Legislate on Right2Water and exclude water permanently from the internal market and trade agreements says EESC

(23 October 2014) The European Economic and Social Committee which brings together employers, trade unions, consumers, farmers and representatives of other groups from all European countries calls on the European Commission to come forward with legislative proposals that honour the demands of the European Citizens Initiative Right2Water, the first ever successful ECI.  The EESC urges the European Commission to propose legislation establishing access to water and sanitation as a human right as set out by the United Nations, and to promote the provision of water and sanitation as vital public services for all. The EESC, one of the European institutions whose role is based in the Treaty, endorses the view of EPSU that the European Commission response to the ECI Right2Water lacked ambition.

Employers, trade unions, and many other organisations also call for the exclusion of water services from the negotiations on trade agreements such as over CETA (with Canada), TTIP (with the US) and TISA (a global agreement to open up trade in services) The Committee agrees that the provision of water services is generally the responsibility of local authorities, which are the closest to the citizens;  that the European Commission has a commitment to promoting universal access to water and sanitation in its development policies through not-for-profit partnership; and that public-public partnerships should be promoted and recognised as an effective tool to enhance the performance of public authorities and water services not only in the international development domain, but also within the EU.

The EESC notes that, through their support to the ECI, European citizens have expressed their desire to participate in European policy-making and have a say on the issue of water as a public good and a service of general interest. This calls for all European institutions to open up the governance of European water policy to all interested stakeholders and to increase the opportunities for public debate on the future of water resources.

As the Right2Water ECI also address the EU's development policy the EESC says that this policy would benefit from being backed firmly by the recognition by all Member States of the human right officially recognised by the UN in July 2010, particularly with a view to ensuring optimum effectiveness, as declaring development and aid policy in this area to be bound by a human right would make it possible to combat corruption and commit sub-contractor operators.  The EESC wants that the Commission better promotes these not for profit partnerships in the water sector so as to develop capacity by transferring expertise and knowledge between water and sanitation utilities, local authorities and other water sector stakeholders. The Committee advocates research into technologies for improving the health and safety of workers in the water and sanitation sectors;

The employers, unions, consumers and others work together in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and issue opinions and recommendations on Commission policies and proposals. Given the diversity of the committee and the representation of employers and trade unions from all EU Member States its opinion are representative for a cross-section of European society. The opinion was written by colleague An Le Nouail Marlière, member of the workers' group and approved with near unanimity by employers and other groups. Clivia Conrad, from Ver.di was the expert for the workers' group. The opinion was adopted 15 October 2014.