Human right to water must be central to EU and global water policies

(21 March 2014) The struggle continues for unions and water activists as we celebrate World Water Day. On the occasion of World Water Day 22 March 2014, EPSU thanks the people and organisations that have supported the initiative Right2Water. It would not have been possible without your support and commitment.

The European Commission Communication in response to the European Citizens' Initiative Right2Water shows that water policy in Europe will never be the same again. The involvement of you and so many people and organisations in the fight to get recognition in EU legislation for the human right to water and sanitation and resulting in close to 1.9 million signatures, has already led to the recognition of "the importance of water as a public good of fundamental value to all Union citizens." It is disappointing that the Commission showed a lack of ambition to implement this in legislation and remained vague about how it will work with Member States to realise this right. The response of the Commission to Right2water recognises that the austerity policies in Europe have lead to more water-poverty and more people that can not pay their water bills. The increase in water poverty shows inequality is an urgent issue to be addressed. In Spanish Jerez 200 families were disconnected after a private water company took over the services.

Last year a neighborhood of a Hungarian town with predominantly Roma people was disconnected. The European Commission stresses that such disconnections are illegal and that people are entitled to a minimum water supply provision as established by the WHO. We look forward what the Commission will propose to implement this. The Commission has not been explicit in excluding water and other public services from being covered by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), nor from the trade deal with Canada, nor from other trade deals.

We will continue pressing for this exclusion. EPSU will continue to support its affiliated unions fighting against privatisation of their water companies. The response of the Commission underlines that such services are best run at local level as being closest to the citizens. The Commission will guarantee that local choices are respected and we look forward to see a statement that the Commission will accept the outcome of the people's referendum in Thessaloniki on the privatisation of their water company, 18 May. Together with our global federation PSI will assist the European Commission to promote the human right to water and sanitation in all its policies including in the UN.

Together with the Commission we will promote public-public partnerships as publicly owned companies in the EU and the world are the preferred way for delivering this important service to the people. We call on the European political parties to commit to recognise the human right to water and sanitation in EU law, asking Member States to implement this and to use the Communication as a basis to prevent liberalisation of EU water and sanitation services and exclude these and other services from trade deals.

With our partners in the Right2Water Initiative we will reflect how to make demands a legal reality.

Contact: [Pablo Sanchez->[email protected]] 0032 474626633