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Procedure : 2014/2239(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0228/2015

Texts tabled :

A8-0228/2015

Debates :

PV 07/09/2015 - 30
CRE 07/09/2015 - 30

Votes :

PV 08/09/2015 - 5.14
CRE 08/09/2015 - 5.14

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2015)0294

Debates
Monday, 7 September 2015 - Strasbourg Revised edition

30. Follow up to the European citizens' initiative Right2Water (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Lynn Boylan, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the follow-up to the European Citizens’ Initiative Right2Water (2014/2239(INI)) (A8-0228/2015).

 
  
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  Lynn Boylan, rapporteur. Madam President. The Right2Water European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was the first successful example of this democratic mechanism and it reached almost double the minimum requirements with a staggering 1.8 million signatures.

It is clear that the human right to water is an issue of great importance for citizens across Europe. Ownership and management of water services are clearly key concerns for citizens and cannot be ignored.

In my home country, Ireland, which you will be familiar with yourself, Madam President, the introduction of flat-rate regressive charges has resulted in some of the largest protests the country has ever seen. Given that Ireland previously had what was considered one of the most progressive forms of paying for water, through general taxation, this anger is understandable. Irish people should not have to submit to an unjust double taxation, which will also affect the poor the hardest.

In spite of the unparalleled success of this ECI, the official response of the Commission was vague, disappointing and did not properly address the demands of the Right2Water campaign. The response lacked ambition and ignored the key demands of Right2Water. In this report I have tried to better answer the citizens who are still waiting for proper action from the EU. It is pitiful that the Commission had not come forward with legislative proposals enshrining water as a human right and a legal requirement across the European Union. This was a key demand of the Right2Water ECI and it has been roundly ignored by the Commission so far.

I have called on it in this report to rectify the situation. I have recognised that the provision of water services is a natural monopoly, where competition amongst private operators has not worked, does not work and will never work. Water is a public good and should never be commodified. Profits should not be made on public goods such as water. All revenues must be reinvested into improving infrastructure of water service and not go to shareholders or executives’ pay. It is critical that the Commission respect the Member States’ right to organise their water services as they see fit.

Indeed, across the world, we have experienced a growing rise in the re—municipalisation of water services. In other words, water services previously run by private companies are being brought back under public management due to the abject failures of privatisation in the water sector.

I would like to express my thanks for the support from the Right2Water campaign itself and the support of MEPs in the more progressive Groups, but I am extremely disappointed with the EPP Group, which along with the ECR has produced an alternative resolution which strips the strong and progressive aspects from my report.

I can see that they have worked very hard to disguise their sham, but if anyone reads the two reports it is clear where their ambitions lie. They have worked wormholes through the report to weaken it beyond any recognition. Gone is any criticism of the Commission’s failure to respond to the campaign. Gone is the call for the human right to water to be enshrined in legislation, and gone is any criticism of the privatisation of water services.

They have removed the call for the Commission to remain neutral on the question of ownership and not to promote privatisation of water services. Indeed the whole motion is very private-sector-friendly, so much so that the original call for water services to be removed from TTIP is completely missing. They have deleted so many positive aspects of the report that it has gone from 37 pages to a 9-page document which reads more like an EPP position paper supported by the Tories than an honest response to the almost 2 million citizens who signed this ECI. It is a dishonest attempt to gag the voices of those who campaigned for the human right to water. Given that this was meant to be Parliament’s opportunity to respond to the Right2Water ECI it will reflect incredibly poorly on us as the supposed voice of European citizens if this alternative motion is passed, which is not supported by the Right2Water campaign. The ECI was meant to show citizens that the EU is willing to re-engage with them on matters which are important to them. If this alternative motion passes, then the ECI is dead in the water.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Ivan Jakovčić (ALDE). Gospodine predsjedniče, Istra, jedna mala europska regija na zapadu Hrvatske, je možda najbolji primjer kako se javnom vodoopskrbom može zadovoljiti potrebe građana i pravo na vodu. I zaista, osnovno, elementarno, ljudsko pravo je pravo na vodu.

