 22 November 2005 concerning the use of a second allocation of EUR 250 million from the conditional EUR 1 billion under the ninth EDF to be used for the second instalment of the ACP-EU Water Facility [Official Journal L 48 of 18.2.2006].
The Decision officially authorises allocation of a second tranche of EUR 250 million to the ACP-EU Water Facility.

Decision 2004/632/EC

of the ACP-EC Council of Ministers of 6 May 2004 on the use of the reserve of the long-term development envelope as well as resources from the Investment Facility of the ninth European Development Fund for the establishment of an ACP-EU Water Facility [Official Journal L 289 of 10.9.2004].
The Decision officially authorises allocation of a first tranche of EUR 250 million to the ACP-EU Water Facility and provides for the release of a further EUR 250 million.

Council Decision of 26 April 2004 on the position to be adopted by the Community in the ACP-EC Council of Ministers concerning a Decision on the use of the reserve of the long-term development envelope as well as resources from the Investment Facility of the ninth European Development Fund (EDF) for the establishment of an ACP-EU Water Facility [Not published in the Official Journal].
The Council provides that the reserve of the long-term development envelope as well as resources from the Investment Facility of the ninth EDF are to be used for the establishment of the ACP-EU Water Facility.

Council Decision 2004/289/EC of 22 March 2004 concerning the partial release of the conditional amount of EUR 1 billion under the ninth European Development Fund for cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in order to establish a Water Facility [Official Journal L 94, 31.03.2004].
In this Decision the Council agrees to establish the Water Facility for ACP countries. In accordance with the provisions of the Financial Protocol to the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement, the Council notes that the level of commitments and disbursements at the end of 2003 in conjunction with forecasts for the period 2004 to 2007 allows the release of EUR 500 million from the ninth EDF out of the budget of EUR 1000 million for the establishment of the Water Facility. The Council approves the release an initial tranche of EUR 250 million. Decisions will be taken later on the remaining sum.

Quality of drinking water

Quality of drinking water

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Quality of drinking water


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Environment > Water protection and management

Quality of drinking water

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption [See amending act(s)].


The Directive is intended to protect human health by laying down healthiness and purity requirements which must be met by drinking water within the European Union (EU).

Drinking water

The Directive applies to all water intended for human consumption apart from natural mineral waters and waters which are medicinal products.

General obligations

Member States shall ensure that such drinking water:

  • does not contain any concentration of micro-organisms, parasites or any other substance which constitutes a potential human health risk;
  • meets the minimum requirements (microbiological and chemical parameters and those relating to radioactivity) laid down by the Directive.

They will take any other action needed in order to guarantee the healthiness and purity of water intended for human consumption.

Quality standards

Member States shall lay down the parametric values corresponding at least to the values set out in the Directive. Where parameters are not set out in the Directive limit values must be laid down by the Member States if necessary to protect health.


The Directive requires Member States to regularly monitor the quality of water intended for human consumption by using the methods of analysis specified in the Directive, or equivalent methods. For this purpose they shall determine the sampling points and draw up monitoring programmes.

Corrective action and restrictions on use

Where the parametric values are not attained the Member States concerned shall ensure that the corrective action needed is taken as quickly as possible in order to restore water quality.

Regardless of compliance, or otherwise, with the parametric values, Member States shall prohibit the distribution of drinking water or shall restrict its use and shall take any action needed where that water constitutes a potential human health hazard. Consumers shall be informed of any such action.


The Directive shall provide the Member States with scope to provide for exemptions from the parametric values up to a maximum value, provided that:

  • the exemption does not constitute a human health hazard;
  • there is no other reasonable means of maintaining the distribution of drinking water in the area concerned;
  • the exemption must be as restricted in time as possible and not exceed three years (it being possible to renew the exemption for two further three-year periods).

Any exemption granted must be accompanied by a detailed justification except if the Member State concerned feels that failure to meet the limit value is not serious and may be quickly remedied. Water sold in bottles or containers may not be exempted.

