Access to water services denied to Roma in the EU – new report on the need for EU legislation on Human Right to Water

(28 March 2017) In the midst of the European Citizens’ Committee campaign for the Right2Water we were informed that a mayor cut off access to drinking water to a group of Roma. This caused an outcry. The ECI mobilized in Hungary, many people signed up to the ECI and the country became one of many to pass the threshold for the ECI. In the end nearly 2 million people in Europe supported it as did the European Parliament.

Now a new report from the European Roma Rights Centre reveals just how extensive this problem is. The report "Thirsting for Justice: Europe’s Roma Denied Access to Clean Water and Sanitation" summarizes research carried out by the ERRC between 2014 – 2016. It covers 93 Romani neighbourhoods and settlements in Albania, France, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovakia. The report argues that water scarcity is also a social phenomenon. “Roma are disproportionately affected by exclusive and discriminatory decision-making processes, which leave many people in contemporary Europe without available and affordable drinking water and sanitation. The report contains recommendations for national governments and the European Commission on improving the water access for socially excluded people and ethnic minorities in Europe. “

The report asks governments amongst others to:

  • Adopt laws explicitly recognising the human right to water and sanitation and ensure that all people in the country enjoy access to safe drinking water and sanitation;
  • In consultation with relevant academic experts and civil society, develop and adopt an annual work plan that will include specific actions for implementing the human right to water;
  • Make sure that conditions of housing informality do not prevent people from enjoying the right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
  • Adopt policies and allocate budgets for connecting Roma settlements to public drinking water and sewage systems;

It very specifically asks the European Commission to:

  • MAKE THE NECESSARY PROPOSALS TO ENSURE THAT UNION LAW IS BROUGHT IN LINE WITH THE UN LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND RECOGNISE THE HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER
  • Propose expanding the applicability of water-related directives to consider problems with accessibility and affordability of water supply and services;

Leo Heller, UN Special Rapporteur on Safe Water & Sanitation, emphatically supports these recommendations. I his foreword he states:

“ The evidence that large segments of this ethnic minority continue to be grossly unserved or underserved in their access to safe drinking water and sanitation suggests that some European States have been failing to meet their well-established human rights obligations.”

The European Commission has been called upon by European citizens to act and propose legislation to implement the human right to water and sanitation. It has failed to do so. EPSU and other European Water Movement Groups highlighted this lack of action on the World Water Day 22 March. Slovenia showed it can be done so why can the Commission not bring forward action ?

For the report