11th September 2012
A trade union campaign to ensure that water services throughout Europe remain in public ownership has taken its citizens’ petition online. IMPACT members and their friends, families and communities are being encouraged to sign the petition, which aims to gather 30,000 signatures in Ireland. You can sign the petition HERE, and IMPACT is urging members to share the link and encourage people to sign up.
The campaign has grown amid concerns that Irish water services could be privatised in the future following the current restructuring programme.
The petition is the first citizen’s campaign of its kind under the EU’s European Citizen Initiative (ECI), a new legal tool introduced as part of the Nice Treaty, which forces European institutions to consider issues that win the necessary public support. The Right2Water petition aims to attract a million petition signatures throughout the EU and was launched in Ireland at the IMPACT Biennial Delegate Conference in May.
The ‘right to water’ campaign calls on the European Commission to recognise water as a human right, exclude water and sanitation services from EU internal market rules, and legislate to ensure water and sanitation assets remain in public control even where private companies operate them.
Delegates at the IMPACT conference in May voiced their concerns that the establishment of the new national water authority, Irish Water, could eventually lead to the privatisation of Ireland’s water and drainage services.
Delegates expressed strong opposition to water privatisation and unanimously backed motions calling for Irish Water to remain in public ownership. Despite Government assurances that it intends Irish Water to remain in public hands, unions believe plans to rationalise water assets in a single organisation will make future privatisation more likely, particularly once water charges trigger a lucrative income stream.
Jerry Van Den Berge of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) told the IMPACT conference that the European Commission currently favoured ‘marketisation’ of water despite international opinion shifting against privatisation, mainly because of concerns over quality, price and value for money. “Over two-thirds of the EU’s water is supplied by local authorities, water has returned to public ownership in Paris, Vienna and Hungary, and Holland has passed legislation preventing water privatisation. Even in the USA 85% of water services are run by municipal companies,” he said.
Among other things, the campaign calls on the European Commission to:
- Exclude water and sanitation services from EU internal market rules
- Exclude water and sanitation services from trade agreements
- Legislate to ensure that water resources remain in public control even where private contractors provide services
- Put measures in place to help prevent disconnection of households unable to pay water bills
- Ensure that protection of water services prevails over commercial priorities
- Insist on transparency and openness where private companies provide water and sanitation services
- Support companies that invest in water partnerships with developing countries and
- Recognise water as a human right.