Any Member State granting an exemption must inform the following thereof:

  • the population affected;
  • the Commission within a two-month period if the exemption covers the distribution of more than 1000 m³ per day on average, or supplies for more than 5000 persons.

Quality guarantees on the processes, equipment and materials

Neither the materials or substances used in new installations for preparing and distributing drinking water may not continue to be present in drinking water beyond a strictly necessary level.


At least every five years the Commission shall re-examine the parameters laid down by the Directive in the light of scientific and technical progress. It will be assisted in that process by a Committee comprising representatives of the Member States.

Information and reports

Every three years Member States shall publish a report on the quality of drinking water for its consumers. On the basis of those reports the Commission will, every three years, draw up a summary report on the quality of the water intended for human consumption within the Community.

Deadline for compliance

Within five years at the latest Member States shall take any action needed in order to guarantee that water quality complies with the Directive. In exceptional cases that period may be extended provided that it does not exceed three years.


Directive 98/83/EC replaces Directive 80/778/EEC from 25 December 2003.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 98/83/EC



OJ L 330 of 05.12.1998

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009


OJ L 188 of 18.7.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 98/83/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated versionis for reference only.

Pricing and long-term management of water

Pricing and long-term management of water

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Pricing and long-term management of water


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Environment > Water protection and management

Pricing and long-term management of water

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, European Parliament and Economic and Social Committee: Pricing and sustainable management of water resources [COM(2000) 477 – Not published in the Official Journal].


Water management is one of the European Commission’s environmental priorities. The framework directive on water sets out the guidelines for water policy in Europe for the decades ahead. It more especially promotes the use of pricing and taxation as an incentive for consumers to use water resources in a more sustainable manner and to recover the cost of water services per sector of the economy. It is with this in view that the Commission has prepared its communication on the pricing and sustainable management of water resources. Its aim is to enable a fruitful political debate to take place on this matter and to inform those concerned.

The Commission stresses that this communication should not be taken as solely advocating pricing in order to solve water-resource problems. However, this must be taken into due consideration and be combined with other instruments as part of drawing up of management plans for water resources at individual catchment-area level.

Water and water policy in Europe

The sustainability of water resources is threatened in several of Europe’s regions. By way of an illustration one may mention the salination of groundwater, the reduced flow in many water courses, and the diffuse pollution that can be attributed to agriculture.

This being the case, the use of economic instruments (taxes, duties, financial assistance, negotiable permits) has gained increasing importance and was fully legitimised in the United Nations’ Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development in 1992. The central environmental role to be played by economic instruments is also recognised at Community level. The Treaty considers that, in particular, the “polluter pays” principle is an underlying principle of European environmental policies. Furthermore the framework directive on water advocates a boosting of the part played by pricing in order to improve the sustainability of water resources.

The “water price” is defined as being “the unit or overall amount paid by users for all of the services that they receive in terms of water, including the environment” (example: wastewater treatment).

Water pricing policies in theory and in practice

In order to achieve the environmental aims and to include the major economic principles, water pricing policies must reflect the following costs:

  • Financial costs: direct costs embracing the costs of supply and administration, operation and maintenance, and also capital costs.
  • Environmental costs: cost of the waste caused by water use on the ecosystem, for example: salination or degradation of productive soils).
  • Resource costs: cost of resource depletion leading to the disappearance of certain options for other users.

Each user must bear the cost of consuming water. If pricing is to promote better water-resource use prices must be directly linked to the amount of water consumed and/or pollution produced.

There are major differences between the water pricing systems in the Member States. In the south European countries for example agriculture, which is a major water consumer, pays for its water at preferential rates (because of various subsidies). Recently pricing played an increasing part in the water policy in many Member Sates. In the countries which joined the European Union in 2004 water pricing is also expected to expand, mainly owing to the major cost of alignment with the Community patrimony.

The water pricing policy enables the pressure on water resources to be restricted and infrastructures to be maintained. Moreover, a harmonised approach to water pricing is needed in order to avoid any distortions in competition arising from uneven application of economic principles on the internal market.

