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Lynn Boylan on the Right2Water- (Full Speech)

8 September, 2015 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Thank you chair. The Right to Water European Citizens’ Initiative was the first successful example of this new mechanism, reaching almost double the minimum requirements with a staggering 1.8 million signatures.

It is clear 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, 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 European Commission was vague, disappointing and did not properly address the demands of the Right2Water campaign.

The overall response seriously lacked ambition and ignored the key demands of the Right to Water. 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 has not come forward with legislative proposals which would make the human right to water and sanitation 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 them to rectify this situation.

I have recognised that the provision of water services is a natural monopoly where competition amongst private operators hasn’t worked, doesn’t 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 should be reinvested into improving infrastructure of water services and not to go to shareholders or executive pay.

It is critical that the Commission respects the Member States’ right to organise their water services how they see fit.

Indeed, across the world we have experienced a growing rise in the remunicipalisation of water services – in other words – water services which were previously ran by private companies are being brought under public management once again due to the abject failures of privatisation in the water sector.

I would like to thank the support from the Right2Water campaign itself and from many of the more progressive groups but I am extremely disappointed with Fine Gael’s EPP group which, along with the ECR has produced an alternative resolution which strips the strong and progressive aspects in my report. I can see 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 Right2Water 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 to not promote privatisation of water services and indeed the whole motion is very private-sector friendly. So much so that the original call for water services to be removed from the TTIP is completely missing.

Indeed, they have deleted so many positive aspects of the report that it has gone from thirty seven pages to a nine page document which reads more like an EPP position paper supported by the Tories than an honest response to the almost two million citizens who signed this ECI.

 It is a dishonest attempt to gag the voices of those who campaign for the human right to water and the thousands of citizens who protest against water management which sees the poorest in our society endure cut offs and the private companies pocketing money from it.

 Given that this was meant to be the Parliament’s opportunity to respond to the Right2Water ECI it will reflect incredibly poorly on us as the supposed voice of the 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 was willing to re-engage with them on matters which were important to them – if this Alternative Motion passes the ECI is dead in the water.

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