Tuesday

17th Jan 2017

First EU citizens' initiative calls for right to water

  • More than two thirds of the 1.8 million signatures came from Germany (Photo: Andrew Mason)

EU law should guarantee the right to water and sanitation, the first valid EU citizens’ initiative has said.

It also called for water services not to face liberalisation, collecting 1.8 million signatures after a campaign called Right2Water, which was backed by a string of NGOs and by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The activists held talks with the European Commission and MEPs on Monday (17 February) to mark the event.

The petition is the first to successfully use the so-called European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), introduced in 2012 as part of the Lisbon treaty, which lets 1 million or more EU citizens task the commission with consideration of new laws.

A minimum number of signatories, based on each country's population, is required in at least seven member states.

Right2Water reached a quorum in 13 countries.

More than two thirds of the 1.8 million signatures came from Germany.

The procedure was put in place partly to address complaints that EU institutions are inaccessible and unresponsive to ordinary people.

"At least we have the feeling of having been listened to - that is already huge," said Anne-Marie Perret, who helped front the campaign, which reached the 1 million target in just three months.

"Our goal is to ensure that binding legal measures are adopted on this. Water should not be liberalised," she added.

The initiative calls for legislation to set a 100 percent target for good quality water and sanitation across the EU by 2016, with sanctions for countries that do not comply. It also calls on the EU executive to exclude water services from internal market rules and to keep them out of any trade agreement it negotiates.

Internal market commissioner Michel Barnier last year already excluded water from the scope of EU rules on contractors and operators after accusations the commission was promoting privatisation by the back door.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday (17 February) Maros Sefcovic, the EU's administrative relations commissioner, described the campaign as "very clear proof that this new participative democracy tool works.”

Matthias Groote, who chairs the parliament's environment committee, called it "a milestone in direct democracy in Europe.”

The commission will respond to the proposals by 20 March to say whether it will table new legislation.

Sefcovic also said the EU executive would look at ways to make the system easier to use when it revises the procedure in 2015, commenting that the commission had needed to step in with IT support for a number of previous campaign efforts.

"We knew that the first electronic tool for transnational democracy would be difficult," he said, adding "we need to make online collection of signatures easier.”

EU should raise own taxes, says report

A group chaired by former Italian PM and EU commissioner Mario Monti says Brexit should be used to create EU-level levies to depend less on member states contributions, and to abolish member states rebates in the EU budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  3. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  4. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  5. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  6. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  7. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  8. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  10. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  11. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey
  12. Zero Waste EuropePublic Support Needed to Promote Zero Waste in More Municipalities