Promoting water pricing policies enabling the sustainability of water management to be improved.

It is necessary, in order to map out a pricing policy, to be aware of the following factors:

  • The demand for water which, in agriculture, for example, is still not well understood. Measuring methods (meters, use of satellite scanning …) must be developed.
  • The elasticity of the demand for water as compared with its price.
  • The financial cost of water supplies.
  • The environmental cost of the resource. However, it is difficult to assess those costs.

It is relevant to incorporate a variable factor (quality, pollution) into pricing structures in order that these may genuinely provide an incentive.

For reasons of cost and political acceptability, the introduction of a new pricing system will have to be gradual. Moreover social-order considerations must be taken into account in water pricing, but must not take precedence where sustainable water resource management is under threat. Social back-up policies will be preferred to these. Systematic ex ante and ex post assessment of the effects on demand of any such pricing policies is needed.

The matter of scale is also to be considered. Financial costs are better assessed and managed at water-service distribution level, but in environmental terms it is that of water catchment area that is the most appropriate. This may cause difficulties in the case of cross-border catchment areas (for example the Rhine river basin): the cost must then be shared among the interested parties and the administrations in the various countries.

In order to ease the transition to incentive pricing, it might be necessary to adapt the existing institutional framework. It would, in particular, be necessary to ensure transparency (via information and communication policies and quality/price comparisons) and the involvement of the public in water pricing polices. Monitoring water prices in order to ensure that these reflect costs in an adequate manner must also take place.

The water pricing policies must be combined with other measures in order to solve the qualitative and quantitative water resource management problems. It must also ensure better synergy between water pricing policy and the other European Union’s policies: the common agricultural policy or the structural and cohesion policies must also provide incentives for better use of water. The European Commission’s framework research and technological development programme also has a key role to play in providing new economic assessment and analysis methodologies.

Implementation of the framework directive on water will provide the necessary impetus for formulating water-price policies based on the factors set out in this communication.

Sectoral development policies

Sectoral development policies

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Sectoral development policies


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Development > Sectoral development policies

Sectoral development policies

Within the framework of development cooperation the Union places the emphasis on a number of areas where solutions have been tailored to the needs of developing countries on the basis of the relevant comparative advantage, which involve not only economic and social development and governance but also the environment food security, agriculture and infrastructure.

This thematic, cross-sectoral approach, particularly highlighted in the “European Consensus on Development”, also aims to ensure cohesion between European policies and the development priorities which might be affected by those policies.



  • Governance in the consensus on development
  • Governance and development
  • Tax governance in developing countries

Human Rights

  • A financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights in the world (2007 – 2013)

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and civil society

  • Local authorities and development assistance
  • Non-state Actors and Local Authorities
  • Cooperation with indigenous peoples


Education and training

  • Investing in people
  • Education and training in the context of poverty reduction

Equality between men and women

  • Strategy for gender equality in development policy


  • Children in EU external action


  • The EU Role in Global Health
  • Health: health and poverty reduction
  • Programme for Action to combat lack of personnel in the health sector (2007-2013)
  • Compulsory licensing system for the production and export of generic medicinal products to developing countries
  • Programme for Action to Confront HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis (2007-2011)
  • Update on the EC Programme for Action – Accelerated action on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis
  • Health: programme for accelerated action on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (2001-2006)
  • Essential medicines for developing countries (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria)
  • Health: global fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria


  • Global partnership for sustainable development
  • Integrating sustainable development into Community cooperation policy
  • Strategy for sustainable development



  • Environment and sustainable management of natural resources, including energy
  • United Nations Convention to combat desertification in countries seriously affected by drought

Climate change

  • Global climate change alliance
  • Climate change in the context of development cooperation


  • Biodiversity Action Plan for Economic and Development Co-operation
  • The Rio de Janeiro Convention on biological diversity


  • Water: water management in developing countries
  • Guidelines for cooperation towards development in the area of water resources
  • European Water Facility for the ACP countries