Uspjeli smo u jednoj relativno ruralnoj regiji doći do toga da 99,4 % stanovništva ima javnu vodoopskrbu, pitku vodu. I to prvenstveno zahvaljujući solidarnosti građana i javnog lokalnog i regionalnog sektora. Zato ja nisam, neovisno što pripadam skupini ALDE, za privatizaciju vodoopskrbnog sustava pod svaku cijenu.

Dapače, suprotno, pokazalo se da je voda nešto na što svaki građanin ima pravo i u tom se kontekstu značajno zalažem da voda i upravljanje vodom budu što više u javnom vlasništvu, jer je to garancija da će onda i svaki građanin imati pravo na vodu.

 
  
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  Claude Turmes (Verts/ALE). Frau Präsidentin! Fast 2 Millionen Bürger haben in Europa diesen Aufruf unterzeichnet für Wasser als öffentliches Gut. Wasser soll in Europa nicht der Liberalisierung, der Privatisierung, dem Wettbewerb ausgesetzt werden, das sollen also nicht Konzerne, sondern Stadtwerke ausrichten. Und drittens soll Wasser auch aus Handelsverträgen herausgehalten werden, um eben zu verhindern, dass in Drittweltländern Konzerne die Wasserwirtschaft diktieren.

Ich dachte, wir im Parlament hätten eine breite Mehrheit, das zu unterstützen. Das war auch der Fall im Umweltausschuss, und ich bin auch sehr, sehr traurig über den Ansatz der Konservativen, PPE aber auch ECR, hier quasi den Konzernen auf den Leim zu gehen und zu fordern, dass man auch in Europa die Wasserwirtschaft liberalisiert, privatisiert und Wasser auch in TTIP, TISA, CETA – also in die internationalen Handelsverträge –mit einschreibt. Ich hoffe, dass wir das morgen in der Abstimmung verhindern können. Vielen Dank!

 
  
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  Νότης Μαριάς (ECR). Κυρία Πρόεδρε, κατ’ αρχάς θα ήθελα να συγχαρώ την εισηγήτρια για την έκθεσή της που περιλαμβάνει όλα όσα είχαμε τη δυνατότητα να συζητήσουμε στην ημερίδα που διοργάνωσε το κίνημα «SOSτε το ΝΕΡΟ» στη Θεσσαλονίκη τον προηγούμενο Μάιο, όπου είχαμε κληθεί να συμμετάσχουμε ως ομιλητές. Στηρίζω με τη σειρά μου τον αγώνα των κινημάτων και την ευρωπαϊκή πρωτοβουλία των πολιτών για το δικαίωμα στο νερό και καλώ την Επιτροπή να εξαιρέσει τις υπηρεσίες ύδρευσης από τις διαπραγματεύσεις που βρίσκονται σε εξέλιξη για την ΤΤΙΡ και για την TiSA. Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση οφείλει να τηρήσει τη Συνθήκη και να πάψει να προωθεί την ιδιωτικοποίηση των επιχειρήσεων ύδρευσης, ιδίως, σε χώρες που βρίσκονται σε μνημόνιο, όπως συμβαίνει στην Ελλάδα με την ΕΥΑΘ στη Θεσσαλονίκη. Στηρίζω την έκθεση και αντιτάσσομαι στις τροπολογίες του ΕΛΚ που προσπαθεί να αποδυναμώσει την έκθεση και την εκστρατεία των Ευρωπαίων πολιτών. Το νερό αποτελεί δημόσιο αγαθό και η πρόσβαση στην ύδρευση και την αποχέτευση αποτελεί αναφαίρετο δικαίωμα κάθε πολίτη όπως καθορίζει και η ίδια η Γενική Συνέλευση του ΟΗΕ.

 
  
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  Eleonora Forenza (GUE/NGL). Signora Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, volevo ringraziare la collega Boylan per questa importante relazione. Io vengo da un paese l'Italia, in cui i più di 27 milioni hanno votato affinché l'acqua rimanesse un bene comune, rimanesse pubblica. Eppure questo referendum è stato ampiamente disatteso, non considerato. Ecco, io non vorrei che la legge, la proposta di iniziativa popolare, l'iniziativa popolare di milioni di cittadini europei, facesse la stessa fine. Ed è per questo che sono convinta che si sia importante sostenere l'ICE sul diritto all'acqua e che Lynn Boyan abbia fatto un ottimo lavoro in questa direzione.

