Talk of EU fines for scrapping water charges grossly misleading – Ó Broin
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin has said ‘reports that scrapping water charges increases the possibility of fines that would cost the state millions of euro per day are grossly misleading’. Deputy Ó Broin went on to say that ‘Those making these claims clearly do not understand either the Water Framework Directive or the way in which the European Commission enforces environmental directives’.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“In the wake of European Commissioner Vella's comments on Ireland's access to the Water Framework Directive's derogation on water charges, some commentators have made quite outlandish claims.
“They have said that scrapping water charges could result in daily fines being imposed on Ireland costing the state millions of euros per day.
“These claims are grossly misleading. Those making claims clearly do not understand either the Water Framework Directive or the way in which the European Commission enforces environmental directives.
“The Water Framework Directive has five objectives including protecting water sources, promote sustainable use of water and reducing water pollution. Member States outline how they intend to meet these objectives through their River Basin Management Plans.
“Article 9.4 of the Directive provides Member States with a derogation from water charges so long their River Basin Management Plan demonstrates how the will meet the broad objectives of the Directive. This derogation applies to Member States where water charges were not established practice at the time of transposition of the Directive into domestic law, which in Ireland’s case was 2003.
“For some time, Environment Commissioner Vella had said that the issue of Ireland’s use of the derogation from water charges could only be assessed in the context of the forthcoming River Basin Management Plan due for submission in 2017. For reasons that are not yet clear, he has now moved the goalposts.
“However, for some commentators to make the leap from his comments to the suggestion that scrapping water charges increases the possibility of daily fines that would cost the state millions of euro per day is extremely misleading.
“By uncritically repeating information provided by sources, these commentators are allowing themselves to be used in the ongoing political controversy over the future of the domestic water charges.
“Rather than engaging in such reckless scare mongering, these commentators would be better placed to spend some time researching the detail of the Water Framework Directive and the operation of the European Commission’s infringement proceedings. If they did, they would probably be a little more circumspect in the claims they are making in their commentary.
“Notwithstanding Commissioner Vella’s recent comments, Sinn Féin remains firmly of the view that the Government can still invoke the derogation on water charges so long as they demonstrate in the forthcoming River Basin Management Plan how they will meet the broad objectives of the Water Framework Directive. It is unfortunate that the Commissioner has decided to intervene in the water charge controversy in such a partisan way as this will only serve to further undermine the Commissions standing in the eyes of a majority of Irish voters.”