Citizens coming from all over Europe, representing the nearly two million people that supported the first successful European Citizen’s Initiative for the Right to Water, have come to demonstrate on the occasion of the World Water Day. Yesterday many NGOs and trade unions such as European Federation of Public Service Unions, European Public Water Network and the Italian Forum for Water Movements reminded the European Commission that they should work for their citizens, not for corporations.
The aim of these demonstrations is to call on the European Union and the Member States to recognize access to water and to sanitation as a human right, and to stop promoting the privatization and liberalization of these services all over Europe as well as to demand the exclusion of water and sanitation services in any trade agreement (TTIP, CETA, TISA and others). Plus, they demand that the European Parliament take position in order to achieve these goals.
The protest was organized by the European Water Movement, a network that brings together grassroots movements all around Europe whose goal is to reinforce the recognition of water as a common good and as a fundamental universal right. According to the organizations, the EC ignores the human right to water in its agenda as clearly shown by the 4th European Water Conference that will take place in Brussels on the same day and by its Communication on the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive of March 9th 2015.
At this moment, the European Parliament is debating its opinion about the Initiative and the human right to water, which will be voted in the Plenary in July this year.
The ECI rules state that for an ECI to pass it needs at least one million signatures from at least 7 Member States. “Right2Water” is the first European Citizens’ Initiative to have met the requirements set out in the Regulation of the European Parliament and Council on the Citizens’ Initiative, after having received the support of more than 1.9 million citizens, for whom around 1.7 million signatures have been validated.
Anne-Marie Perret, president of the Right2Water Citizens’ Committee, said that a European directive would help to consider water as a common good since it is a vital element. The EC must give the drive towards a fundamental right.
Now it is the turn of the European Commission to implement the Human Right to Water in the EU, and to stop its water commodification and privatization agenda.
The initiative urges that:
- The EU institutions and Member States be obliged to ensure that all inhabitants enjoy the right to water and sanitation;
- Water supply and management of water resources not be subject to internal market rules and that water services be excluded from liberalization;
- The EU increases its efforts to achieve universal access to water and sanitation.
In line with the provisions of the Regulation on the Citizens’ Initiative, the Commission has three months to present its response to this initiative in a Communication setting out its legal and political conclusions on the initiative.
There are some positive statements within this Communication which should be welcomed, including that;
- water is not a commercial product,
- the recognition that the provision of water services is, in general, the responsibility of the local authorities who are closest to the citizens,
- and crucially that water and sanitation services were to be excluded from the Concessions Directive.
Nevertheless, overall, the Commission’s vague response was viewed as very disappointing by the Right2Water ECI organisers, Anne-Marie Perret said. It does not address the fundamental demand of the signatories to commit to legislation which would recognise the human right to water which is concerning not just for the human right to water but also for the integrity of the ECI mechanism itself.