Credo che l'Unione non possa tardare ulteriormente nel riconoscere quello che già l'ONU ha riconosciuto come un diritto umano: il diritto all'acqua potabile. Siamo già in ritardo nel riconoscere questo come un diritto anche nell'Unione europea. Aggiungo, per la democrazia, per la struttura democratica dell'Unione, la Commissione ha il dovere di rispettare quello che è il contenuto dell'ICE. Mi auguro che il gruppo, l'intergruppo di questo Parlamento su beni comuni servizi pubblici, sappia essere utile anche in questa direzione.

 
  
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  Jonathan Arnott (EFDD). Madam President, I am at a loss for how to vote on this one, because I agree with so much of what the rapporteur says. I agree: water is a human right. I agree that public services must be exempted from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – it is something which simply should not be negotiable. I agree that water must be a natural monopoly, personally. I share a lot of the concerns about foreign aid and helping with water supplies in the poorest countries, and we have a Citizens’ Initiative, where over a million-and-a-half citizens in Europe have petitioned – and yet fewer than 15 people are here today to debate it.

We have had so much contact from constituents, and I support all that. At the same time, as somebody who is opposed to the European Union in principle, I have concerns about EU money, about nation states’ rights, about the direction of travel for more Europe. I genuinely do not know how I am going to vote on this one.

 
  
 

(End of catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Tibor Navracsics, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I would like, on behalf of the Commission, to thank the European Parliament, and in particular, Ms Boylan, for the report on the follow-up to the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Right2Water’. As the Commission has made clear in its response to the initiative, water is not a commercial product like any other, but rather a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such. Access to it cannot be taken for granted, although many people in Europe do so.

The Commission has always underlined that an important condition for providing access to water is the preservation and protection of water resources. This is a cornerstone of EU environment policy. The EU directives on drinking water and urban wastewater treatment, as well as the Water Framework Directive, set the standards for water and sanitation and provide the basis for integrated water resource management. As your report states, globally, access to water and sanitation is a global issue of huge importance. Fifteen years on from the UN Millennium Declaration, the statistics are still challenging: 748 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to basic levels of sanitation. Therefore I welcome Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The SDGs are at the core of the post-2015 agenda. The EU stands ready to play its full part in its implementation, both through its external action as well as its internal policies and actions, and I hope that we will be able to gather momentum with all partners to achieve universal access in the not too distant future.

I wish to reaffirm the Commission’s position on the importance of the human rights dimension of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, including within the EU itself. Firstly, the Commission recognises the importance of water as a public good. The provision of water services is in general the responsibility of the local authorities, as they are closest to the citizens. Secondly, the Commission has clarified the principle of neutrality. Treaty rules require the EU to remain neutral in relation to national decisions governing the ownership regime for water undertakings, be it public or private. Moreover, EU rules on concessions acknowledge the specificity of water. Works and services concerning drinking water and sanitation have been excluded from the scope of the Concessions Directive, and the subsidiarity principle regarding the choice of method of water management has been fully recognised. This also applies to trade deals. No EU trade deal has ever restricted EU Member States’ freedom to organise their public services – including water – the way they choose. TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – will be no different. Thirdly, I re-confirm the Commission’s commitment to a number of actions which will ensure that these principles remain at the heart of its policies, and I welcome the emphasis placed in the committee’s report on the importance of Member States implementing EU legislation.

The Commission will build on existing legislation and policies to continue to increase and improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation for the whole population through environmental policies and infrastructure funding.

Let me now emphasise again the positive impact the Citizens’ Initiative has had on putting water issues high on the political agenda. We welcome your numerous calls on the Commission for action. The Commission is carefully considering them in the context of a number of actions, for example in the evaluation of the Drinking Water Directive, the preparation of the Water Re-use Initiative and the upcoming review of the Water Framework Directive, and the ongoing dialogue with the stakeholders – including the initiators of the Citizens’ Initiative – on benchmarking water quality and services.

