Nitrate management discourses in Poland and Denmark-Laggards or leaders in water quality protection?

Emilia Noel Ptak, Morten Graversgaard, Jens Christian Refsgaard, Tommy Dalgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The most significant source of nitrate pollution in the European Union (EU) is attributed to agricultural activities, which threaten drinking water, marine, and freshwater resources. The Nitrates Directive is a key feature of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which seeks to reduce nitrate pollution from agricultural sources. Yet, weak compliance by Member States (MS) diminishes the legitimacy of the EU environmental acquis and undermines efforts to achieve environmental objectives. This study examines the nitrate management discourse in Poland to identify influencing factors that impact governance capacity and overall compliance performance. The empirical investigation is based on nine stakeholder interviews, three written correspondences, and a literature review that collectively comprise an evaluation study. A comparison in governance approaches between Poland and Denmark provides a calibration in assessing performance respective to another MS. The findings categorize both Poland and Denmark as "laggard" in WFD compliance. This case contributes new insights in identifying 6 enabling and 13 constraining factors affecting the ability of MS to fulfill their implementation duties. The findings demonstrate that divergent stakeholder views based on historical and cultural norms require a differentiated approach tailored to domestic conditions for effective fulfillment of the objectives set forth in EU environmental legislation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2371
Number of pages26
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Agriculturally induced water pollution
  • Comparative governance approaches
  • Implementation performance
  • Leaders and laggards
  • Nitrates directive
  • Policy design
  • Water framework directive

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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