Our response to the Consultation on Drinking Water in Europe

(11 September 2014) With respect to the human right to water and sanitation, “right2water” has deliberately focused on the aspects of availability, accessibility and affordability of water supply and wastewater disposal. Quality of drinking water and security of supply – both important aspects of achieving this human right – are in principle effectively ensured by the Drinking Water Directive. Ongoing improvement of this Directive is desirable, but not sufficient to attain the goals of “right2water”. The Commission must therefore as a priority support Member States in improving availability, accessibility and affordability. Our expectations of the Commission are that it should make legislative proposals which entitle all inhabitants of the EU to the human right to water and sanitation and require Member States to implement this human right.

No access to drinking water and sanitation for people in the EU constitutes discrimination against them. Countering this discrimination definitively is a key task for the Commission, which it cannot leave to the Member States. Also by having strived for liberalisation of water management – most recently by means of Concession Directive 2014/23/EU – and not precluding it for the future by a clear legal instrument (also as a result of the reporting pursuant to Article 53, 3rd paragraph), the Commission refuses to combat this discrimination. After all, it is a government task, not the object of private undertakings, to achieve the human right.

This is particularly important with regard to the possible content of Free Trade Agreements, such as the TTIP, CETA and TISA, which to our knowledge do not permanently exclude water management with absolute certainty. If the Commission takes no steps to enshrine the human right to water and sanitation in EU law, it denies people the possibility of taking action against discrimination suffered. In its Communication COM(2014) 177 final, the Commission falls short of the expectations of European citizens. The new Commission has the opportunity to mark the start of a new era by taking up the proposals of “right2water” and using its powers to promote the achievement of  this human right. People without access to water are unable to exercise other human rights (health, education, etc.) and are excluded from all the benefits of Union citizenship.

This human right has democratic relevance. Local self-government – i.e. democracy at municipal level – developed in many places essentially from regulating the water supply. Therefore water suppliers are still close to citizens even today. The Commission must guarantee this structure under the Treaties – and it has the will to do so too, as stated in its Communication. We expect the Commission in future to keep consistently to this assertion and to reinforce the public good of water under public ownership. This necessarily includes leaving the decision on the size and type of supply structures to the local level.
This is also particularly applicable where EU support measures are needed in the crisis, such as, for example, in Greece and Portugal. Here insisting on once contemplated privatisation measures infringes the Treaties. At this local level, information, accountability and transparency must also be facilitated and guaranteed. An EU-wide water information system is of no use to citizens locally.
We call on the Commission to consider water issues exclusively under the human rights approach. The market approach is completely wrong here.

You can participate in this consultation and answer to the questionnaire. Find below our model responses to the questionnaire:

- in English

- in French

- in German

- in Spanish

- in Greek

- in Italian

- in Swedish

- in Dutch

- in Hungarian

- in Romanian

You can also send an open response to the consultation. Therefore you can send the model letter below to ENV-DRINKING-WATER@ec.europa.eu