(14 January 2021) On Wednesday 13th January, Aqua Publica Europea (APE) and EPSU met to discuss our ongoing cooperation. It was the first meeting with Bernard Van Nuffel since he was elected President of APE. He is also the President of the Brussels water operator, Vivaqua.
One main outcome of the meeting was that we expect concrete proposals from the European Commission in its Social Action Plan to implement the pillar of social rights, which states that all people will have access to essential services, including to water and sanitation.
The importance of public water management in the European Union was also a key topic. The large majority of European drinking water and sanitation services are delivered through public companies. The shortcomings EU policies promoting public-private-partnerships are renowned and have been clearly identified in a report by the European Court of Audit’s in 2019. The pandemic has once more confirmed the importance of universal access to well-functioning public services to ensure health and social protection. It is high time for EU policies to focus on strengthening public services and stop promoting public-public partnerships. Both EPSU and APE welcome the new EU WOP facility that will allow public water companies to assist other public water companies in Africa, Latin America,and the Caribbean as well as Asian-Pacific countries. Hopefully, this will be continued and strengthened in the future.
EPSU and APE will work together on the impact assessment on the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and will put forward concrete proposals on how to combine access to sanitation, protection of the environment and affordability. Climate change, the circular economy, water resources and water services are also key areas for collaboration. We will continue our exchange around possible future scenarios like the increases use of hydrogen and the pros and cons.
Finally, public procurement is important for public authorities and water companies. EPSU and APE share the view that contractors need to respect high standards of health and safety, have collective agreements with their trade unions. Contractors should commit to reducing CO2 emissions, pay their fair share of taxes, and have tax transparency.