More promising recent developments have emerged at international level beyond the EU. The new Global Soil Partnership (GSP), proposed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and recently adopted by the FAO member countries, also allows for a new approach to soil protection on a voluntary basis in Europe (see Box below). The GSP is essentially a “coalition of the willing” bringing together the national governments, NGOs and other stakeholders that have a genuine interest and commitment to soil protection. There is great hope that such a voluntary approach, based on a partnership and on voluntary commitments, may prove more effective than the traditional binding legislative approach, which, despite all the efforts by the European Commission, is still not showing sufficient progress in Europe.

Future challenges

The major drawback of such voluntary approaches is obviously the lack of accountability/liability and sanctioning mechanisms. Given that there is no legal obligation to act, lack of soil protection at EU level cannot be sanctioned.

Still, one of the main effects of this recent surge of attention to soils on a global scale is that several national governments have been giving this subject increased attention.