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Human right to water not sufficiently enshrined in the draft proposal on the Drinking Water Directive

At the beginning of the year, the European Commission presented the proposal for a revision of the Drinking Water Directive. In doing so, the demands of the successful European Citizens’ Initiative “Right2Water”, which was signed by 1.8 Million EU citizens in 2013, have been addressed for the first time. However, from the Chamber of Labour’s point of view the right to clean and affordable drinking water has not been sufficiently implemented in the draft proposal.

It was in 2013, when the European Citizens' Initiative “Right2Water” was started. Its objective was and is clear: water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good and not a commodity. That is why the Initiative, which is supported by the Chamber of Labour, asks the European Commission to present a legislative proposal that enforces the human right to water and sanitation and promotes working water and wastewater management as a public service for all people. This EU legislation should oblige governments to ensure the sufficient supply with clean and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all citizens.

From the point of view of the operators of the Citizens’ Initiative, the Commission reacted in a restrained and almost disappointing manner to the successful Initiative, which had been supported by more than 1.8 million people. By suggesting that the actual responsibility for water services would be in the competence of individual countries, the Commission put the ball back in the corner of the Member States. Instead of presenting a legislative proposal straight away, it engaged in several studies and consultations.

It took until 1st February 2018 for the Commission to at last present the proposal for a revision of the Drinking Water Directive. However, from the Chamber of Labour’s point of view significant amendments are being required: clearly missing in the text of the Directive is the inclusion of the human right to water and thereby the Initiative’s key demand. Explicit enshrinement has not even been proposed in the recitals. For further clarification it is important to expressly oblige the Member States to actually ensure access to water for human consumption for all groups of the population. The draft only provides for “improving” access to water for den human consumption for all and for “promoting” its use in the respective territory. However, to fulfil the request of the 1.8 million EU citizens, the right to clean and above all also affordable drinking water should definitely be implemented.

Now the ball is both in the Council’s and the Parliament’s corner, where currently intensive negotiations on amendments are taking place. The Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) has scheduled the vote on this dossier for 10th September 2018.

Further information:

AK Position Paper: Directive on the quality of water for human consumption (Drinking Water Directive)

European Commission: Safer drinking water for all Europeans

AK EUROPA: “Right2water”: European Commission presents measures

Citizens’ initiative “Right2water”

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