  • The Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund
  • Cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries on nuclear safety
  • Energy cooperation with the developing countries
  • ACP-EU Energy Facility


  • FLEGT Licensing scheme
  • Fight against illegal logging
  • Combating deforestation


  • Partnership agreements with Non-EU Member Countries
  • Fisheries: fisheries and poverty reduction


  • Agricultural commodities, dependence and poverty
  • Fighting rural poverty
  • Advancing African agriculture
  • Land policy in developing countries
  • Partnership with Africa for the development of the cotton industry
  • The International Coffee Agreement 2007


  • Strategic framework for food security in developing countries
  • Facility for rapid response to soaring food prices
  • Combating hunger: strategy for food security
  • Food Aid Convention


  • Supporting developing countries in coping with the crisis


  • Scheme of preferences from 2006 to 2015 – Guidelines
  • A scheme of generalised tariff preferences 2009-2011
  • Generalised System of Preferences 2006 – 2008
  • Aid for Trade in developing countries
  • Towards an EU Aid for Trade strategy
  • Assisting developing countries to benefit from trade
  • Fair Trade and non-governmental trade-related sustainability assurance schemes
  • Fair trade


  • International investments: towards a comprehensive European policy
  • EU support for business sector development in third countries
  • The reform of state-owned enterprises in developing countries


  • Euro-African Partnership for infrastructure


  • Transport: guidelines
  • Promoting sustainable transport

Communication and information

  • Information and communication Technologies


  • Development of sustainable tourism


  • Migration and development: some concrete orientations
  • Cooperation with Non-EU Member Countries in the areas of migration and asylum


  • Mine Action Strategy 2005-2007

Public procurement in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors

Public procurement in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Public procurement in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Internal market > Businesses in the internal market > Public procurement

Public procurement in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2004/17/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 coordinating the procurement procedures of entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors [See amending acts].


Directive 2004/17/EC on the “special sectors” of water, energy, transport and postal services applies to public procurement contracts concluded by a contracting authority in the sectors in question for:

  • supplies;
  • services;
  • works,

which are not exceptionally excluded by this Directive. However, in contrast to the “classic” Directive, this Directive does not apply to works concessions.


Contracting entities

The “special sectors” directive applies to:

  • all contracting authorities * or public undertakings * which pursue activities in one of the following fields: gas, electricity, water, transport services, postal services *, the extraction of fuels, or the provision of ports or airports;
  • all contracting entities which, when they are neither contracting authorities nor public undertakings, pursue one (or more) of the above activities and enjoy special or exclusive rights * granted by a competent authority of a Member State, as defined by the Directive.

Non-exhaustive lists of contracting entities are given in the Annexes. Member States must notify the Commission of any changes.

Activities concerned

The directive applies to the following activities:

  • the provision or operation of fixed networks intended to provide a service to the public in connection with the production, transport or distribution of gas, heat or electricity, or the supply of gas, heat or electricity to such networks;
  • the provision or operation of fixed networks intended to provide a service to the public in connection with the production, transport or distribution of water, or the supply of water to such networks;
  • where the contracting entity is active in the drinking water sector, contracts or design contests connected with irrigation, land drainage or hydraulic engineering projects, or contracts connected with the disposal or treatment of sewage;
  • the provision or operation of networks providing a service to the public in the field of transport by railway, automated systems, tramway, trolley bus, bus or cable.
    Bus transport services are excluded from the scope of the directive where other entities are free to provide those services, either in general or in a particular geographical area, under the same condition as the contracting entities;
  • the provision of postal services *. These services cover: postal services which are reserved under the terms of Directive 97/67/EC, as well as those which may not be reserved under Directive 97/67/EC; all of the following services are also covered, on condition that such services are provided by an entity which also provides postal services and that the market is not yet open to competition: mail management services (e.g. mailroom management services), added-value services linked to and provided entirely by electronic means (e.g. the secure transmission of coded documents, address management services), direct mail bearing no address, financial services (e.g. postal money orders and postal giro transfers), philatelic services and logistics services;
  • the exploitation of a geographical area for the purpose of exploring for or extracting oil, gas, coal or other solid fuels, or the provision of airports and maritime or inland ports or other terminal facilities to carriers by air, sea or inland waterway.

