Brussels 26 March 2014 - The European Commission responded to the first successful European Citizens Initiative with a Communication on March 19th. With less than 60 days to go before the European elections, the Citizens’ Committee has approached all candidates to the European Commission Presidency to ask for a commitment to implement the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in the next legislature. The ECI organisers were critical of the Commission’s response as it lacked clear proposals for legislation.
The candidates of the European political groups Ska Keller (the Greens), Martin Schulz (Socialists & Democrats), Jean-Claude Juncker (European People’s Party) and Alexis Tsipras (the European United Left) all came out in full support of the European Citizenship Initiative (ECI) Right2Water
Jean-Claude Juncker candidate for the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) said:
“If I become the next President of the European Commission, I will take into account the human right to water in the European Union, demanded by your European citizens’ initiative. I will ensure that the voice of 1.68m people is heard.”
Martin Schulz , candidate of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament said:
"If I am President of the European Commission I will ensure that the voice of more than 1.68 million people is heard by the EU and I will recognize the Human Right to water in the EU that your European Citizens Initiative has demanded."
Franziska Keller, candidate for the Greens/European Free Alliance said:
“I and 1.9 million agree with the ECI Right2water. The Commission must implement the human right to water!”
Alexis Tsipras, candidate for the European United Left - Nordic Green Left said:
"The European Left salutes the right to water ECI and if I am elected President of the European Commission on behalf of the European Left I would implement the ECI right to water." (see the entire message in the following video )
‘Following the successful Right2Water campaign, EU water policy will never be the same’ says Jan Willem Goudriaan vice-President of the citizens committee ’ People do have clear ideas what they expect of the EU. It is encouraging that four out of five political families in Europe commit to implementing the Human Right to Water, indicative of the level of support for our demands’.
The Right2Water European Citizens’ Initiative collected 1.9 million signatures and asked that the European Commission come forward with legislation to implement the Human Right to Water and Sanitation based on the UN resolution of 2010 in the European Union. The ECI further wants to prevent liberalisation of EU water services, for example through trade agreements like those currently being discussed between the EU and Canada, and the EU and the United States.
Only the liberal candidate, Guy Verhofdstadt, did not commit, although contacted, to the Human Right to Water and Sanitation. This might reflect the position of the German ALDE member FDP whose former leader has said that water is like bread for which there are also markets. Alternatively, it may be because of the position of current liberal Commissioner Olli Rehn, responsible for Europe’s economic policy and the Troika, who has been endorsing, for example, privatisation of water services in Greece and Portugal. There again, it could be that ALDE does not agree with the ECI and wants water services in the EU to be opened up to competition. A small number of individual ALDE MEPs have expressed support for the ECI.
The ECI right2water will continue its campaigning to make the issue of water as a Human Right a public debate across Europe.
[Full EPSU press statement is available on the EPSU website]
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