(Press Release, Brussels 30 November 2020) The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) welcomes the vote on the Drinking Water Directive recast in the European Parliament today as small step forward to realise the Human Right to Water in the EU. It follows the first ever successful European Citizens Initiative Right2water. It is regrettable however that the EP did not take the original proposal of the European Commission further and that the result is a very timid approach to the development of the human right to water in the European Union.
EPSU is a major actor in the water sector organising the workers in water and sanitation services. EPSU was the main organisation behind the first ever successful European Citizens Initiative on the human right to water (www.right2water.eu) in 2012. The Drinking Water Directive explicitly mentions the ECI as well as the United Nations declaration on the human right to water and sanitation. The recast Directive is a small step in the right direction to guarantee vulnerable people have access to drinking water. However, we believe that there is too much scope for Member States not to implement the provisions that the directive stipulates. EPSU will continue to campaign for further engagement to promote the human right to water and sanitation and to ensure that no users in the EU will have their water supply disconnected. The Pillar of Social Rights, especially principle 20 on access to essential services, provides a new opportunity to make the crucial step to guarantee the human right to water.
Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary and ECI vice-president, said: “The ECI Right to Water made clear that Europe’s people want their water services run by public companies. It is very disappointing that Members of the European Parliament have forgotten this and are pushing an amendment to the Water Framework Directive report promoting Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs). This comes despite mounting evidence that PPPs do not benefit workers or citizens”.
The compromise amendment 21 of the motion on the implementation of EU water policy promotes PPPs. The UN rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation just published a report indicating that public operators fulfill the human right to water in a much better way than private ones. Amendment 21 will also contradict the previous EP report in response to the ECI, the Boylan report which found that the use of PPPs is neither efficient, nor good for the promotion of the human right to water. The European Court of Auditors argued similarly that there are no benefits to PPPs.
Jan Willem Goudriaan concluded: “We do not understand why the Parliament is deviating from the definition of water in the Water Framework Directive. That made clear that water is not a commercial product like any other, but rather a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such. The ECI has shown that people are very attached to public water services. Members of the EP should stop pushing the liberalisation and commercialisation of these essential services”.
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