Contracts awarded in the sectors in question are no longer subject to the Directive if effective competition exists. Member States have had the possibility of asking the Commission to adopt a decision testifying to the existence of effective competition in a Member State for a given sector in accordance with a specific procedure. This procedure is based on the characteristics of the goods and services under consideration, the existence of alternatives, prices and the presence of several competitors. On its own initiative or at the request of the national contracting entities, when the national transposition of the directive allows them to do so, the Commission may adopt a decision testifying to the existence of effective competition in a Member State and for a given sector. If no decision is made within the deadline set, the exclusion becomes applicable.

Revised thresholds

The directive applies to contracts that have a value excluding VAT estimated to be no less than the following thresholds:

  • EUR 400 000 in the case of supply and service contracts;
  • EUR 5 000 000 in the case of works contracts.

These thresholds are re-calculated by the Commission every two years. The calculation of their value is based on the average daily value of the euro, expressed in special drawing rights (SDR), over the 24 months ending on 31 August for the revision with effect from 1 January.

For those Member States that have not adopted the single currency, the value of these thresholds calculated and published by the European Commission in the Official Journal when the recalculated thresholds in Euros are published.

Certain contracts are excluded or reserved

The scope of the directive excludes:

  • works and service concessions in the sectors of activity concerned;
  • contracts awarded for purposes of resale, lease to third parties, for purposes other than the pursuit of an activity in the sectors concerned or for the pursuit of such an activity in a third country.
    The Commission may publish in the Official Journal the list of the categories of products and activities excluded;
  • contracts which are secret and require special security measures or are awarded pursuant to international rules;
  • certain contracts awarded by a contracting entity to an affiliated undertaking or awarded by a joint venture formed exclusively by a number of contracting entities for the purpose of carrying out the activities concerned.
  • By definition, contracts attributed to an undertaking whose annual accounts are consolidated with those of the contracting entity or is subject to a dominant influence by virtue of ownership, financial participation, or the rules which govern it.
    Contracting entities must notify the Commission of the names of the undertakings or (joint) ventures concerned and the nature and volume of the contracts involved;
  • service contracts awarded on the basis of an exclusive right;
  • service contracts for the acquisition or rental of land, existing buildings or other immovable property or concerning rights thereon (excluding financial service contracts concluded at the same time as, before or after the contract of acquisition or rental); arbitration and conciliation services; financial services in connection with the issue, sale, purchase or transfer of financial instruments (such as transactions to raise money or capital); employment contracts; and research and development (RTD) services wholly remunerated by the contracting entity;
  • contracts awarded by certain contracting entities for the purchase of water and for the supply of energy or of fuels for the production of energy;
  • certain contracts subject to special arrangements in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and in the field of the exploration or extraction of oil, gas, coal and other solid fuels.
  • certain contracts awarded in the fields of defence and security covered by Directive 2009/81/EC.

Member States may reserve participation in certain public contracts to sheltered workshops or provide for such contracts to be performed in the context of sheltered employment programmes where most of the employees concerned are handicapped persons.

Rules applicable to contracts

Contract award criteria

The criteria used by the contracting entities are:

  • either the lowest price only;
  • or, where the contract is awarded to the most economically advantageous tender, various criteria linked to the subject-matter of the contract in question (quality, price, technical merit, aesthetic and functional characteristics, environmental characteristics, etc.). As a general rule, the contracting entity should specify the relative weighting it gives to each of the criteria.

