One of the major developments in EPSU’s work since our last congress has been our participation in the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Right2Water.’ An ECI is a new tool for participative democracy envisaged in the Lisbon treaty to allow European citizens to influence the EU policy agenda.
Right2Water was the first ECI to collect enough signatures to trigger the obligatory response from the European Commission. In fact we far surpassed the threshold, collecting 1.66 million valid signatures from across the EU, making it the first successful ECI in history.
The demands of the ECI were simple: implement the human right to water, do not liberalise water services in the EU and do more to ensure people across the world have access to clean and safe water. In February, representatives of the citizens’ committee met with European commissioner Maroš Šefčovič to discuss the demands. This was followed by a hearing in the European Parliament, which was attended by over 400 people.
EPSU felt that the response of the Commission, which contained no legislative proposals, really lacked ambition in light of the huge groundswell of support for the ECI. We contacted the candidates for Commission president of all five major European political families to ask them to commit to implementing the right to water if elected commission president. Four out of five came out in support of the ECI, with only liberal candidate Guy Verhofstadt not committing. 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.
The change in commission that will follow the European elections presents an opportunity to keep up the pressure to make sure that legislation is proposed to enshrine water as a human right in European law.
We are looking forward to an opportunity at the congress to celebrate all we have achieved with the ECI.
You can also check out the website of the campaign Right2Water for more information on the campaign.