Various EU policies (for instance on water, waste, chemicals, industrial pollution prevention, nature protection, pesticides and agriculture) contribute to soil protection. However, as these policies have other aims and other scopes of action, they are not sufficient to ensure an adequate level of soil protection throughout Europe.
A vote was taken in the Council on a Soil Strategy, but was blocked by a minority. The European Commission therefore decided in May 2014 to withdraw its proposal for a Soil Framework Directive.
However, the Seventh Environment Action Programme, which entered into force on 17 January 2014, recognises soil degradation as a serious challenge.
The Programme provides that, by 2020, land will be managed sustainably in the EU, soil will be adequately protected, and the remediation of contaminated sites will be well underway. It also commits the EU and its member states to increasing efforts to reduce soil erosion, increase soil organic matter and remediate contaminated sites.
Soil is an extremely complex, variable and living medium. As the interface between the earth, the air and the water, soil is a non-renewable resource which performs many vital functions: food and other biomass production, and the storage, filtration and transformation of many substances, including water, carbon and nitrogen.
Soil is also a habitat and gene pool, serves as a platform for human activities, landscape and heritage, and provides raw materials.
These functions are worth protecting because of their socioeconomic and environmental importance.