Rules on publication and transparency

Throughout the procedure, public contracts whose value exceeds the thresholds in the Directive are subject to obligations regarding information and transparency. This takes the form of publishing information notices drawn up in accordance with standard Commission forms. There are several types:

  • the notice of the publication of a periodic indicative notice (not compulsory);
  • the periodic indicative notice for supplies and services contracts in excess of EUR 750 000 and for works contracts of more than EUR 5 000 000. The contracting entity publishes this notice on its buyer profile itself (after having sent the notice of the publication of a periodic indicative notice) or sends it to the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities (Publications Office).
  • This publication is compulsory when the contracting entity wishes to reduce the time limits for the receipt of tenders or when the notice is used as a means of calling for competition;
  • the contract notice or notice of a design contest (compulsory).
  • The contracting entity may publish this notice itself nationally and should send it to the Publications Office. Publication by the Publications Office is free. The notice is published in full in an official language of the Community, and a summary is translated into the other languages;
  • the contract award notice and notice of the results of a design contest (compulsory).
  • the notice on the existence of a qualification system.

The notices sent by the contracting entities to the Commission can be transmitted by traditional or electronic means. Standard forms and details on transmission procedures are accessible on the information system for public procurement (SIMAP).

The contracting entity shall provide information on the decisions reached concerning the award of a contract, including grounds for not awarding it. For all contracts, it must be able to justify its decisions and should keep all the appropriate information for at least four years. It shall, as soon as possible, inform:

  • any unsuccessful candidate of the reasons for rejecting his/her application;
  • any tenderer who has made an admissible tender of the relative advantages of the tender selected, as well as the name of the economic operator chosen.

The exchange and storage of information involving the various parties to the contract ensure the integrity of the data and confidentiality. The contracting entity only examines the content of the tenders after the time limit set for submitting them has expired. Use of electronic means is non-discriminatory and helps to speed up the procedures. Devices for the electronic receipt of tenders permit the use of electronic signatures, guarantee the authenticity, integrity and confidentiality of the data and are capable of detecting possible fraud.

Technical specifications

The technical specifications define the characteristics required of a material, supply or service such that they fulfil the use for which they are intended. They are out in the contract documentation (contract notices, contract documents or additional documents) without creating unjustified obstacles to competition. These characteristics include environmental performance, design, conformity assessment, performance, safety, dimensions, quality assurance, and production methods. For public works contracts, they also cover test, inspection and acceptance conditions, as well as construction techniques. In any case, they must be related to the subject of the contract.

When drawing up its technical specifications, a contracting entity refers to national standards transposing European standards, European technical approvals, and international standards. It can also determine performance and functional requirements, particularly in the environmental domain (e.g. European Eco-label). The tender is valid if it manages to prove that it meets the requirements defined by the technical specifications in an equivalent fashion. An appropriate means may be constituted by the submission of a technical dossier or a test report from a recognised body (laboratory, certification and inspection body).

In principle, technical specifications do not mention a specific make or process nor do they refer to trade marks, patents or a specific production.

Economic operators’ capabilities, combating fraud and corruption

European public procurement legislation provides conditions, which may be required for the purposes of participation in public procurement. These conditions aim to check the suitability of economic operators tendering for contracts on the basis of criteria relating to their economic and financial capacity, and their technical and professional knowledge or abilities.

The conditions for participation also aim to effectively combat fraud and corruption, systematically excluding from public procurement contracts any economic operators who have been found guilty of participating in a criminal organisation or of corruption, fraud or money laundering. A contracting authority may ask tenderers for any document testifying to their professional conduct and/or economic situation. To obtain this information, it may turn to the competent national authorities or those of another Member State. It should be noted that the application of these exclusion clauses is only compulsory for contracting authorities. For other contracting entities (public enterprises and private enterprises with a special or exclusive right), these clauses are optional.

Any economic operator may be excluded from participation in a public contract where that economic operator:

  • is bankrupt (or the subject of proceedings for a declaration of bankruptcy), is being wound up, has suspended business activities or his/her affairs are being administered by the court;
  • has been convicted of any offence concerning his/her professional conduct;
  • has been guilty of grave professional misconduct (e.g. misrepresentation);
  • has not paid social security contributions or taxes.

