Europe in the World

Blue Gold Task Force

Water is an essential factor in all aspects of human life, from health to sanitation, from transport to industrial production. It contributes to sustaining human development and prosperity across the globe. It is ‘Blue Gold’, although policies, markets and human practices often underestimate its value.

Existing water supplies are increasingly under stress due to unsustainable land use, economic activities such as energy production, industry, agriculture and tourism, urban development and demographic change. Demand for water has increased due to population growth and urbanisation, and contamination and geographically uneven distribution of freshwater sources have become serious challenges. In addition, it is expected that climate change will lead to an increase in floods and droughts, and have a further negative impact on supply of water. These are both global and European challenges.

This growing stress on existing water supplies calls for action at both the EU and global levels. This requires protective measures against unsustainable practices, greater efficiency and smarter use of water, developing and deploying innovative new solutions, and managing and preparing for extreme events that can have serious implications for supply of water.

At the same time, the benefits of meeting the water challenge are enormous, ranging from societal and environmental advantages to economic gains including new business opportunities. Thanks to its wide-ranging policy toolbox, the European Union has the potential to become a leader in promoting a concerted and holistic response to the manifold dimensions of this challenge and to enable Europe, its public and private sectors as well as its citizens to enjoy these benefits.

However, so far the EU’s efforts to tackle the challenge and enjoy the benefits have been limited both within the EU as well as globally. Thus, the EPC will launch a project on ‘Blue Gold’, which will consider actions needed to ensure that both the EU’s internal as well as external policies will help to meet the water challenge and to develop smart and sustainable water practices. The water challenge cuts across many different policy fields and it thus requires both an interdisciplinary approach and creative institutional and policy solutions.

The work of the Task Force

The Task Force will explore the water challenge in and outside the EU, the ongoing efforts to tackle the challenge, as well as the related benefits. It will consider the role of internal and external EU policy instruments in the process as well as the challenges and benefits of developing a common EU water policy.

The key questions to be answered during the project include:

1) What measures are needed at EU level to meet the water challenge within the EU?

2) Could the EU do more to mitigate the global water challenge, and its implications for Europe? What can the EU do to tackle the security challenges relating to water and promote international governance of water?

3) What are the benefits of acting now? and

4) Does the EU need a common water policy and what would the benefits be?

The project will be launched in September 2013 and the EPC intends to organise five to six workshops in the coming 12 months. The Task Force will start by reflecting on the water challenge and the EU’s tools for action within and outside Europe. It will then explore water as an economic, social and development issue and then study water as a political and security issue. The challenges and possibilities will be explained with the help of case studies.

The workshops will aim to raise issues which bring added value to ongoing discussions and developments at the EU level. Furthermore, the Task Force will seek for innovative solutions that demonstrate the benefits of improved water management for economy and society, and explore the needed measures for their development and deployment. The findings of the project and policy recommendations for further action will be published at the end of the project.


The Task Force will bring together a wide range of actors and stakeholders from EPC membership. The Task Force members will have the opportunity to bring in their expertise and experiences to the discussions, and provide input to the findings as well as to the final policy recommendations. Commission staff, MEPs and other key decision makers will be invited to take part in the workshops as experts.

The EPC team

The Task Force will be chaired by Marc Otte, Head of Policy Planning at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Director General at Egmont, and led by Annika Hedberg, Senior Policy Analyst and Rosa Balfour, EPC Senior Adviser.

This Task Force is a joint initiative of the EPC's Europe in the World and Europe's Political Economy Programmes.

For more information, please contact:

Annika Hedberg, Senior Policy Analyst
Tel: +32 (0)2 286 93 75

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