By João Ferreira - 25th October 2012
We urge EU institutions and member states to ensure that the right to water and sanitation be, in fact, exercised universally be all people without exclusion
The EU must ensure water access is a universal right enjoyed by all, argues João Ferreira
In the debate about water there is a clear dividing line. On one hand, we have the defenders of the business of water. Those who ignore or undermine the fact that water and sanitation is a human right, which has already been recognised under international law, including by the United Nations general assembly and the human rights council in 2010. Those who say that they are defending the ‘right of access to water’ and deliberately confusing it with ‘the right to water’, are paving the way for water multinationals whose greed inevitably clashes with people’s right to water and sanitation. It is a right which is still denied to many European citizens. Furthermore, those for which water is a market good that should, therefore, be submitted to market rules. And the people who promote water and water utility privatisation in Europe and all around the world; these are the ones who are generating exclusion, inequality and poverty.
This is the direction that European legislation and policies have opted for so far. The Lisbon treaty facilitated attempts to subordinate some areas of national public services to the operating rules of the supranational single market. The EU submits economic and social policies and rights, as well as strategic national interests, to the rules of single market competition. On the other hand, we have those who consider water as a shared resource of mankind. They support the UN resolution on water and sanitation, considering it an essential right for the full enjoyment of all human beings. These are the people who reject and fight any attempt of water privatisation and marketisation. This is the way we choose to take. This is the way more and more people around Europe and all around the world are demanding. We reiterate that the management of water resources should not be subject to internal market rules. We urge the European institutions and member states to ensure that the right to water and sanitation be, in fact, exercised universally by all people without exclusion. We urge the European commission to review the relevant legislation, particularly that on public procurement and concessions, so as to ensure the public property, possession and management of water and water utilities. This is a precondition for a sustainable, rational and fair management of such a vital resource, and the best way to save money for both the taxpayers and water consumers.
With the deepening crisis of capitalism and the increasing submission of political power to economic power, inflicting serious and successive attacks against social rights and achievements, against the living conditions of the populations and against the decision making power of states and peoples, the EU’s objective of pushing them to adopt privatisation strategies, including water management, is becoming more and more clear. This is what is happening in countries like Portugal and Greece, under the auspices of the EU-IMF programmes. This is in a clear violation of the EU’s supposed neutrality on the question of public or private ownership and management of collective water services. To rescue water from business, to the other side of the dividing line, is one of the most important and urgent tasks the peoples of Europe are confronted with.
João Ferreira is parliament's shadow rapporteur on the implementation of EU water legislation, ahead of a necessary overall approach to European water challenges