Traditional and electronic means of communication are on equal footing

With regard to the exchange of information, the new directive places traditional and electronic means of communication on equal footing. It leaves market operators free to choose which means of communication to use for the procedures. If electronic means are used, the contracting entity is able to reduce the time limits (but within irreducible margins):

  • the electronic transmission of notices used as a means of calling for competition (depending on the individual case, a contract notice, periodic indicative notice or notice on the existence of a qualification system) makes it possible to reduce by seven days the time limit for the receipt of tenders in open procedures. The same applies for the receipt of requests to participate in restricted and negotiated procedures;
  • on top of the previous reduction, time limits for the receipt of tenders in open, restricted and negotiated procedures may be further reduced by five days where the contract documents are available on the Internet.

A new purchasing technique has entered the scene: the dynamic purchasing system. It is exclusively based on electronic means of communication.

Electronic auctions

A contracting entity may hold an electronic auction to award a contract. This is valid for all types of contract, with the exception of certain works and service contracts having as their subject-matter intellectual performances (e.g. the design of works). The electronic auction shall be based:

  • either on prices when the contract is awarded to the lowest price,
  • or on prices and/or the values of the features of the tenders, when the contract is awarded to the most economically advantageous tender.

The specifications shall contain the following details:

  • the quantifiable features (figures or percentages) whose values are the subject of the electronic auction and the minimum differences when bidding;
  • the electronic auction process and the technical specifications for connection.

Before proceeding with the electronic auction, the contracting entity shall make a full initial evaluation of the tenders. All tenderers who have submitted admissible tenders shall be invited to take part simultaneously by electronic means. The invitation shall state the date and time of the start of the auction and, if appropriate, the number of phases. It shall also state the mathematical formula to be used to determine automatic rerankings, incorporating the weighting of all the award criteria. Throughout each phase, the participants shall know their relative rankings compared to the other participants, but without knowing their identity.

The electronic auction shall close either at a date and time fixed in advance, or when a certain amount of time has elapsed after receipt of the last submission, or when the number of phases in the auction has been completed.

Rejection of tenders that are abnormally low or contain products originating in third countries

A contracting entity may reject a tender if it:

  • is abnormally low, particularly because the tenderer has obtained State aid which was granted illegally; it should, however, give the economic operator the opportunity to justify the constituent elements of its tender.
  • contains products amounting to over 50 % of its value which originate in third countries with which the Community has not concluded multilateral or bilateral market access agreements for Community enterprises.

Member States shall inform the Commission of any general difficulties encountered by their enterprises in securing the award of service contracts in third countries. They may, for example, report the non-observance of international labour law provisions. The Commission shall, at the same time, draw up an annual report to the Council on negotiations with third countries regarding access for Community enterprises to the markets covered by this Directive in these countries. It may propose that the Council restrict (or suspend) access to service contracts in the European Union covered by this Directive to enterprises with links to these third countries.

Public procurement procedures

There are different public procurement procedures: the open procedure, the restricted procedure, and the negotiated procedure with or without the publication of a public contract notice. However, the competitive dialogue introduced in 2004 for the Classic Directive is not available for the special sectors.

Contracting entities may award a contract without a prior call for competition under the following conditions:

  • when no suitable tenders or applications have been submitted in response to a prior call for competition; where a contract is awarded purely for the purposes of RTD; when, for technical or artistic reasons, or for reasons connected with the protection of exclusive rights, the contract may be executed only by a particular economic operator; in cases of extreme urgency brought about by unforeseeable events; for contracts based on a framework agreement, when this has been concluded in accordance with the Directive;
  • supply contracts: for additional deliveries where a change of supplier would oblige the contracting entity to acquire material having different technical characteristics; for supplies quoted and purchased on a commodity market; for bargain purchases or purchases of supplies under particularly advantageous conditions from an economic operator definitively winding up his business activities or in receivership;
  • for additional works or services which were not included in the initial project and have become necessary through unforeseen circumstances;
  • for new works consisting in the repetition of similar works;
  • for public service contracts, when the contract should, according to the rules of the contest, be awarded to the successful candidate in the design contest.

The open procedure

In an open procedure, any interested economic operator may submit a tender.