To conclude, I would like to add an important element. EU water policies and activities over the past decades have allowed access to adequate sanitation and drinking water services for the large majority of EU citizens. Challenges remain. Member States play a big role in the implementation of EU legislation, while further targeted action by the Commission is under way. We all have to play together in ensuring full compliance with EU water legislation, thus helping to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all citizens throughout the EU. We welcome the strong support and additional calls from this House for more ambitious action, in particular to involve citizens and to provide more transparency. Also, the call for access to safe drinking water and sanitation is much welcomed and will be taken into account in future Commission work.

As regards the European Citizens’ Initiative tool itself, I am pleased to note that this major innovation introduced by the Lisbon Treaty is now up and running and involving citizens more closely in EU agenda-setting. However, there is still clearly room for improvement. In the report on the application of Regulation No 211/2011 on the Citizens’ Initiative published on 31 March 2015, the Commission took stock of this situation after three years of application. The report identified a number of issues in the current functioning of the instrument as a basis for further discussion and reflection on how to improve it. The Commission is now awaiting input from stakeholders, in particular the own initiative report of the European Parliament on ECI. This report will feed into the Commission’s analysis on how to improve the functioning of the European Citizens’ Initiative and make the tool as effective as possible. The Commission is looking forward to further cooperation with Parliament on both these important issues: the follow-up of the Right2Water initiative and the evolution of the tool.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 8 September 2015.

Written statements (Rule 162)

 
  
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  Nicola Caputo (S&D), per iscritto. Right2Water è la prima iniziativa dei cittadini europei che, con i suoi due milioni di firme ha raggiunto la soglia minima per essere sottoposta ufficialmente alla Commissione europea. Questi numeri sono sufficienti per farci capire quanto il tema sia sentito dai cittadini europei. Proprio per questo motivo ci si aspettava molto di più dalla comunicazione della Commissione che risulta invece deludente e poco ambiziosa, non rispondendo alle richieste specifiche espresse dall'iniziativa.

Ecco perché questo Parlamento ha l'obbligo di spingere la Commissione europea a rispondere con i fatti alle preoccupazioni sollevate dai cittadini. La Commissione deve lavorare prioritariamente a una revisione della direttiva quadro sulle acque che riconosca l'accesso universale e il diritto umano all'acqua, così come l'accesso universale ad acqua potabile sicura e ai servizi igienico-sanitari dovrebbe essere riconosciuto nella Carta dei diritti fondamentali dell'Unione europea.

Inoltre, dobbiamo essere compatti nell'affermare che i servizi idrici e fognari, in quanto servizi di interesse generale, dovrebbero essere esclusi dalle regole del mercato interno e dagli accordi commerciali che l'UE sta attualmente negoziando, come il TTIP. Mi auguro davvero che la Commissione saprà dare seguito a queste istanze. Se non dovesse farlo, l'Unione europea in quanto tale perderebbe credibilità agli occhi dei cittadini.

 
  
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  Iratxe García Pérez (S&D), por escrito. Los ciudadanos lo han dicho alto y claro: el agua no es un bien comercial sino un bien público. El derecho al agua y el saneamiento es un derecho humano y, sin embargo, solo en la UE más de un millón de personas no tienen acceso al agua potable segura y limpia y el 2% de la población tampoco dispone de servicios de saneamiento. En el resto del mundo son muchos millones de personas los que padecen esta situación inhumana. La respuesta de la Comisión a los ciudadanos es decepcionante, no responde a las demandas de éstos, que piden acciones nuevas y la presentación de una propuesta legislativa para la implementación del derecho humano al agua y el saneamiento como servicios públicos esenciales para todos, tal y como ha reconocido la ONU. Los socialistas defendemos el derecho al agua y el saneamiento de todas las personas, que debe incorporarse a la Directiva marco, apostamos por un modelo de titularidad y control público de la gestión, basado en el agua como derecho indiscutible y no como mercancía, nos oponemos a cualquier intento de privatizar este bien público y a los cortes de suministro a los ciudadanos sin recursos económicos.