The minimum time limit for the receipt of tenders is 52 days from the date on which the contract notice was published. If a periodic indicative notice has been published, this time limit can be cut, as a general rule, to 36 days. In no case may the time limit for the receipt of tenders be less than 22 days.

The restricted procedure

In the case of restricted procedures, any economic operator may request to participate and only candidates invited to do so may submit a tender.

The time limit for the receipt of requests to participate is, as a general rule, 37 days from the date of the notice (or the invitation to confirm interest, when the call for competition is made by means of a periodic notice). In no case may it be less than 22 days (or 15 days if the notice is transmitted electronically). The contracting entity then, simultaneously and in writing, invites the selected candidates to submit their tenders. The time limit for the receipt of tenders, which is the same for all applicants, can be set by mutual agreement between the contracting entity and the selected candidates. If no agreement is reached, the contracting entity fixes a time limit that is, as a general rule, at least 24 days – and never less than 10 days – from the date of the invitation to tender.

The negotiated procedure

In a negotiated procedure, the contracting entity consults the economic operators of its choice and negotiates the terms of the contract with them.

In negotiated procedures with the publication of a contract notice, the procedure and the minimum time limits for the receipt of requests to participate and for the receipt of tenders are identical to those for the restricted procedure.

Service design contests

The directive applies to design contests for service procurement procedures worth over EUR 400 000 or where the contest prizes and payments are in excess of this value.

A design contest may not be held for:

  • contracts awarded for purposes other than the pursuit of an activity in the sectors concerned or for the pursuit of such an activity in a third country;
  • contracts which are secret, require special security measures or are awarded pursuant to international rules;
  • any activity which is exposed to competition.

The contracting entity publishes a contest notice drawn up in accordance with the rules for public procurement procedures. The exchange and storage of information ensures the integrity and the confidentiality of data. The contracting entity examines the projects only after the time limit set for submitting them has expired.

Admission to design contests may not be limited to the territory (or part of the territory) of a Member State or by the legal nature of the participants. The selection criteria are clear and non-discriminatory, ensuring genuine competition. The jury shall be composed exclusively of independent natural persons. Where a professional qualification is required of participants in a contest, at least a third of the jury members shall have this qualification. The jury is autonomous in its decisions and examines the plans on the basis of the selection criteria. Anonymity must be observed until the jury has reached its final decision.


This Directive responds to the need to guarantee the opening up of contracts and a fair balance in applying the rules for granting contracts in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors. It aims to preserve equal treatment between public sector and private sector contracting bodies.

Key terms used in the act
  • public contract: contract for pecuniary interest concluded in writing between a contracting body and an economic operator, which has as its object the execution of works, the supply of products or the provision of services.
  • (works or service) concession: a contract which differs from a public contract in that the source of revenue for the economic operator consists either solely in the right of exploitation or in this right together with payment.
  • contracting authority: the State, a regional or local authority, a body governed by public law (and their associations) with the ability to engage in public procurement.
  • public undertaking: any undertaking over which a contracting authority may exercise a dominant influence by virtue of their ownership of it, their financial participation therein, or the rules which govern it.
  • economic operator: a contractor, supplier or service provider who responds to an invitation to tender.
  • special or exclusive rights: rights granted by a Member State which limits the exercise of a given activity to one or more entities, and affects the ability of other entities to carry out such activity.
  • postal services: services consisting of the clearance, sorting, routing and delivery of postal items.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2004/17/CE



OJ L 134 of 30.4.2004

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2005/51/CE



OJ L 257 of 1.10.2005

Regulation (EC) No 2083/2005


OJ L 333 of 20.12.2005

Regulation (EC) No 1422/2007


OJ L 317 of 5.12.2007

Directive 2009/81/EC



OJ L 216 of 20.8.2009

Regulation (EC) No 1177/2009


OJ L 314 of 1.12.2009

Regulation (EU) No 1251/2011


OJ L 319 of 2.12.2011

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2004/17/CE have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version  is for reference purpose only.