 
  
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  Jiří Maštálka (GUE/NGL), písemně. Je nezbytné si uvědomit smutný fakt, totiž že minimálně 748 milionů lidí nemá trvalý přístup k bezpečné pitné vodě a že třetina světové populace nemá k dispozici základní sanitární a hygienická zařízení, což jsou naprosto alarmující fakta. V důsledku této situace je naplnění práva na zdraví ohroženo, dochází k šíření nemocí, které způsobují utrpení a smrt a výrazně brání rozvoji. Smutným faktem je i to, že denně umírá 4 000 dětí na následky infekčních onemocnění z nekvalitní vody a v důsledku neadekvátních hygienických zařízení a 3,5 milionů lidí umírá každý rok v důsledku infekčních onemocnění z vody. Tento trend musíme změnit. Občanskou iniciativu Right2water podpořilo téměř 1,9 milionu občanů ze všech členských států EU. Doufám a zároveň jasně vyzývám Komisi, aby v souladu se stávajícím hlavním cílem evropské občanské iniciativy předložila adekvátní legislativní návrhy, a to v dohledné době!

 
  
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  Pavel Poc (S&D), písemně. Evropská občanská iniciativa je nový mechanismus participativní demokracie, který má od roku 2012 umožnit občanům Evropské unie přímo ovlivnit a formovat politický program. Občanská iniciativa „Voda a hygiena jsou lidská práva! Voda je veřejný statek, ne komodita!“, známá pod názvem Right2Water, získala v době předložení 1,6 milionu ověřených podpisů od občanů ze všech států EU a stala se tak první úspěšnou evropskou občanskou iniciativou. S ohledem na tento fakt i vzhledem k masovým hnutím občanů v jednotlivých členských státech očekávali signatáři a organizátoři iniciativy odpovídající reakci Evropské komise. Místo toho se jim dostalo naprosto vágní odpovědi, která postrádá jakékoli ambice. Komise především nepředložila žádný odpovídající legislativní návrh, což byl klíčový požadavek iniciativy Right2Water.

Evropský parlament se proto rozhodl zareagovat zprávou z vlastního podnětu a přimět Komisi, aby dostála svým závazkům. Přesto jsme svědky snahy oslabit i tuto zprávu předložením alternativního usnesení, které postrádá všechny klíčové prvky odhlasované ve výboru ENVI. Toto alternativní usnesení není podporováno iniciativou Right2Water a vypadá spíše jako poziční dokument PPE podporovaný ECR. Apeluji proto na všechny své kolegy z České republiky, aby nepodpořili alternativní usnesení PPE, které nejen že není v souladu s tím, co chtějí občané, ale které naprosto znehodnocuje celý mechanismus evropské občanské iniciativy.

 
  
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  Claude Rolin (PPE), par écrit. "L'eau, un droit humain" ou le thème d'une initiative citoyenne pour laquelle j'avais d'ailleurs été ambassadeur dans mes précédentes fonctions de Secrétaire général de la Confédération des syndicats chrétiens de Belgique. Nous avions alors récolté près de deux millions de signatures. Deux millions d'Européens qui réclament que l'eau soit accessible à toutes et à tous, qui réclament que l'eau ne soit pas une marchandise. L'eau, c'est comme l'air, on en a tous besoin pour vivre. Il n'est dès lors pas question qu'on la privatise. Au contraire, il faut que l'eau soit accessible en qualité et en quantité pour tous. Il faut faire en sorte que les prix pour les premières tranches de consommation soient beaucoup plus bas que les prix pour les grands consommateurs. En tous les cas, cette initiative citoyenne est importante – importante pour l'humanité, mais aussi importante en termes de crédibilité démocratique. À la Commission européenne maintenant de mettre en œuvre ce qui se trouve dans cette initiative.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing. As a co-author of a previous Parliament resolution dealing with the right to water, I fully support the call for legislation to implement the right to water and sanitation. This is a human right as recognised by the United Nations and should be underpinned by the proper legal framework to ensure that it is a reality for everyone. I welcome the Commission’s recognition that water is not a commercial product, but overall I think the Commission’s response to the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Right2Water’ has been disappointing. Pressure on water resources is growing. In the interests of the environment and human rights, the EU should provide the necessary support to ensure that resources are managed properly and water is accessible and affordable for all.

 
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